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Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I’m trying to figure out what I want to do as a career and I was wondering, what kind of demand is there for cat behaviorists like our dear Jackson Galaxy? I’m passionate about all animals but I feel that I know more about kitties big and small more than anything else! What do you think?

~Brittany

Woman and cat. Photo CC-BY by Flickr user RatRanch

“The Kiss,” CC-BY by RatRanch

Siouxsie: Well, Brittany, we always encourage people who want to work with cats!

Thomas: Judging from our experience, we’d say that the demand for skilled professional cat behaviorists is strong and will only continue to grow as more people begin to understand that cats are full-fledged family members …

Bella: … and want to help them be happier and less stressed.

Siouxsie: To be totally honest,  it’s pretty unlikely that any given cat behaviorist will have the opportunity to become a TV icon like Jackson Galaxy.

Thomas: But all behaviorists do incredibly important work, whether or not they become famous!

Bella: There are lots of different ways to learn, and use, skills like Jackson Galaxy’s.

Siouxsie: The most official path is to get certification through organizations like the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants or to become a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB).

Thomas: To become a CAAB, most people go to college for an undergraduate degree, and then go to graduate school to get a Master’s Degree or Ph.D. in animal behavior. This article on Petfinder has some more information about the CAAB path.

Bella: Veterinarians can also get specialized training in animal behavior.  In the U.S., these individuals typically get special certification through the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.

Siouxsie: Don’t let all this talk of schooling scare you off if you’re not ready to go there yet, Brittany! There are lots of other ways to learn about cat behavior and get experience that can help you help cats. Jackson Galaxy himself got all his cat behavior training on the job, working at animal shelters.

Thomas: And that’s one of the ways Mama learned everything she knows about cats, too. She also read lots of books and she grew up with cats so she had lots of experience before we adopted her.

Bella: Some of Mama’s favorite cat behavior books were written by Pam Johnson-Bennett. She wrote classics like Think Like a Cat, Starting from Scratch, and Cat Vs. Cat.

Siouxsie: Amy Shojai is another one of Mama’s favorite authors. She writes books about animal behavior and health for cats (and dogs) at all stages of life.

Thomas: If you’re serious about wanting to become a cat behaviorist, the best thing you can do is work with cats of all personalities and ages.  One of the best ways to do this is to volunteer at an animal shelter. Working at a veterinary clinic is another way.

Bella: Find mentors who can teach you, guide you and pave the way for you as you move toward your goal, too.

Siouxsie: You’ll be an even more awesome cat behaviorist if you know how to handle anxious cats and how to groom and give medications in the least stressful way possible.

Thomas: There are some other holistic health practices that could help you as a behaviorist. Linda Tellingt0n-Jones developed a program called TTouch, which uses special patterns of touches to ease animals’ anxiety. She originally developed the program for horses, but animals of all species have benefited from TTouch.

Bella: Complementary medicine practices such as acupuncture/acupressure, flower essences, herbal medicine, and energy healing techniques like Reiki can also be very helpful assets to a cat behaviorist.

Siouxsie: We know you’re all smart people, but we’ve got to say this just for the protection of all kitties out there: Complementary medicine is meant to be complementary — that is, it’s meant to be used in conjunction with standard veterinary care. Techniques such as Reiki, flower essences, etc., should never replace care by a trained veterinarian or certified behaviorist.

Thomas: We think there are lots of opportunities out there for people who are passionate about cats and want to become cat behaviorists, and there are all kinds of ways to gain the skills to make a huge difference for cats and their people. If you run into nay-sayers, don’t let them get you down. It isn’t a quick pass to untold riches, but with devotion and dedication, we’re sure you can build a wonderful and satisfying life that allows you to have a real impact.

Bella: Good luck, Brittany. We’re honored to take a place among the people and kitties cheering for you. Purrs!

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