Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Meet The Cat Whisperer

“Canada’s cat whisperer” says taming a finicky cat takes time and patience to train. Dr. Susan Little, who is a member of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners Certified in Feline Practice and has contributed to two books, said pet owners do not really understand the behaviour of cats. “We understand dog behaviour better because dogs are with us more and we take dogs to the park and in our cars and spend more time with dogs but cats are treated differently,” said Little, who bills herself as “Canada’s cat whisperer.” Cat owners come to see her with all kinds of behaviour problems their cats experience, said Little, an Ottawa veterinarian who gives lectures across Canada and has worked with cats since she first graduated from veterinary school in 1988. They include problems such as scratching furniture, feeding issues, and not using the litter box. “I’m trying to help people from giving up their cats to shelters,” said Little who was in Toronto Tuesday. “It’s important to know that if they’re having frustrating behaviour problems with their cat, there is help available.” The first stop should be to visit a veterinarian for a consultation, she said. “Cat owners need to ask for help sooner, rather than later when you’re at the end of your rope,” Little said. “The later you leave it, the more frustrating it becomes and more difficult it becomes to solve,” It’s normal behaviour for a cat to scratch furniture but it doesn't have to be that way, she said. “Cat owners have to learn to accommodate it and work out the problem and compromise,” Little suggested. “You have to help by providing material (on) a post or build a cat condo.” You can teach a cat new tricks with positive reinforcement, often referred to as clicker training, she said. “Clicker training is well-known in training dogs and we can teach the owner to bond with the cat with clicker training as well,” Little said. The clicker is a metal strip inside a small plastic box that makes a clicking sound when you press on it. When the animal does something positive, the owner will follow up with pressing the clicker and immediately providing the animal with a treat or a reward.

Toronto Sun

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