Enrichment for Animal Behaviorists
April 8, 2011 5 Comments
The 2011 IAABC Conference was amazing. More than 300 International Association of Animal Behavior Consultant members involved in all aspects of animal behavior came together to share their experiences and information and listen to a stellar line-up of experts – the likes of Victoria Stilwell of “It’s Me or the Dog,” Tufts University veterinarian behaviorist Dr. Nicholas Dodman, Author and Certified Cat Behavior Consultant Pam Johnson Bennett, Dr. Frank McMillan of Best Friends in Utah, Ethologist Myrna Milani, radio show host and animal welfare advocate Steve Dale, and more. They covered such heavy-duty subjects as compulsive behavior, abuse and neglect, equine health,
psychological trauma, animal stress, aggression, and environmental enrichment.
As a cats-only person, behavior consultations are only a small part of what I do, so I felt like a minor league player in the big leagues. These people ate, lived and breathed animal behavior. Oh, for that opportunity.
In seeing the behaviors and training issues confronted by dog trainers and behaviorists, I realized the difference between dogs and cats is even greater than I could have imagined. Given the situations presented, I’m surprised there aren’t more neurotic dogs out there. I’m not saying that cats are problem-free, but their problems don’t get the same attention, and there are a lot fewer resources available to help their owners. And that may contribute to the fact that even though cats outnumber dogs and people have 2.3 cats on the average, they are still considered disposable.
It’s a matter of education. Cat owners must realize that help is out there and they
don’t need to wait until a undesirable behavior is ingrained before seeking help. And certain behaviors are normal behaviors for cats, i.e. scratching. Much bad cat behavior stems from boredom (especially among inside-only cats) and enriching their environment along with a bit of fun clicker training can go a long way toward making everyone happy.