Why We Should Give Our Cats Choices

Aug 2, 2022

A PPG Member Profile featuring Pet Professional Guild Australia member, Andrea Carne of Cattitude in Cradoc, Tasmania

 

Andrea Carne with one of her 16-year-old cats, Lily © Andrea Carne

 

Andrea Carne is a feline behavior consultant who owns and operates Cattitude in Cradoc, Tasmania, Australia

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself, how you first got into animal behavior and training and what you are doing now?                         

 I was working as a vet nurse at an animal shelter and became interested in how the shelter animals could be happier if we tried to meet their behavioral needs.

The certified courses available to me at the time in Australia were focused mainly on dogs, so I started there, but later saw a real lack of cat behavior consultants, particularly in my area which had plenty of dog trainers and one veterinary behaviorist, but nobody looking after cats specifically.

So I set about studying as much as I could about cat behavior and my cat behavior consultancy, “Cattitude,” was born.

 

Cats and Dogs as Teachers

Tell us a little bit about your own pets?  

I share my home with two elderly cats – one affectionately known as Mr. Poo who is around 20 years old and Lily who is 16. Mr. Poo, in particular, has taught me so much about cat behavior, especially behavior changes in ageing cats and ones with health issues, and is the inspiration for my business logo.

I have learned a great deal from both of my fabulous felines and, in turn, have been able to use my increased knowledge to make their lives as happy and healthy as possible.

I also have two dogs in my life – spaniels aged 11 and 3 – who have helped me hone my dog training skills in relation to them living with cats – experience that I have been able to pass onto clients with a mixture of feline and canine family members.

 

What do you consider your area of expertise?       

 Cat behavior

 

Why did you become a dog trainer or Pet Care Provider?

I saw a need for someone in my area to work with clients experiencing behavioral problems with their feline family members.

 

Are you a crossover trainer or have you always been a Force-Free trainer?   

I have only ever been a force-free professional.

 

What drives you to be a force free professional and why is it important to you?         

 Since working professionally in the area of animal behavior, I have seen firsthand the negative impact of punishment and poor pet-owner relationships on both cats and dogs and how their lives can be turned around with positive reinforcement, kindness, gentleness and building a bond with them.

To see an owner have the “light bulb” moment and understand how powerful positive reinforcement is and be willing to put the effort in for the amazing results is truly the best thing about what I do – because I know the animal is going to have a fabulous life.

 

Who has most influenced your career and how? 

Apart from my cats, I am also influenced by some of my fantastic colleagues.

I work part-time in the veterinary industry and some of my best friends are vets. Their ongoing faith in me and their support of, and respect for, what I do continues to inspire me to keep going, keep upskilling and providing my clients with the most up-to-date information I can.

 

How has the PPG helped you to become a more complete trainer?

Continuing education is so very important in this field and PPG offers plenty of opportunities for this which is excellent.

 

Empowerment and Control

What are some of your favorite positive reinforcement techniques for most commonly encountered client-dog problems?         

When it comes to cats, I truly believe the most positive thing you can do for them as an owner is offer choice.

This not only means choice in terms of environmental enrichment (making sure they have plenty of options of where to drink, eat, sleep, perch, toilet, scratch, etc.) but also choice in interaction with us.

Giving cats the choice of when to interact, how to interact and for how long, we give them a sense of control in their relationship with us – and cats with a sense of control are happy cats… and happy cats are healthy cats.

 

What is the reward you get out of a day’s training with people and their cats?            

I love getting feedback from owners that their cats have not only improved in terms of whatever behavior problem we’ve been dealing with, but as a happy add-on, have also decided to interact with their owners more.

This tells me the cat appreciates the efforts the owner has made for them and feels a greater connection as a result.

 

What is the favorite part of your job?      

Definitely helping cats live their best life by connecting with the owners and passing on my knowledge so that they can give their feline companions everything they need to be happy and healthy.

 

What is the funniest or craziest situation you have been in with a pet and their owner?         

I was talking to a client about giving cats a choice in their interaction with us. At that moment, the client’s daughter picked up the cat in front of us and, as if on cue, the cat literally put out his paw to her face and pushed her away as if to say “no thanks.”

I was able to say “Did you see that?” and immediately the owner had a visual demonstration right in front of her. She told her daughter to put him down immediately. I still laugh about that.

 

What advice would you give to a new trainer starting out?              

Knowledge is power! The world of animal behavior is constantly changing and we need to remain up-to-date with the latest information, research and advice. If you think you know it all and have nothing left to learn, you’re definitely in the wrong industry.

Read all you can, take part in webinars and conferences, take courses… keep expanding your knowledge. There is always something new to learn.