Jackson Galaxy, Mieshelle Nagelschneider, Vicky Halls, Claire Bessant, Pam Johnson Bennett…

What Makes A Person Want To Become A Cat Behaviourist?

By Anita Kelsey – accredited and certified cat behaviourist and owner of Catnips.

Working with the behaviour of cats is a really interesting profession and one that always raises eyebrows, or a look of confusion, when I am asked what I do for a living.

I remember being at a comedy store a few weeks back and the comedian was talking about his cat and saying that he had to go to the vet recently because his cat was stressed. He went on..”I mean, what have cats got to be stressed about, they are asleep 23 hours of the day, they get up to eat for half an hour and then for the last 30 minutes they are stressed!” – The crowd roared with laughter and my friends, who were there with me, all looked over at me to see my reaction. Of course, I was laughing along with everyone else, but inside I knew the realities of cat behaviour and the terrible results of real stress in cats.

Before I look at the backgrounds of the wonderful cat behaviourists, I have listed in the title of this article, I might as well start off with how I found myself on the path of this unusual profession.

I haven’t always worked with animals although I do remember being asked, when I was a kid, what I would like to be when I grew up. I had two answers! A vet or a singer! I adored animals with a passion, still do, and cats were the light of my life. My mum would always tell a story of how, unless she walked down this particular road with lots of cats living on, on the route to school, I would kick up a real stink and refuse to budge. I still remember the road. It took twice as long to get me to school because every cat sitting on the wall, or wandering in the street, just had to get a stroke and a hello from me. Nothing much has changed. Ask my husband 😉

I had two choices - a vet or a singer

I had two choices – a vet or a singer

So, to cut a long story short. I became a singer!! But my love of cats never ceased or my overwhelming respect and fascination with the veterinary profession.

Ten years ago I experienced the worst feeling in my life which changed the course of my path. Whilst in the studio recording I had a phone call from one of my dearest friends who sounded really low. I spoke to him, at length, and his mood seemed to get on an even keel so I continued with my music. That was the last time I ever heard my friend’s voice. He hung himself shortly afterwards and the news devastated me. I didn’t sing again for two whole years. My voice had lost it’s heart. My heart had lost it’s way.

During this period I experienced a lot of soul searching and talked alot with my husband. I still didn’t want to sing so I decided to think of what else I had a passion for – it was a no brainer – CATS!

I’ve never been one to work a 9-5 job and I have always been self employed so I decided to set up a cat sitting business. That way, I could surround myself with cats and also make a living. The idea was an instant success. I was inundated with clients and, living in Notting Hill, there were no end of busy working cat loving traveller owners! I called my business Catnips and it was this new venture that now filled my mind. I was hungry to learn more about the cats I cared for and the mind sets of their owners. I started to read hundreds of books which led to giving advice on many ‘problems’ and ‘unwanted’ behaviours. I studied in the evenings, from the net, videos, seminars, you name it.. and would feel really proud when clients kept coming back to me with updates on changes in their cats behaviour connected to suggestions I’d made.

My knowledge of cat behaviour led to very peaceful grooms

My knowledge of cat behaviour led to very peaceful grooms

After a while I decided to study cat grooming seeing as a lot of the cats I cared for were long- haired breeds. For me cat behaviour and grooming go hand in hand so once again I ended up using my cat behaviour knowledge whilst grooming. Once qualified I became one of only two mobile groomers in London and found myself, again, with another business with waiting clients. I knew I wanted to groom cats away from all the stress connected to travel and dog parlours (there are no cat only parlours in central London) and this seemed the perfect solution. It also meant I could bring the cat owners and cats together and make the whole experience enjoyable for a change.

I just had to meet Bob - from 'A Street Cat Named Bob' fame

I just had to meet Bob – from ‘A Street Cat Named Bob’ fame

And this leads me onto cat behaviour. My interest in the subject is entwined with what I do on a day to day basis so gaining accreditation, and introducing myself to vets, was a natural step. I started to study with Roger Tabor, a renowned cat biologist and expert in the field of cat behaviour. Studying under the watchful eye of Roger for two years was very rewarding and highly enjoyable.

Cats helped me to find a joy and passion in my heart again. I do still sing; like Jackson Galaxy, I am a cat behaviourist by day and a musician by night!

The backgrounds of:

1. Jackson Galaxy

My mentor Mr Jackson Galaxy

My mentor Mr Jackson Galaxy

Jackson started off as a musician seeking more regular ‘mainstream’ work to pay the bills. He applied several times to work in the same local animal shelter, (can’t believe they turned him down!), until he finally nailed it. Seeing how many animals were euthanised, especially due to behaviourial issues, changed Jackson’s path in life. He set out to help as many owners of the shelter’s cats that he could and was a huge success. His way with cats stood out and people started talking about it about all over the area. Jackson went on to set up his own cat behaviour practise and wrote a best seller, ‘Cat Daddy: What the World’s Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Life, Love and Coming Clean’ . He also hosts Animal Planet’s ‘My Cat From Hell’

2. Mieshelle Nagelschneider

A kindred spirit

A kindred spirit

Mieshelle was fascinated with cats her entire life and lists, in her fantastic book ‘The Cat Whisperer’, many cute stories of when she was a child growing up with the local feral cat population and seeing them as her friends. Like myself she also started her career running a cat- sitting business before going on to study animal cognition and becoming a cat behaviourist. She also worked as veterinary assistant.

3. Pam Johnson Bennett

cat-only-consultancy

Pam set up her cat behaviour consultancy in 1982 but I cannot find too much about what set her on the path towards this line of work. What I do know of her, along with countless thousands of other cat carers, is her great books on the subject we all love! Books such as ‘Think Like A Cat‘ and ‘Cat V’s Cat’ catapulted (excuse the pun!!) our Pam to stardom. She now hosts Animal Planets ‘Psycho Kitty’, a TV show similar in style to My Cat From Hell, and inspired by her book of the same name.

4. Claire Bessant

Feline Advisory Bureau

CEO of the Feline Advisory Bureau

Although her job description is not cat behaviourist Claire Bessant may well be seen as just that! She is the Chief Executive of the Feline Advisory Bureau (FAB) and has been so since 1994. With Claire leading the helm FAB has grown into the UK’s leading advisory charity on the health and welfare of cats. She has written 10 books covering their welfare and behaviour, and regularly contributes to feline magazines. Books such as ‘The Cat Whisperer‘ and ‘The Nine Lives Of Cats’ can easily be obtained on Amazon. So far I have yet to find a biography that details how Claire found herself on the fluffy road to cats but that smile says it all really!

5. Vicky Halls

vikki hallsVicky Halls started off, in the late eighties, early nineties,
working at the RSPCA as a Cattery Supervisor. She then went on to train and qualify as a veterinary nurse. It was during this period of asking questions about cats’ emotions and behaviours, and with nobody ever able to answer them, that she decided to start studying, reading and going to conferences on the subject. Like the cat behaviourists mentioned above, she has gone on to write numerous best sellers such as ‘Cat Detective‘ and ‘Cat Confidential’

So there you have it. 6 different backgrounds of people who have chosen to dedicate their lives to helping cat owners understand their cats.

For anyone needing a cat behaviour consultation or would like to enquire about grooming a difficult cat then please don’t hesitate to email info@catnips.co.uk

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About Anita Kelsey - Cat Behaviour Consultant

Anita Kelsey holds a first class honours degree in Feline Behaviour and Psychology (work based BA Hons) and runs a vet referral service dedicated strictly to the diagnosis and treatment of behaviour problems in cats. She is also a qualified cat groomer and specialises in grooming aggressive or phobic cats. Anita writes for Your Cat Magazine and is on their experts panel answering readers questions on cat grooming. She also advises on feline behaviour for the CFBA (Canine and Feline Behaviour) magazine as well as being a full member. Anita is based in Notting Hill, London but consults all over the UK as well as international requests. She lives with her husband, a music producer, and two Norwegian Forest cats, Kiki and Zaza. Anita's debut book, Claws, Confessions Of A Cat Groomer is published by John Blake Publishers and is out on 7th September 2017 (available for pre-orders on Amazon UK)
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One Response to Jackson Galaxy, Mieshelle Nagelschneider, Vicky Halls, Claire Bessant, Pam Johnson Bennett…

  1. dominique says:

    Lovely to here about how you got to where you are today, quite inspirational, informative and as always beautifully written

    Like

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