Virtual cat behavior consultations are just as effective as in person meetings. I cover all the same points of discussion, take a tour of your home, and see your cat(s).
Benefits of Virtual Meetings
Since the start of the pandemic, I have become an expert in meeting virtually for feline behavior consultations. At this point I've done way more virtual meetings than I have in person ones. For me, there are so many benefits to meeting virtually. Aside from wearing comfortable leggings, I save valuable time by not having to travel and I love being able to reach more clients beyond Brooklyn and Manhattan. I also get to see cats in their natural setting without being impacted by a visitor's presence. For fearful cats, this is particularly great. Although I miss petting and playing with friendly cats, it's helpful for me to see how cats behave naturally in their home.
Another huge benefit is the show and tell aspect of it. I can only carry so much cat stuff in my backpack. Before a virtual meeting, I set up my bedroom area which serves as my background. Two cat trees are visible in the background which is great for talking about vertical space and it's importance for cats, particularly in multi-cat homes. I keep a tunnel on the bed which Oscar likes to sleep in, and I have an assortment of training gear, toys and puzzles to show and discuss. I often briefly review how to make your own wand toy attachments particularly for cats who are reluctant to play.
So, how does this work? How can I help your cat without seeing them in person?
Preparation for the Meeting
Before we meet, I ask clients to complete a history form so I can get an idea of who their cat is, what they are feeding, and what the cat's life is like. I ask questions about food, playtime, litter box setup, relationships, medical issues, and what other issues might be going on other than the primary issue I'm being hired for. I also ask clients to share a few video clips of their cat prior to the meeting since I find cats are often on their best behavior during consultations. A client can share of video of the behavior they are seeking help with or just a fun or cute video of their cat. Videos help me identify any potential physical issues such as whether the cat should be seen by their veterinarian for a pain evaluation and gives me some insight into the cat's personality.
Talking with the Client
The majority of the meeting is talking about the cat. We carefully review the history form together starting with the behaviors the client is seeking assistance with. This discussion can last 90 minutes to 2 hours. The more we talk, the clearer the picture becomes in my mind and the more easily I can provide solutions to the issues. I find clients love to talk about their cat so the time flies by. Sometimes the meetings are deeply serious and emotional. Most of the time I find we laugh a lot because cats are funny. I try to keep things light and fun, when appropriate. We discuss the behavioral issues in depth and come up with an actionable plan to address the issues that clients are comfortable with.
Clients use their laptop or mobile phone to show me around their home. I ask them to show me their cat(s), the cat's resources such as the feeding area, water, litter boxes, scratching posts, cat trees, toys and resting spots. I like to get a sense of the cat's environment and may point out ways that it can be enhanced.
Ending the Meeting
Finally, we end the consultation with any remaining questions the client has and we discuss how the client can make the best use of the follow up period. I set aside 2 hours for the consultation so clients have plenty of time to talk about their concerns.
The Behavior Plan & Resources
Following the meeting, I send the client an email with supporting resources that will help them in implementing the Plan. Then I begin writing up the Behavior Plan which is sent to clients the following day outlining my recommendations and next steps.
I encourage clients to email me with questions and to report progress once they start putting the strategies we discussed in place so I can support them through its implementation. I have my calendar set up to contact clients at one week, 3 weeks and at 6 weeks reminding them to check in with me. Clients appreciate this as we are all busy and can forget to send updates.
Ready to book a consultation? Contact me to get started.
About the author: Jennifer Van de Kieft, CAFTP, FFCP, PNCC is located in Brooklyn, NY. She is certified in feline behavior and pet nutrition. She owns Cat Advocate, a feline behavior consulting company. She provides cat guardians with the strategies, tools and knowledge needed to address their cat's behavior issues. Jennifer provides virtual consultations throughout the United States.