Getting Video Of Your Cat’s Behavior

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I use a lot of methods to evaluate a behavior concern when working with clients: I ask about the cat’s history, evaluate the environment, and I ask about what happens before and after the behavior. Video is sometimes helpful for evaluating a behavior… except when it isn’t. Getting video of your cat may be useful if the video captures what I’m looking for and it isn’t always necessary to figure out what’s going on.

I’m sharing this information on my blog because, whether you work with me to address your cat’s behavior or another cat behavior professional, getting a video of your cat can be a challenge. Before we get into the tips I have to share, a very important warning.

A Word Of Caution

Getting video of your cat is only helpful if it both accurately captures the behavior in question and doesn’t disrupt the behavior modification plan you are working on. It also shouldn’t put anyone, human or cat, in danger to get the video.

If you can’t capture a video while also paying attention to your cat’s body language, you are probably better off using one of the methods I suggest below or not getting video at all. In fact, I would rather you didn’t send me a video if it means you aren’t doing the behavior modification plan correctly. You’re not hiring me to help you get video of your cat; you’re hiring me to help with their behavior. Focus on the behavior plan first.

Keep Your Hands Free

One problem I see with many clients’ videos are that they are trying to both hold their phone to get a video of their cat while also trying to do a behavioral intervention or keep their cat from biting them. This often results in a shaky video, injury, or creating a setback to the behavior plan. This can create a lot of problems with reintroductions in particular.

Thankfully, there are some easy ways to work around this:

  • Get a tripod with a flexible neck and a remote. This is my suggested method in most cases. You can pair the remote with your phone and set up the tripod at any angle to capture the behavior. The remote requires a single click to start and stop so your hands are free to work with your cat.
  • Get a person not involved with the behavior modification intervention to get a video. If you are doing something that requires two people, such as a reintroduction, this means you would need a third person to help with this.
  • Prop your phone up against a stack of books or other sturdy object. You can still get video of your cat this way, though you are limited in the different directions you can point your camera. This is better than a shaky video or getting hurt, though!
  • Use a security camera or pet camera to get the video. Some of them can be mounted to a wall while others are portable. Depending on your needs, one may be better than the other. I like Eufy’s cameras as they don’t require a subscription plan.

If you need to start recording early, you can pretty easily cut the video so it doesn’t include any extra footage at the beginning or end. Most smartphones have this feature built in so no need to get a special app or learn a new skill. Here is a guide for the iPhone and one for Android devices.

Getting A Video Of Your Cat That Is Useful

Even if you get a video of your cat that isn’t shaky and doesn’t create chaos, it still needs to capture the behavior you’re trying to share. In some cases, you may need to get the video from a specific angle or so part of the cat’s body is visible. In other situations, there may be looser requirements. For most video, you should make sure the lighting is adequate and your cat is fully visible within the frame. It’s okay if they go in and out, but they should be fully visible as much as possible.

Consider Location

If the behavior happens exclusively in a particular location or is more likely to happen in a particular location, try to capture the video there. For video of your cat walking normally, setting up a camera at the end of a hallway is a great place to capture this as your cat will be fully in frame as they walk down the hall.

Keep It Natural

It’s not helpful to see an artificial version of the behavior. Try to capture the behavior naturally as it happens on its own rather than inducing the behavior. That allows me to evaluate what happens before and after. It also prevents your cat from acting differently and giving an inaccurate picture of the root cause of the behavior (which is also why I recommend virtual sessions over in home sessions).

Do Not Induce Dangerous Behaviors

I hope this is obvious, but if you are working with me I believe that the behavior is as bad as you say it is. I don’t need to see video of your cats fighting or someone being bitten by the cat. It is never worth an injury to someone to get it on video. Under no circumstances are you to purposefully create a situation where your cat is a danger to themselves, another animal, or someone else to get a video for me.

Capture The Full Sequence Of Behavior

Seeing the behavior from slightly before it starts to slightly after it finishes is helpful for me to get a full picture of what is happening. If it’s a long duration behavior, usually a 30 second to a minute chunk of it is adequate. If I need to see a specific part of the behavior, I can always ask you to crop the video so contact me before sending it.

If you can only get part of the behavior, getting the events leading up to it starting and the beginning of it is usually the part that helps me figure things out the most.

More Isn’t Always Better

More video isn’t always better. As an example, if your cat isn’t using the litter box, I don’t need to see multiple videos of your cat peeing as long as you get a good video the first time.

In other words, video shouldn’t be the focus of what you’re doing. I’ll ask if I need something to help out so don’t feel any pressure to get a video every time a behavior happens. You’re probably already stressed about the behavior problem anyway so focus on working with your cat. That’s what I really care about: you getting the behavior change you’re hoping to see. No need to do more work than what is absolutely necessary.

Tips For Unusual Situations

Not every behavior is predictable or you may need to get video of a cat in specific circumstances that isn’t easy to capture on camera. While not an exhaustive list, here are few common solutions for capturing videos in more challenging situations:

  • Use a motion activated, night vision enabled camera to get outdoor video. If you are, for example, trying to see if an outdoor cat is visiting in the middle of the night, this is the best method to use. Make sure you can get a recording as well. I’ve had clients try to use cameras that can’t record and it ended up not helping at all.
  • For behaviors like your cat pooping outside the litter box, a motion activated camera with cloud storage can work really well. Just aim the camera at the litter box and where they typically go outside the box (getting both is important) and you’re good to go. Cats don’t feel embarrassed about being filmed doing their business so they won’t care.
  • If you need a video when you are gone, a motion activated camera is once again the solution. I found out my cat Zoloft would waiting for me when I’d come home from work using one of these cameras so you may also find out how much your cat loves you. If you get a camera with a treat launcher (I recommend the one from Eufy), you may also use the treat launching capabilities to help the behavior plan, too.
  • For feeding related behaviors, a camera in an automatic feeder makes getting video easy. Here is a picture of Poutine waiting and hoping for a snack in mine:
A lynx point Siamese cat sits in front of two bowls of food waiting to be fed.
He is named after food so it fits that he is a hungry, hungry hippo.
  • If you need video of two cats during the same intervention, take a video of one cat at a time. It allows me to evaluate each cat individually. Try to make sure each cat is fully visible in the video.

Getting Video Doesn’t Need To Be Hard

If you need to get video of your cat’s behavior, it doesn’t have to be a challenge. You may need to buy some equipment to capture get video of your cat that is useful, but it will be well worth it and you’ll likely use it again as we work together.

Remember, getting video isn’t always necessary at every point in time and your focus should be on working with your cat. Don’t sacrifice your ability to break up a cat fight in order to get a blurry video that won’t help you anyway.

If you can get a high quality video of your cat’s behavior, I am happy to go over the video with you live during a session to discuss body language in your individual cat or cats. I build this in to my reintroduction program as part of a follow up session and my clients find it extreme useful. Even if you’re not doing a reintroduction, we absolutely can do this as part of a behavior consultation for something else, too!

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Joey Lusvardi

Joey Lusvardi CCBC is an IAABC Certified Cat Behavior Consultant and professional cat trainer based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He runs a behavior consultation and cat training service, Class Act Cats, where he helps cat parents address a variety of unwanted behaviors. Joey is available for in home sessions locally or virtual sessions wherever you are located!