Helpful answers to the most commonly asked questions about the behavior consultation process.
What is a behavior consultation?
A behavior consultation is a meeting with a cat behaviorist, cat trainer, or another trained feline professional to figure how how we can address and stop unwanted behaviors in your cat. By working with a feline specialist like Class Act Cats’ Joey Lusvardi, you’ll have someone who really understands cats, not someone whose focus is dogs but does cats on the side.
Consultations involve a thorough assessment of your cat’s behavior, their environment, and their history to figure out what may be going on. We then come up with an individualized plan together that fits your lifestyle, budget, and any other factors we need to take into account. The plan may include changing the environment, training, or other even a referral to a veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist if needed. You will then implement the plan and I’ll be available to answer questions as you move along!
These assessments help get an expert’s opinion on what is the root cause of the problematic behavior. Addressing the underlying reason for the behavior helps prevent the behavior from occurring. In many cases, multiple unwanted behaviors have the same root cause so it may help prevent or address a few problems at once!
What kinds of cat problems can your help with?
As a cat behavior specialist, I can help with a lot of cat behaviors. Some common examples of what I help folks with include:
- Aggression toward humans or other animals
- Fighting cats
- Introducing a new cat
- Cat reintroductions
- Cat and dog problems
- Cat training
- Litter box problems such as your cat not using the litter box or spraying
- Preparing for a new cat when you adopt a cat
- Excessive meowing
- Over grooming/Excessive grooming
- Scratching furniture
- Chewing on plants, objects, etc.
- Cats waking you up at night
- Cats seeming depressed or unhappy
- Attention seeking behaviors
Even if your concern isn’t listed there, I likely can help. Feel free to reach out with any questions!
What happens during a behavior consultation?
What happens after the consultation?
You begin implementing the suggestions and plan I provide you with! For your first session of a behavior consultation, I include a written summary. For follow ups, please take notes during our sessions. I include any relevant handouts or resources that may be helpful to you during both initial consultations.
It’s important that you are following up with me about how things are going. That doesn’t mean constant contact, but I advice clients check in with me when you have updates at least once per week while we are working together. The plan may need to be altered based on changes in your cat’s behavior. Following up with me allows me to help you make changes!
How do I know I should trust you to know what you're talking about?
A great question! I don’t expect people to blindly trust me as anyone with a keyboard could set up a website and claim to be a cat expert.
I am a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. This certification is a big deal and takes a lot of work to achieve. I wrote over 60 pages on cat behavior for my application! I have significant training in the behavioral sciences including a degree in psychology, coursework through the IAABC, and experience working in behavioral health with humans (there’s a surprising amount of overlap despite being different species). For more information about my background, I lay it all out in my biography on my “About” page. You can also read about my own struggles with cat behavior problems. I’ve gone through this myself!
How quickly should I get started?
I recommend a veterinarian visit for most behavior concerns and recommend completing this prior to scheduling with me. For litter box cases in particular, you should set up a veterinarian appointment before scheduling with me.
I recommend scheduling when you will be ready to commit to working with your cat and are positive you want my help. If you’re not ready to put in the work, I advise waiting.
What types of cats do you work with?
Do you work with dogs?
The name of my business says what species I work with.
All cheekiness aside, I do work with dogs in situations involving both cats and dogs! If there are situations where the dog requires help beyond what I can help with, I may recommend a dog behavior consultant or dog trainer get involved.
On a very limited basis, I may be able to help with minor dog behavior problems (not involving aggression) or basic training while we’re working with your cat. Keep in mind that I’m a cat behavior consultant so my main focus and area of expertise is cats. If you are interested, please directly inquire with me before booking.
I do not work with exotic/large cats such as tigers, pumas, cheetahs, or similar species (though I would love to one day!)
How long does it take to see results?/How long will this take?
I’ll start out by being up front about this: I don’t have a magic wand to waive to solve every cat behavior issue instantly. No one does and anyone who claims to is being dishonest.
This is best seen as a process and not a single moment in time. I include 30 days of follow up for a reason so we can tweak the plan as needed and as we are dealing with living creates. Each cat is unique so we may need to make adjustments. Some cats require more work than others.
You should go into this prepared to put in work over time and that it may take a few sessions. Some behavior problems may take weeks to resolve and some may take months to resolve.
Will I be able to fix my cat's unwanted behavior in just one session?
This really depends on what we are working with and how much time, effort, and resources you have available to address the behavior problem. In most cases, I recommend at least 2 follow up sessions. Some problems may require more or some cats who have particularly complex situations may need some more help.
Which service is right for me?
This depends greatly on what your goals are and what you’re looking to address.
Generally, if you are looking for help with a specific behavior problem you want a behavior consultation.
If you have fighting cats, you may need a reintroduction. My largest and most comprehensive program available is my reintroduction program specifically designed for these situations.
If your cat or cats are mostly pretty classy but you want to teach them fun tricks or prevent behavior problems, cat training is a great option. I do have a few behavior consultation packages for prevention of behavior problems available, however, so be sure to check out those as well!
If you are looking for help with basic care care and preparing for vet visits, teaching your cat to take medication in a low stress way, or learning how to get your cat into a carrier, my Easy Cat Care service is a great choice.
Still not sure? Feel free to contact me and I’m happy to guide you as to what works best!
How many follow up sessions do you recommend?
This depends on how much help you want or how complicated your situation is. Most people can expect two or three follow up sessions to comfortably resolve the issue. However, some cases may require more and some cases may only need one. However, it is best to assume you may need follow up sessions as behavior modification is a process. It often requires learning more about your cat(s) and adjusting as we go. I cannot promise you that a single session will address the issue.
In general, the more severe the problem or the more cats you have, the more sessions you may need. If you have intercat conflict, these situations usually require the most sessions to resolve.
Follow up sessions are an hour each and booked hourly. I also offer packages of follow up sessions at a special discounted rated if you book a few at once!
How do I know if I need professional help with my cat?
What is the difference between a behavior consultation and training?
Training is teaching a cat to do specific behaviors more frequently. Training can be done to prevent unwanted behavior or for fun. Examples of this would be training your cat to go to their carrier, get off a counter, or sit on cue.
Behavior consultations address more than just the behaviors directly as they look at the root causes of the unwanted behaviors. They may include training, but also include things such as modifying the environment. Behavior consults can address unwanted behaviors currently happening or to prevent future unwanted behaviors.
If you have a cat experiencing an unwanted behavior, you want a behavior consultation. This includes litter box cases as most litter box cases involve very little actual training.
Will I be judged for doing things wrong or because I tried something you don't recommend?
Absolutely not! I don’t expect everyone to intuitively understand cats. I also understand that people make choices when they’re desperate that may not be what they normally do and there’s a lot of really awful advice out there about cat behavior. You’re coming to me for help so I take that as a sign of dedication to your cat. I will be honest about things if you are doing something I advise against, but it’s never with a tone of judgement. My goal is to help you address your cat’s behavior, not make you feel like a bad person.
I do have a somewhat sarcastic sense of humor at times so know that it may come out, but it’s never, ever meant in way to degrade you or make you feel bad.
Do you guarantee results?
As cats are individual living creatures, I can’t ethically guarantee results (Anyone who does provide a guarantee of results is likely not being honest with you!) What I can guarantee is that if we are working together, we will continue to try things until we find a solution that works.
What methods do you use to address behavior concerns? What if I don't want to hurt or scare my cat?
I take an approach called LIMA, or least intrusive, minimally aversive. That means that your cat’s wellbeing is a top priority. I focus on encouraging acceptable behaviors, environmental modification, and addressing the root causes of behaviors. This is scientifically the best way of addressing unwanted behaviors. It gets you what you want, builds your relationship with your cat, and is less work in the end. In other words, the methods I use will be both effective and kind to your cat.
What if I don't like/disagree with the suggestions you make?
I understand that some of what I may suggest may not be super appealing or may be something you don’t want to hear. I also understand some of what I suggest may seem counter intuitive or strange to people who’ve had cats their whole life. I will give you the best advice possible and be honest about my assessment of what’s going on as it’s ultimately trying to get you to your goal. You are completely free to do as you please with what I suggest, though I encourage you to try the changes I advise. I’m making them for a reason!
Can cats really be trained?
Absolutely or certified cat trainers like myself wouldn’t exist! Training cats is so much fun! Cats can be trained to do all sorts of things. It requires some patience and needs a different approach than one would use for a dog, but cats are very receptive to training.
If you are looking for suggestions of tools to use, I have a guide on cat training tools that I use myself when training my cat or clients’ cats!
Do you offer board and train services?
No, board and train generally won’t work with cats. I only work with you and your cat while you are there.
Pricing and Booking Appointments
What are your prices? How much does a behavior consultation or cat training cost?
What are your hours and availability?
My schedule varies from week to week and depends on when I have clients. Generally, you can expect responses to e-mails or texts between 9 am and 8 pm (though please allow up to 72 hours for a response).
For client sessions, I have daytime, evening, and weekend availability. In-home sessions have different availability than virtual sessions due to the extra travel time involved and to avoid getting stuck in rush hour traffic.
Check the Calendly event for the specific service you are looking to book as I try to keep my availability up to date. If the time isn’t available, chances are someone took that time already so please find another time that works.
What payment methods do you accept?
I accept credit cards, bank transfer, Venmo, or cash.
Note if paying cash: Payment is due upon booking and I cannot come out to your home without having received payment. If you would like to pay with cash, you will either need to catch me at an in person event or pay for your initial session with a different method and follow ups in cash during an in person session.
Do you offer payment plans?
For packages of follow up sessions payment plans are an option though do require a deposit and you must be paid up through the session you are intending to use at the time it is booked. For initial sessions, I am unable to offer payment plans as they must be paid in full.
Can I gift a session to someone or donate a session to a local rescue?
Absolutely! You can purchase a gift card and I will send your recipient an e-mail with instructions on how to redeem it. If your gift card is a donation, you can put in the name of the organization you’d like to donate it to.
Redemption is slightly different than regular booking as my booking software doesn’t have the capability of doing discount codes. Your recipient will just directly schedule with me rather than going through my website.
Note that gift cards are ONLY valid on consultations and training sessions. They cannot be redeemed for merchandise or cat products.
What if I want to gift a session to someone or donate a session?
That is completely doable! I offer gift cards, though due to my scheduling software I have to track them myself. You’ll just need the name of the recipient and their e-mail address. Once you purchase, I will e-mail them to let them know they have a gift card from you and instructions on how to redeem. Note that gift cards can only be used for behavior and training services, not cat products at in person events. The value of the gift card never expires.
If you have a gift card you want to redeem, e-mail me directly to schedule.
If I purchase a package or need to reschedule my initial session, how long do I have to use my session?
6 months from the date of purchase. The exception to this include if you book an 8 or a 10 session follow up package which can be used within 12 months.
If I'm not sure, can I book a consultation and then cancel it?
If you aren’t sure if you need a behavior consultation, I am happy to answer any questions before you get get going!
Booking a consultation blocks off a lot of time from my schedule that others can’t get in. For in home consultations, it also blocks off travel time so I can get to my next clients on time. I begin preparing for your consultation right away! (Unless you book in the middle of the night in which case I am likely asleep) In many cases, I might contact you to begin offering some initial management steps before our meeting. Our consultation starts before we even meet so I begin providing the service you paid me for right away.
Because of that, all sales are final and are non-refundable. I ask that you consider carefully before booking your appointment and book when you are ready rather than booking and canceling. Please also see my cancelation, refund, and rescheduling policy.
What if I don't need all the time for my session? Can I get refunded for the remaining time?
I have yet to have this actually happen. Per my refund policy, all sales are final and I do not offer refunds for unused time during a session. The time is still blocked off and I won’t be able to get anyone else in during that time. It’s yours to ask me other questions about cat behavior if you’d like. Otherwise, you’re free to end the session early.
If there is an emergency that occurs during our session such as a power outage, I may make exceptions to this policy on a case by case base at my discretion.
What if I decide I don't want to use all my sessions?
This isn’t a common occurence (if anything, most people end up wanting more sessions), but if you decide you don’t want to use the rest of your sessions, you can choose to donate the time. I will offer it to a local rescue organization to help a cat in need of behavior help.
Can I just ask you a few quick questions about my cat without booking a consultation?
I love cats and I love talking about cats, but it takes a lot of studying, training, and experience to develop a deep understanding of cats. Cat behavior is complicated so even straightforward seeming problems need to have a lot of factors taken into account before I can give out individualized advice or I may tell you the wrong thing if I don’t have a full idea of what’s happening. Please book a consultation if you have questions you’d like to discuss. For a quick question or an easier to solve problems, a Zoomies session is a great option!
I do provide cat education on my blog and also offer small group workshops and speaking engagements on cat behavior so there are other options if you don’t want to book a full consultation.
What is your service area for in person appointments?
My service area is within a 25 minute drive of Bde Maka Ska Playground located at 2707 W Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55416.
The service area for in person appointments includes Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Louis Park, Golden Valley, New Hope, Brooklyn Center, Maple Grove, Plymouth, Fridley, Columbia Heights, New Brighton, Fridley, Crystal, Robbinsdale, St. Anthony, Lauderdale, Roseville, Falcon Heights, Arden Hills, Edina, Minnetonka, and surrounding suburbs. Note that this area is subject to change so please ask if you’re interested in an in person appointment and aren’t sure if you’re within that area.
Note that for in person appointments, there is a $35 travel fee to cover the extra time and expenses involved.
You are welcome and encouraged to do a combo of virtual and in person sessions if you go this route.
If you are outside my service area, I am unable to offer in home sessions. You can still do a virtual consultation which is just as good as an in home one!
Can people outside your service area book a consultation?
Yes! Virtual appointments are an option for anyone in the United States, including areas outside the Twin Cities. I am unable to offer in home sessions for those outside my service area, however. Virtual consultations are just as effective for the extreme majority of cases so don’t hesitate to consider one.
Are virtual appointments just as good as in person appointments?
Yes! Actually, in many cases, they are better than in person appointment. There usually won’t be much difference between an in person and virtual appointment. You still get the same thorough assessment, support, and behavior plan as you would for an in person appointment! Most of what we will be doing can be done virtually. There are some situations that would require an in person appointment, but the majority of cases are able to be conducted virtually.
In some cases, I may advise a virtual consultation. Examples would include cases where a stranger showing up risk worsening behavior problems or where my presence may alter your cat’s behavior in a way that could affect my assessment.
Should I do a virtual or in person session?
If you are within my service area, then either are options. If you are outside my service area, virtual is the way to go.
In general, the extreme majority of concerns can be done virtually as long as you have access to a device that is portable and has a camera. If you’re not sure if you do, if you have a smart phone, tablet, or laptop with a camera build in, that’s all you need. You still get the same assessment and behavior advice with a virtual session.
Situations where I recommend a virtual session over an in home session include:
- If your cat is fearful of strangers and will hide the entire time I am there. If this is what you want to address, I still recommend a virtual session as it may make more sense to have me come out later.
- If the travel fee is going to cause you a financial burden.
- If you aren’t sure if you want an in home or virtual session. If it would be beneficial to have me come out later, I will let you know during our initial session and we can arrange in in home follow up.
- You prefer virtual.
Why do you include 30 days of follow up? (For full consultations)
I’ve found that 30 days is the sweet spot where if we’re not seeing improvements, we need another session to talk things out. After a certain point, e-mail becomes ineffective and for more complex situations, people tend to have worse results if we try to do it all without meeting.
Are you a veterinarian? What if I have a question about a medical problem?
No, I am not a veterinarian. I cannot discuss medical concerns, make medical recommendations, prescribe medications, or make any medical diagnoses. Questions regarding behavior changes immediately following a procedure or due to a medication are best directed toward your veterinarian. I am happy to work with your veterinarian and implement any suggestions they may have. I am also happy to provide a summary of my observations for your veterinarian if they would like… Just ask!
If you are in need of a veterinarian, I strongly recommend looking for a Fear Free Certified veterinarian or Cat Friendly Practitioner for your cat. You can also look for clinics that are certified as a Cat Friendly Practice or are Fear Free Certified.
Can you prescribe medications for behavioral issues?
No, a licensed veterinarian must determine if a medication is safe and appropriate. I can work with your veterinarian to help them make the determination if a medication can be used by providing my observations, but ultimately they are the ones who must determine whether a medication will be utilized. I can help with teaching you how to get your cat to take a medication or behaviors surrounding medications, but cannot recommend changes in dose, specific medications, or answer questions about the medication specifically.
This also includes recommending supplements like CBD. I recommend calling your vet if you’d like to discuss behavioral supplements.
Why is my cat doing __________?
The answer in many cases is “it depends.” It’s challenging to say 100% why a cat may be doing a particular behavior without doing a full assessment of their environment, your interactions with them, and their history. Many unwanted behaviors have complex causes so if you want to know why your cat does something, a consultation with me is your best option.
Should I rehome my cat?
In order to advise you on this, I need to understand your full situation. Please set up a behavior consultation. Getting cat behavior help from a professional is a great alternative to rehoming so we can potentially solve the issue and prevent the need to rehome!
I also have a blog post with some considerations regarding rehoming that I suggest reading to help you decide.
Do you become emotionally invested in my cat(s)?
Honestly, I already am. I love cats!
Will you come speak to my group about cat behavior?
Absolutely! I love speaking to groups about cats (I was on the speech team in high school) so I’m happy to come talk cats. I can also do small group workshops that are more interactive than just me blabbing about cats. For workshops, I ask that you have at least 4 people in your group.
To learn more and request I come talk to your group, please see my workshops page.
I want to surrender my cat. Will you take my cat from me?
No. Minneapolis has a lot of great local rescues such as Bitty Kitty Brigade, Feline Rescue, Twin Cities Pet Rescue, and many more that are able to help you. If you want to try to keep your cat in your home while you try to find them a new, loving home, Home2Home is a service offered through Pet Haven. Please contact one of them if you’re looking to surrender your cat as I cannot take them.
If you are unsure if you want to surrender your cat or not, I can help with that! Please set up a consultation and I can evaluate your situation.
How can I get in contact with you if I have other questions?
You have your choice of whichever method works for you!