Sunday, 16 December 2018
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BREAKING NEWS

Fort Collins shelter offers behavior lessons to keep pets in their homes

By Pamela Johnson

Reporter-Herald Staff Writer

If you go

What: Animal behavior seminars offered by Dr. Cheryl Kolus, manager of the Fort Collins Cat Rescue and Spay/Neuter Clinic Behavior Center.

When: 6-7:30 p.m.Sept. 26, Livin’ the Life: Enriching Ideas for Your Indoor Cat; Oct. 24, Unleash Your Cat’s Potential: Try Clicker Training!; Nov. 28, Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? Tips for a Happy Multicat Household; Dec. 19, No, It’s Not Normal for Cats to Hide All the Time — Help for Fearful Cats

Where: McKee 4-H Building, 5280 Arena Circle at The Ranch in Loveland.

Cost: $15 per person, register in advance FCCRSNC.org.

Also: Kolus offers 90-minute in-home animal behavior consultations for $100. More information at FCCRSNC.org

Coconut, a pure white, 3-year-old cat, goes to behavioral school each and every day at the Fort Collins Cat Rescue Spay and Neuter Clinic.

There, Cheryl Kolus, a veterinarian with a special interest in behavior, patiently works with the feline, who has been adopted and returned twice due to aggressive behavior around food.

Using treats and knowledge of animal behavior, she has worked with Coconut so he will associate someone near his food with a positive reward — an effort she believes has worked so that Coconut can find a permanent home.


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And Kolus, who works with cats in need at the cat rescue, also offers her expertise to pet owners throughout the community with seminars as well as in-home consultations for both dogs and cats with behavioral issues.

“The whole purpose of this is to keep pets in their homes,” said Sarah Swanty, cofounder and executive director of the Fort Collins Cat Rescue. “The top reasons why animals are surrendered to shelters are behavioral problems. Part of our mission is to keep pets in homes and out of shelters.”

To help address that, the cat rescue in early July opened its behavioral center, a place where Kolus and volunteers work every day with shelter cats, as well as reaching out into the community.

Though the agency is called cat rescue, the behavioral center (and spay and neuter clinic) are also available to dogs. For the behavioral piece, they address a variety of issues, including fear, anxiety, aggression, house soiling, destructive scratching and more.

So far, Kolus has performed three in-home consultations — one for a dog that was aggressive to other dogs, one for a cat urinating outside the litter box and one for a resident with six cats who is in the process of moving and setting up a new territory for the felines.

In each case, she created a plan, a list of steps she said the residents should implement, and are implementing, to deal help address the animal’s issues.

The cat rescue charges $100 for an in-home consultation, which includes three months of follow-up contact through email and telephone. Anywhere else, Swanty said, the cost would be around $400.

Animal behavior is a specialty that trained experts offer to help dog and cats as well as other companion animals such as horses and birds, according to the ASPCA. With advanced degrees and specialized training in animal behavior, these professionals use techniques to help change animal behavior, working with both the owner and the animal to change situations as well as behaviors — a practice that is available worldwide.

Sarah Swanty, co-founder and executive director of the Fort Collins Cat Rescue, snuggles a feral kitten named Milagro to help socialize her Wednesday, in

Sarah Swanty, co-founder and executive director of the Fort Collins Cat Rescue, snuggles a feral kitten named Milagro to help socialize her Wednesday, in between some behavior training at the clinic in Fort Collins. The behavior center, a new piece of the organization, will help people with cats and dogs at their center or in their own homes and has public seminars scheduled. (Jenny Sparks / Loveland Reporter-Herald)

Some behavior specialists are veterinarians themselves, while others are not and work closely with veterinarians. Kolus is a trained veterinarian with a special interest in behavior who works with the Fort Collins Cat Rescue.

One of the techniques she uses is called clicker training, meaning she uses a small device that makes a clicking sound with treats so cats will associate the sound with positive behavior. She demonstrated, with both Coconut and a 1-year-old cat named Prius, how well it works.

The same concept, Swanty said, was first used in marine mammals, but with a whistle instead of a clicker.

With Prius, Kolus is working through the cat’s fear, which she sometimes shows through aggression. Her goal is to help Prius enough that she will be able to be adopted into just the right home.

Every day, Kolus works with six to nine cats at the shelter, from fearful kittens that were born in feral colonies, to older cats with other issues.

She loves each one and, by understanding their behavior, is able to use her expertise to help them and hopefully pair them with just the right home.

Coconut, she said, is ready to graduate and be adopted into a home with only adults and no other pets.

“We’ve been working on behavior to hopefully find him the right home,” Kolus said, “to set him up for success.”

Pamela Johnson: 970-699-5405, johnsonp@reporter-herald.com

Source: http://www.reporterherald.com/news/larimer-county/ci_32158236/fort-collins-shelter-offers-behavior-lessons-keep-pets

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