Meowllo everypawdy, welcome to miserable Monday. It’s not miserable, we just like callin’ it that cuz it’s da end of da weekend. Anyways, you ask and we’re gonna tell. Today’s posty will be in the human English flavor so it can be translated and/or easily read by anybody as it’s one of me’s educational postys. We were asked many times while searchin’ for a new kitty just what qualities or traits would make a good Service kitty? Is there a particular breed that is predisposed to being good Service kitties? And we’ve been asked many times, “I already have a cat at home, can she be trained as a Service Cat for me/my child/etc.”. And we even had an application turned down by a rescue who didn’t want their kitties to be working cats. We don’t blame the rescue, we blame ignorance. But me will save that for part 2.
Now remember Service Animals are different than Therapy Animals, Companion Animals and Pets. For a complete description please see our Service Animal page in the menu tab or click here. And Please, DO NOT pass off your Therapy animal, Companion animal or Pet as a Service Animal. And remember, there are always exceptions to every rule. You are dealing with living, breathing, thinking sentient beings. The amount of time you spend with an animal will also play a role in their personality. Alright, let’s jump into this.
Let’s answer the last question first. Mommy believes any cat can be trained. So, if you already have a cat that you are bonded too, then YES, he/she can be trained as a Service Cat. The operative word is “Bonded”. A cat will be most closely bonded with it’s primary caregiver. If you don’t have a cat or aren’t bonded with the cat in your home then we do recommend getting a kitten. Kittens have very short attention spans, and see training as an adventure. We recommend adopting a kitten under the age of 8 months. For the purpose of this article we are going to focus on a young kitten between the ages of 6 to 8 weeks.
So, you’ve decided you need a Service animal and you want it to be a cat. Keep in mind cats are fairly small animals so there are limits to what they can do. Don’t expect your Service Cat to perform tasks contrary to their nature or size. Also keep in mind that the ADA doesn’t recognize them as Service Animals. For the full definition please see our Service Animal page. Okay, you’ve thought it over, looked into the laws (state/country and federal) and you’ve determined a cat is the right animal for your needs; where do you find one? Most likely you will have to train the kitten yourself, so decide what training method you want to use and Be Faithful with it. Training is repetition, day in and day out. You can find your Service Kitty in Training anywhere. Rescues, shelters, breeders and neighborhood strays are where you start. We do not recommend ferals or semi-ferals as too much training time is lost just getting kitty to trust humans.
Things to keep in mind when searching for your Service Cat:
How big will kitty be when he/she grows up?
Is kitty chatty or quiet?
Does kitty appear to be outgoing and confident or shy and withdrawn?
Will you need kitty to travel outside your home to perform his/her duties?
Does kitty have long fur or short?
If long, can you provide daily grooming?
Does kitty appear healthy? Get kitty checked by a VET ASAP after adopting!
Knowing a little about the breed of kitty will help answer some of these questions. Remember, breed profiles can tell you a lot, but kitty’s environment will also play a role in kitty’s personality. For instance, Oriental breeds like Siamese are known to be very vocal and slender. Persians, while beautiful, have very long fur that requires a lot of maintenance. The generic Tabby cat is known to be hardy with few health issues. So it’s best to check breed profiles before you start your physical search. Knowing what tasks you need kitty to perform will help determine which kitty would be right for you and fit into your home and lifestyle. A mixed kitty will exhibit some of the traits of it’s purebred ancestors, so use some common sense and choose the best fit for your needs. Or better yet, let kitty choose you.
We were asked if Ragdolls made better Service kitties than other breeds. The general answer is No. Sis Lexi was one of mommy’s best Service Cats and she wasn’t a Ragdoll at all. And mommy didn’t start her search looking for a Ragdoll, that’s just where we ended up. God had a plan and Raena is it. For the tasks mommy needs performed, Ragdolls do make an excellent choice because of our size and we are considered “soft pawed”. That means we don’t use our claws. Since one of the tasks mommy needs is massage, she says it’s nice to not have claws digging into her head and body. For those of you who are new to our blog, mommy has had several Service kitty’s thru’ the years. The first was Shad, a Persian, and then Devon the Himalayan, sis Lexi a Mau, Lucky, a Siamese mix, and Ransom, a Ragamuffin. Mommy says the best Service kitty is the kitty who wants to be with you.
So, you need kitty to accompany you outside the home. Look for a confident and outgoing kitty. By confident and outgoing we don’t mean the one that’s bouncing off the walls, but rather a kitty that seems to be interested in new things and curious but also enjoys quiet time with you. Altho’ you can train shy kitty to be outgoing and confident, it’s easier for most people to just start with one. A Service animal must be under the control of their handler at all times and may not disturb others while performing their tasks. So while kitty is in public there must be no excessive meowing, hissing, scratching, trying to escape, etc.. Kitty must also be leash trained and comfortable in their harness. We highly recommend a pet stroller if kitty needs to accompany you. Kitty stays safe but still has access to you. We are very capable of alerting mommy to a Syncope incident from inside the stroller.
Mommy is home with us 24 hours a day so she doesn’t really look for specifics cuz she knows that kitty will act a bit differently in our home than it does in a rescue, shelter or breeders house. And she has been training animals, specifically cats for many years. We Do Not recommend the hybrid breeds like Savannahs, Bengals, etc. for Service Cats. Altho’ they are very smart and easily trainable, generally people with disabilities don’t have the ability or space to properly take care of them. Sex isn’t important as your Service kitty should be spayed or neutered at the appropriate age. Kitty will also be required to be up to date on their vaccinations if they accompany you outside the home. And please inform the rescue, shelter or breeder that you intend to train kitty to be a Service cat.
ConCats, you’ve found the perfect kitty and brought he/she home. What in the world do you do now? Where do you start? Mommy calls this time “Bonding with Kitty” time. At 6 to 8 weeks, kitty is too small to really to do much; but during this time you can build a strong relationship with kitty and focus some of their natural behaviors that you will turn into tasks later. Mommy prefers a love reward system as opposed to treats simply because there are tasks we are required to perform where treats would be impossible to get to. And because unlike dogs, cats aren’t ruled by their tummies. This is why bonding is so important. Don’t get me wrong, mommy does employ treat training on occasion, but usually for those really complicated and detailed tasks.
Well me thinks me will wrap it up fur today and let ya’ digest all of this. We will cover the bonding process and turning instinct into tasks next time. If ya’ have any questions about what we’ve covered today or about choosing, training, or Service cats in general, leave them in the comments and we will get them answered in a following post.
On the newsy side, we have 2 pawsum digital cameras, thank you awnties; but the memory cards are full. Because of the nature of catputers and crashin’ mommy refuses to erase said cards because they contain fotos of sis Lexi. So until we can afford to buy more memory cards we won’t be posting any “new” fotos or videos. We hate this as much as you do cuz Raena is growin’ like a weed and we’re in the getting comfortable stage of our relationship. But alas, no money means no money and Raena has to go to da VET fur her furst round of kitty vacs this Furiday.
Do you have any questions about today’s posty?
Is there something you would like us to expand on?