Meet Dr Joanne Righetti And Learn The Role Of An Animal Behaviorist

Dr Joanne Righetti and one of her cats Leo

Dr Joanne Righetti and one of her cats Leo

Here at Dogs and Cats, we are so privileged to have Dr Joanne Righetti on board to answer question for a Nikki, who has a new kitten Grisut. It can be a real challenge for a new kitten owner to know exactly how to manage issues as they arise and know how to properly manage these to have a healthy, well-adjusted cat down the track.

I wanted to find out exactly what Dr Jo’s role is so I posed these questions to her:

What exactly is an animal behaviourist?

An animal behaviourist is someone who understands animals and their behaviour. Most people who call themselves animal behaviourists have some level of qualifications, often zoology or psychology degrees. In Australia anyone can call themselves an animal behaviourist so it up to the pet owners to check qualifications of anyone they ask to help with their animal companions.

An animal behaviourist differs from a veterinary behaviourist in that they do not prescribe medication for problems, though they may work with vets to do so. Dog trainers may also help solve canine behaviour problems.

What qualifications did you achieve for this role?

I have a degree in zoology, a PhD in animal behaviour and a diploma in counselling. I have been running my business for around 12 years which has given me lots of experience in cats and dogs (and other animals too even the human variety!).

Are you the same a pet psychologist?

I don’t have a degree in psychology. I do have qualifications in counselling, however, which helps me understand problem solving with people (many pet behaviour problems have their route in human behaviour). But pet psychologist is used as a general term and I don’t object to that.

What made you want to specialise in this area?

I can’t remember when I wasn’t fascinated by animal behaviour. It was logical for me to go down this career path and I have been lucky that I have achieved what I have so far. Though there has been a bit of hard work too!!

Do you have a pet yourself? If so, would you mind sharing with us?

I have a dog a one year old mixed breed (Terrier cross of some sort?) who I got from the pound as a puppy. Her name is Chilli. I also have four cats:

- Clyde, 18 yr old ginger male

- Mew, 10 year old Siamese x Tabby female

- Ginger, 8 year old ginger male

- Leo, 1 yr old Maine Coon

I have two¬† ferrets too, from Ferret Rescue, who are about three years old and are called “Thunder” and “Lightning”. In my garden I have lots of fish in a pond. And at various times in the past we have had birds, mice and hermit crabs too. I live at home with my three sons and a husband!

What sort of problems would a pet owner to come you for?

Anything that involves their animal misbehaving. This may be serious eg. aggression or fairly trivial eg. jumping up. I take each problem seriously as it is interfering with the human-animal relationship.

Do you offer ‘overnight’ solutions, or is the work you do more long term?

Definitely long term. Often you get some “aha” moments when owners finally understand their pets behaviour (this why I enjoy doing radio shows as this often happens) but mostly it is hard work and most of the hard work is by the owner. I wish I could wave a magic wand but short term fixes are generally not long term solutions. A long term solution depends on understanding the cause of the unwanted behaviour and working towards solving that. As well as working with pet owners I work with commercial companies, Universities, government bodies and media too. I enjoy talking to people so I spend a bit of time on my website and on social media – Twitter, Facebook too.

When people consult you, do you visit them or do they come to you?

Mostly they go to their local vet clinic and we meet there. This ensures that the animal has had a check up and a clean physiological bill of health. At times their vet may ask me to visit them in their home and this is applicable for some problems. Pet owners can come to any of the clinics where I consult regularly or ask their vet to contact me.

If people don’t live in Sydney, can they still use your services?

If they live outside Sydney, I can sometimes do phone consults and I keep meaning to set up internet consults but haven’t quite got there yet! I do, however, answer questions, very briefly, on radio or on Facebook. And sometimes on Twitter too (though it’s hard to solve a problem in 140 characters!!). Occasionally I visit areas out of Sydney to do dog days out or information evenings where the public can come along. Usually I will post these on my website.

More about Dr Jo and Pet Problems Solved at http://www.petproblemsolved.com.au/index.php?p=1_3

One Response to “Meet Dr Joanne Righetti And Learn The Role Of An Animal Behaviorist”

  1. Judy Feldman Says:

    Dear Joanne, Lane Cove Veterinary Practice recommended you to me. Dr. Richard Mullens and his great staff. My 11 month old Ragdoll, Shaina, never urinates outside her litter tray but she does defecate next to the tray! I have placed another tray in the loo; make sure both are scooped several times a day and the litter changed at least once a week. On rare occassions she will poo in the tray and I praise her. I have never punished her and gently place her in the tray if I catch her. I am working from home but often am away for several hours. I adore her but am very concerned about this behaviour. Can you help? With thanks, Judy Feldman

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