Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi is the cat consultant behind Go Cat Go, a San Francisco based consulting service for cat behavior advice. With over 15 years of frontline experience in animal welfare, sheltering and one-on-one behavior counseling, DQ offers cat advice that humans can relate to and apply to their own lives, allowing them to “Live in the Meow” with a better understanding and balance.
I’m delighted that Daniel agreed to answer some questions about his background, some of his cases, and his own cat.
How did you get started becoming a cat behaviorist?
I would not be the cat consultant that I am today, had it not been for the collective experiences of my 12 years working for the San Francisco SPCA. I had the honor and privilege of working with some of the greatest and most compassionate minds in animal welfare, and certainly the frontline experiences that we shared together each day had a huge impact on my vision for what I have always wanted to accomplish in preventing cats from being surrendered.
For almost half of my career, I was involved in cat intake, behaviorally assessing the cats that would enter the shelter for adoption. A large part of the job is interviewing the guardian about why they are surrendering the cat and what their experiences were like with the cat in their home environment. You might talk to someone who was emotionally distraught and really feeling the loss of surrendering their best friend… or… you might talk to someone completely emotionless and detached from the situation. I would try to collect as much information as I could in order to pave the way for a successful adoption going forward. I knew that I had to be the voice for the cat, so in order to grab the information needed to change the outcome for the better, I had to decipher what was relevant information, in order to fully understand the needs of the cat in our care.
Apart from personal or financial issues, cats that were being surrendered for reasons of behavior could have been easily prevented, if someone where there to provide advice to the guardians, before they made the decision to give up. A lot of times, people call shelters to surrender their cat, and they’re not willing to listen to advice about their cat’s behavior, because their minds were already made up. I had to get ahead of that corner that people turn in their mind.
Those very emotional and draining interviews with cat guardians took their toll on me. I would closely equate intake and surrender interviews to grief counseling. I was fatigued and knew that I had to get ahead of this issue in my own way. Giving behavior advice to people on the phone or writing emails to them was not an effective solution to the problem. There’s just so much that you CAN’T see you when you’re not in someone’s home with them, seeing how they feel and live live, but most importantly seeing how their cat reacts to the environment around them. I knew that I had to go out of my own, create a successful brand and a relatable philosophy, which would serve to educate people on a one-on-one basis and also reach out to the cat centric masses in a comfortable language that they understand. So far, four years in, Go Cat Go is gaining some serious momentum and is becoming widely known across the country.
You offer both in home consultations in the SF Bay area, and remote consultations. How do you approach an in home consultation?
My approach to in home-consultations is to keep the cat-mosphere casual and get to know my human clients first. So much of the advice that I give to change a cat’s behavior is tailored to the guardian’s involvement, so it is essential that I be able to meet my clients where they are comfortable and able to be themselves and listen to what they have experienced. People will dictate their actions or how they manage their cat’s behaviors by the emotional component they feel from it. In other words, people tend to feel hurt, sad, angry and even depressed when their cats are in a place of imbalance in the relationship. I listen to my clients and try my best to empathize with their feelings, even if I know the cat’s behavior has absolutely nothing to do with it. You have to see where the guardian turns that corner in their thinking first. Most importantly, you have to be a compassionate listener. Once I get that connection with my client, then we can start deciphering why the cat may be peeing in a sink instead of the litterbox.
When I first enter a client’s home, I hardly ever introduce myself to a client’s cat first…. unless it is not my choice. I sit down, get to know the people, and then I wait for the cats to come in and introduce themselves to me. This gives them time to size me up and see how my visit may benefit them. Cats always need to be the one that makes the choice. So, I allow them all the time they need to make that decision. I’ll have the icebreakers going, like playing with toys they’ve never seen before and gaining their trust with some treats and non-invasive social interaction.
I look at my in-home clients through the eyes of their cat, paying extra attention to the environment that everyone lives in together. Once I know a cat’s personality and get some information about how they make their choices, I look to see where I might want to spend the most time if I was the cat. Does the landscape line up with their preferences? Is the environment already maxed out and needs some dialing back?
Sometimes…to be frank…I might leave a house, having only asked my clients to tidy up a little. Your environment is symbiotic together. The lifestyle choices that you make in your home can directly reflect on the dynamic that you and all the animals sharing the same environment have together. I look at the balance between aesthetically pleasing and realistically functional, and try to pay tribute to my human client’s style and décor without compromising the cat’s quality of life. That’s not always easy to do in a city where lifestyle trumps sensibility.
Coming tomorrow: Interview with Cat Consultant Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi, Part Two: Daniel talks about some of his cases
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