By Carolyn Cameron
“I guess deep down, I always identified with cats because I myself never felt completely understood, and most of the time, I believe cats aren’t understood by their owners. As a cat behaviorist, I act as an advocate and an interpreter for them. There are still so many myths about cats that exist today, and I believe I can help with all of these dilemmas and misunderstandings.”
Lana Fraley Rich, also known as The Catsultant, has the answers. With over 20 years of professional experience in the feline care, dental/medical fields and behavioral improvement services, Ms. Rich advises these owners, improving the lives of cats and those that care for them from her career as a cat behaviorist.
She explains, “Cat behavior can be frustrating, but most of the time, I believe cats are just misunderstood. I work with cat owners throughout Texas and all over the nation, and together we develop a customized treatment plan to resolve a cat’s behavior issues. … I love cats, and I love working with cat owners’ to bring resolution to their lives and their homes. It’s my greatest joy.”
An animal lover all her life, Ms. Rich clearly remembers visiting her grandmother’s house in the Texas Panhandle and being surrounded by cats and dogs, chickens and even a burro. Lana loved animals so much that she once considered becoming a veterinarian in her early years. Even though her immediate family owned a cat and dog, her father preferred dogs because, in his opinion, they were so much easier to control. Conversely, Lana always felt a deep connection and affiliation towards cats.
In 1985, after many years as a professional dental hygienist, Lana fulfilled a lifelong passion, opening The Cat Connection®, a cat supply and accessory store in Plano. After becoming frustrated by not being able to find a grooming or boarding facility for her beloved, long-haired cat, Big Red, and instead finding dog supply stores and facilities around every corner, she knew she wanted to level the playing field and not let cats continue to be the “underdog” any longer.
“Cats are so incredibly misunderstood and therefore, are much more likely to be surrendered to shelters than dogs. Often, cat owners don’t realize how unique their cat’s needs truly are. Many feline friends are labeled as “bad cats,” but the cat is just being a cat. My mission is to be an advocate for cats,” continues Ms. Rich.
Ms. Rich’s business concept was a resounding success. In less than five years, the store doubled in size, so then, she relocated it to Dallas to become the largest cat-only facility in the Southwest. Garnering national attention, The Cat Connection® was covered in prestigious publications such as The Dallas Morning News, Texas Monthly, Cat Fancy Magazine, and the New York Times.
While running the store, one of her customers inquired about seeking help with her specific cat’s behavioral issues. The customer believed she had tried everything and was “at the end of her rope.” Visiting the client’s home, Ms. Rich was able to help her customer understand the innate needs of her ‘little tiger’ and successfully resolve the problem.
“With education and assistance, both my customer and her little kitty were happier, and I could see they had a much better quality of life. It was after this appointment that I realized I had found my true calling.”
After 15 years of owning the Cat Connection, Ms. Rich sold the business and devoted herself to working full time with cat owners, resolving feline behavioral problems and teaching cat care awareness classes throughout Texas and in Sante Fe, New Mexico. Today, Ms. Rich works with clients both in person and over skype, in addition to teaching and training at animal shelters and veterinarian clinics.
One especially interesting client experience involved Ms. Rich parking a half a block away from her customer’s house and entering the home after texting the homeowner of her arrival. Because of her very, very shy and timid cat, the customer met Ms. Rich at the back door where she was to remove her shoes and requested that they not speak for five minutes while they sat at the dining table. They sat in silence and Ms. Rich began to wonder if she had truly encountered a ‘crazy cat lady.’
“In this particular case, I began to wonder who had more behavioral problems, my customer or her cat,” laughs Ms. Rich. “Of course, everything went extremely well, and my client was very pleasantly surprised when her cat greeted me after a short time in her home. With over 1500 cat consultations, I have met some remarkable people during my cat behaviorist career.” Her success rate is over 85 percent. “My goal is for every cat owner to truly understand their cats while resolving any issues and ensuring both a happy home owner and feline friend.”
For more information about your cat’s unique needs or to resolve behavior problems, contact The Catsultant at catsultant.com.