Working with Fearful & Aggressive Felines

Working with Fearful
& Aggressive Felines


  • Laura Cassiday, CCBC, Fear Free Certified Trainer 
  • Patience Fisher, ACCBC, CVA, Dip.FBST, MS
  • Katenna Jones, ScM, ACAAB, CCBC, CDBC, Certified Fear Free Trainer 
  • Trish McMillan, MSc, CPDT-KA, CDBC, ACCBC 
  • Tabitha Kucera, CCBC, RVT, KPA-CTP 

Schedule of Presentations

10:10 AM - Dialing Back from Rage to Relaxed: Desensitizing and Counter-conditioning Fear-aggressive Cats - Patience Fisher, ACCBC, CVA, Dip.FBST, MS

Fear and rage are both basic emotions, seated in the primitive brain structures of mammals. Both are compelling, and unpleasant to experience. I will briefly discuss Jaak Panksepp’s research in this area. Next, I’ll focus on the fear and rage response in cats I have worked with. Finally, I will explore key issues to keep in mind when trying to reduce or change a cat’s emotional response to a trigger, be that another cat or a person that evokes aggression due to fear.

The consultant must work carefully to keep whatever is causing fear at a small enough dose that the cat remains trainable. I will discuss all factors that may lead to this basic emotion, so we avoid trigger stacking. I will also discuss ways to assess the dose of the trigger.

11:15 AM - Assessing Behavior in Shelter Cats - Trish McMillan, MSc, CPDT-KA, CDBC, ACCBC

Many cats have not been socialized to the world beyond their apartments or people and animals beyond those they live with. When they end up in a shelter, these cats may not show the sort of behavior they would in a home; they may be more fearful or more aggressive. How do we get at who each cat really is, and help get them on an appropriate pathway out of the shelter? How might we tell where on the socialization spectrum each cat is? Let’s dive in and see what the research and the experts say about this very important topic.

12:20 PM - Counter Conditioning My Air Conditioning Unit Kitten: A Case Study on Kitten Development and Socialization - Laura Cassiday, CCBC, Fear Free Certified Trainer 

Lennox was about 12 weeks old when he was observed falling off a third story balcony and getting trapped behind an air conditioning unit. He was brought to the local animal shelter for medical treatment, where he was deemed unadoptable — not because of any injuries, but due to his behavior. I took in this seriously undersocialized kitten as his last chance, and the rest is history. This session will follow Lennox’s journey from feral to friendly, focusing on specific counter-conditioning and desensitization strategies used, environmental management, and my socialization and habituation process overall and how you can apply these methods in your own work with fearful kittens. 

1:25 PM - Understanding and Relieving Fear, Anxiety and Stress - Katenna Jones, ScM, ACAAB, CCBC, CDBC, Certified Fear Free Trainer

Cats are so commonly misunderstood. Just a few moments on the internet reveals countless “funny” videos of stressed out, fearful and anxious kitties. By better understanding what individual cats are saying, as well as what all cats need, humans can be better equipped to not only be better pet parents, but advocates for the species as a whole. In this session, learn how fear, anxiety and stress develop, what they look like, as well as tips for helping cats who are afraid, stressed, or anxious.

2:30 PM - ME-Ouch, Painful, Not Grumpy Cats - Tabitha Kucera, CCBC, RVT, KPA-CTP

In many cases of cats exhibiting aggressive behavior, pain can be the cause or a contributing factor. As a behavior consultant and veterinary technician, I am lucky to bring a clinical eye to the home environment. Many behavior concerns have medical roots that would otherwise go unnoticed. Cats are unique in that they are both predator and prey animals. Due to this, assessing their pain is challenging not only for pet owners, but also for veterinary and shelter professionals.

Through lecture and video demonstration, this session will hone your pain assessment skills and provide you with the resources to advocate and care for the cat’s in your care. Tabitha will also share a case study in which pain was the cause of the aggressive behaviors.

3:30 PM – Group panel discussion and Q&A


CEUs are approved for CCPDT (0 CEUs for trainers and 5.5 CEUs for behavior consultants). Approved for 5.5 CEUs from KPA. 5.5 CEUs approved for IAABC.

Video Access

Registrants will have access to the recordings of the conference for six months after the date of purchase.


$125 for on-demand (recorded) version. This conference was recorded live on February 11, 2023. We offer a 10% discount for IAABC and PPG members, as well as staff and active volunteers of 501c3 nonprofit shelters and rescues. Email [email protected] for a registration discount code.

Course Information

On Demand (Recorded Version)

6 months of access

View Presentations

CEU Information