Managing Feline Behaviour Problems in Animal Shelters

Room: St Laurent 6
Simultaneous English-to-French interpretation available for this session.

Dr. Jacklyn Ellis, Manager of Feline Behaviour, Enrichment and Rehabilitation, Toronto Humane Society

Many cats are relinquished to animal shelters for behavioural issues. Managing (and preferably reducing!) feline behaviour problems can be difficult enough, but shelter settings have unique challenges that make this task particularly difficult. Unfortunately, cats with behaviour issues often have the longest stay in shelters. Identifying the challenges and opportunities presented by a shelter environment can help us to leverage and adapt the best practices of animal behaviour counselling to be most efficiently used in a shelter setting. Using Susan Freidman’s Humane Hierarchy as a framework, methods for managing feline behaviour issues will be discussed, such as environmental manipulation, behaviour modification and behavioural pharmacology. Additionally, the concepts of LIMA and the ABCs of Applied Behaviour Analysis will be introduced.


  1. The challenges in managing feline behaviour problems in shelter settings.
  2. Susan Freidman’s Humane Hierarchy.
  3. The most practical ways to effectively manage feline behaviour problems in an animal shelter.

Dr. Ellis identified as a crazy cat lady from a very young age. Unaware of the opportunities for working with cats outside of becoming a veterinarian, she shifted her focus to primates. After completing her undergraduate degree in Anthropology at McMaster University, she earned her Master’s of Research in Primatology at Roehampton University in London, UK, where she investigated the behavioural and physiological correlates of stress for the wild male olive baboons, in Gashaka-Gumti National Park, Nigeria. She was then delighted by the opportunity to return to the species that ignited her interest in working with animals when she was offered PhD position studying methods for reducing stress in shelter cats at the Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island. After graduating, she served for 4 years as a Behaviour Scientist at Nestlé Purina’s Product Technology Center in Missouri before starting in her current role as the Manager of Feline Behaviour, Enrichment and Rehabilitation at the Toronto Humane Society. She has published widely and presented at many national and international conferences, particularly on feline stress and elimination behaviours.