Helping Fearful Cats Find Their Purr-fect Home

How OHS’ Behavior Modification Program Is Saving Feline Lives

Shasta graduated from the BMOD program in 2017. Her adopter calls her a “blessing.”

Can you really train a cat? This is a common question from most people who hear about the Behavior Modification Program, or BMOD, program for cats. While most cats who come to OHS are able to adjust to shelter life, those who come from challenging circumstances sometimes need extra help to prepare for life in a new home. Some may spend days hiding in the back of their kennel, trying to disappear. Others may lash out, hiss or scratch. In both instances, fear is at the heart of their behavior challenges.

OHS’ Cat Behavior Modification Program was developed to help rehabilitate fearful cats, teaching them how to trust people and prepare them for life in a home. Cats in the BMOD program are housed in a quiet room, called Whisker Way, with a dedicated behavior expert who provides daily care, enrichment and training for the cats.

Each cat receives a customized training plan. Cats who have a history of swatting at people may learn how to sit for a treat or touch a target with their nose. Cats who are worried about being picked up might learn how to run into a crate on cue, making trips to the vet easier. Through reward-based training and interactive play therapy, cats in the program move from hiding and hissing to soliciting pets and attention.

Since formalizing OHS’ BMOD program for cats in 2015, 213 cats have been placed in the program and 97% have been adopted. There are up to nine cats in the program at any given time and most are between one and four years of age. While there is no time limit on how long cats can stay in the program, most typically progress within three to eight weeks and find a loving home two to three weeks after “graduating” from the program.

Have a question about your cat’s behavior? The Oregon Humane Society is here to help! We offer a free pet behavior helpline, a comprehensive online resource library, and one-on-one appointments. Learn more about our cat training services at