A Chat with a Cat Behaviorist

WHAT WE’VE BEEN UP TO:

We have been talking to Certified Feline Behavior and Training Professional Dr. Marci L. Koski!

She helps people with their cats or rather, helps cats with their people. Wink wink ;-).

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Marci: I have been trained in how cats can be taught to adjust their behaviors from something that their humans find annoying (like scratching up a couch) to something that allows them to express a natural behavior in a more desirable way (like using a scratching post).

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Marci: Very similar, yes, although I don’t have a camera crew following me around!  I’ve been watching Jackson Galaxy for a long time and I really admire his compassion for cats and their people, and his desire to improve the quality of life for everyone.  He is an excellent behaviorist, too!  I also visit cats in their homes, and work with their people to resolve behavior issues.

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Marci: The most common behavior issues are (1) litterbox problems, and (2) aggression between cats.  These seem to be the two problems that impact peoples’ lives the most, and can result in cats being sent to animal shelters.  It’s my goal to resolve those behavior issues so that cats can stay in their homes and away from shelters!

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Marci: Most “cat behaviorists” are certified through programs that are specific to cats; I was certified through the Animal Behavior Institute, but you can also get certified through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and other organizations.  I’ve received two certifications in feline training and behavior, which involved taking classes in animal development and learning, feline nutrition, normal cat behavior and training techniques for cats .

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Marci: Many cat behaviorists come into the field through the veterinary route and have a medical background.  I came into the field through a different route; I have a doctorate in Fish and Wildlife Biology, and my approach is to look at cat behavior as a function of feline evolution and their environmental needs. I’ve always loved cats and can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have at least one…so I’ve also spent a lifetime learning about them, which definitely helped me when it came to getting certified and working with clients!

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Marci: This is a GREAT question!  Very little of what I do involves actually working with cats themselves.  I mostly educate their people to change their behavior and their environment so that it is more suitable for cats!  Sometimes people do things that aggravate or stress cats and they are completely unaware that they are doing it, or have no idea of the impact it is causing.

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Marci: I had one client whose cat was not using his litterbox, and when I took a look at her home, it turned out that all of the litterboxes had been blocked with baby gates to keep the dog from “foraging” in the litterboxes.  This meant that the cat had to jump over the baby gates every time he wanted to go to the bathroom!  My client didn’t realize that her cat, who was getting older, was having a hard time jumping over the barriers (or simply didn’t want to), but when the baby gates were removed and we made some adjustments to keep the dog out of the litterboxes, things went back to normal.

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Marci: One of the most common things I see with clients is that if a cat does something “wrong”, they will either yell at the cat or squirt her with water.  Punishment really doesn’t work with cats – yelling and squirting with water creates more stress, and can damage the relationship between the cat and human.  Either of these things can cause more behavior problems.

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Marci: Absolutely!  I built my own business to help cats and their people.  In my previous career, I felt like I wasn’t using my creativity, passion, education, or skills to benefit anything, or anyone.  I decided to become a certified cat behaviorist with my own consulting business so I could do just that.  I do classes and workshops for animal shelters and other cat-friendly businesses (like cat cafés and cat hotels) so that everyone can learn more, regardless of whether they can afford a private consultation.  I love knowing that cats’ lives are improving as people learn more about their needs!

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Marci: Of course! Cats can be trained to do tricks like giving high-fives, jumping through hoops and that sort of thing, which is really fun!

Thank you so much for your time Marci! Now we know who to call if Lola’s OCD gets out of hand! HEY!

Anyway, check out Marci’s website here: www.felinebehaviorsolutions.com

FUN FACT:

The furry tufts on the inside of cats’ ears are called “ear furnishings”.

VIDEO PICK:

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8 thoughts on “A Chat with a Cat Behaviorist

  1. Thank you so much, Lola and Sasha, for the wonderful interview! Lola, your tongue IS freakishly long! You two are the most skilled cat interviewers I’ve ever met, and I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with you ❤

    Like

  2. I’d like to comment: this blog was absolutely fascinating and informational. More interviews with experts please!

    From Alison

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

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