- Category: Pet Services
The fabulous Marci Koski of Feline Behavior Solutions, spent some time answering some important questions about cat behavior with us. She is a real pro and had some great information for us cat lovers!
Q: Why did you decide to specialize in helping cats?
A: There were a number of things that went into that decision, but when it came down to it, there were two primary reasons: 1) I love cats, and 2) there are way too many cats that have been abandoned or surrendered to shelters as a result of treatable behavior issues. I started volunteering at a couple of shelters and was overwhelmed by the number of cats that needed homes, and I decided that I would try to keep as many cats as I could with their original families. I realized that the solution is, in part, a matter of educating cat parents on what their kitties need to be happy and healthy, and how they can reduce stress and boredom that results in behavior problems. And I figured that I could help with that!
Q: How do you help cats that don’t get along?
A: That is a great question – so many cat parents struggle with this issues. It depends on the situation, but there are a few things that I generally recommend. First, you want to make sure that each cat has the space they need to avoid a stressful situation with another cat. People can facilitate this by taking advantage of vertical space – so creating areas for kitties where they can perch or snooze safely. Cat shelves, perches, cat trees…all of these things really help. Second, competition over resources can be a source of stress among cats, so you’ll want to make sure that you have multiple food and water stations placed far away from each other, and this goes for litterboxes, too. And third, you’ll want to teach each kitty to associate the other cats with good things. This includes treats, toys, and playtime. Anything you can do in this regard will help!
Q: Do you have any recommendations for someone who adopts a very timid cat?
A: Yes! Timid cats can become overwhelmed in a new situation, so you’ll want to set up a “safe room” for the new kitty so that she can get used to her new environment. That room should be quiet and have everything your cat needs – food, water, toys, litterbox, perching spots, bedding, and a couple of places for her to hide. Visit the kitty in the room every day, and let her come to you. Even if you simply spend an hour in the room sitting quietly while reading a book, you’ll be letting your cat know that you can be trusted. And don’t forget the power of treats – she’ll start to associate you with good things, and if you take things slowly, your relationship will grow into a solid friendship.
Q: Do you think it’s possible to train a cat?
A: Absolutely! I offer a “Paws-On Training Session” to local clients (I’m in Vancouver, WA, just north of Portland), and I’ve trained cats to sit on command in five minutes. Clicker-training cats is fairly easy, IF you find a proper motivator (and again, I’m talking about a favorite treat)! There are so many tricks you can teach your kitty to do (my favorite is the high-five), and clicker-training is also a great way to positively reinforce good behavior if you are working on resolving a behavior issue.
Q: Cats are known to be finicky eaters. Any tips to get a picky cat to eat?
A: This is a tough issue, especially for older cats, or for cats who have been ill and need to eat to gain weight. A cat’s sense of smell is HUGE when it comes to deciding to eat something, so anything you can do to make your cat’s food more aromatic will help. Heating up wet food with hot water (don’t microwave food, because it can heat unevenly and get too hot) makes food smell more strongly, and you can also add things like fish oil (which is beneficial to cats’ health) or tuna flakes to make food smell fishy (which tends to have a strong odor that cats love). There are also medications that act as appetite stimulants, so definitely talk with your veterinarian if feeding gets to be a real problem.
Q: Is a cat a good pet for families with young infants?
A: This is an important question for people to consider when they are thinking about adding a family member (human or feline). Cats and infants can get along just fine, if you take the time to introduce them to each other properly AND supervise all interactions. The biggest factor you’ll need to consider is how much time you’ll be able to devote to your kitty once the baby arrives; behavior issues can crop up if a cat (who used to get plenty of attention) is suddenly ignored or doesn’t get the exercise and mental stimulation she needs. Your cat is part of the family too, and she still has needs that must be met! And, as your child grows older, you’ll need to teach her how to properly handle the kitty to avoid getting scratched or bitten. Until she can be taught this, you’ll definitely want to supervise any time your cat and child spend together.
Q: I know you volunteer at a rescue group. Do you think the cats are aware of their surroundings and are just waiting for that permanent home?
A: I’ve volunteered at a couple of rescue organizations. The largest one I volunteered for had all the cats housed in individual metal kennels, surrounded by other kennels with cats in them…talk about a stressful situation! I don’t know if the cats were aware that they were waiting to be adopted and brought to a new home, but I’m sure that they were aware that their surroundings weren’t much fun. Fortunately, the adoption rate was pretty high so the cats usually didn’t have to wait long to be adopted. The organization I currently volunteer with, Furry Friends, is a no-kill cat rescue where none of the cats are kenneled long-term, and are, for the most part, free to roam the Furry Friends halfway house. They have different rooms and catios that allow them to go outside. We have cats who have been there several years, and I’m sure they see their environment as their home. Regardless of how long the kitties are at Furry Friends, though, they receive really great care and a lot of love. It’s quite a nice place to be a cat!
Q: How many cats do you have? And, at what number, does a woman become a cat lady?!
A: Ha ha ha – I have five cats! And, I think that being a cat lady is a state of mind, not the number of cats you have. Some people are dangerously allergic to cats (oh, the tragedy!) but still consider themselves cat ladies because they love kitties so much. These are the people who volunteer at shelters washing dishes or doing laundry, making cat beds for adoptable cats, helping with fundraisers for shelters, and doing any number of things that promote cat adoption, health, and welfare. Cat ladies are part of a wonderful community of people with big hearts and a lot of love to give. And we will always welcome more to the club – membership is free!
Dr. Marci Koski is a certified Feline Behavior and Training Specialist with her own cat behavior consulting business, Feline Behavior Solutions. Her goals are to keep cats in homes, and improve the relationships between cats and their people for long-term health and happiness. Please contact her for a consultation for your cats at: Feline Behavior Solutions