Pet Forum

Interview with our Favorite Feline Specialist, Marci Koski, of Feline Behavior Solutions!

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


Don’t Fret! You Can Communicate with your Deaf Dog

As our dogs get older, they will show some different signs of aging.  Some become arthritic, slow down while other dogs might lose their hearing.  Deafness in dogs (and cats) is very common and, for the most part, is harder on you than it is on them.  But, don’t despair, there are ways to communicate with your dog that has lost his hearing. 

Try using hand signals with your dog – you’ve done it in the past!

Even when your dog could hear, you probably used hand signals on a regular basis.  When you are ready to take you dog on a walk, take out the leash and show it to him.  When you are ready to feed him, point to the bowl to eat (although most dogs will smell it).  Even giving your dog a thumbs up with a smile is a great way to imply ‘good dog.

Touching is key with a deaf dog – be gentle.

When you walk inside and you want to get your dog's attention, approach you dog slowly, and give him a gentle tap on the back or shoulder.  Your pup might be startled at first, but you can also try approaching with heavy feet.  When you are leaving, touch him again to show you are on your way out.  You can even stomp a bit to emphasize your presence.



Take the lead and be attuned to your surroundings

With a deaf dog, it is critical that you become your dog’s eyes and ears.  You need to be extra aware of the environment around you.  When you go on a walk, you must lead and make sure your dog doesn’t cross the street or go on his own.  Keep treats handy to steer your dog in the right direction. 

Attach a bell to your dog’s collar so you can always hear him

You should attach a bell to your dog’s collar so that you can hear him if he escapes or runs outside.  It’s also a good idea to have a bell in your home especially if you have more than one pet.   Pay attention to your dog’s chimes and you can use it to help you and your dog.

Be patient and extra loving with your deaf dog

Although this is probably understood, you need to be extra patient.  Try not to get frustrated (even if it is just sadness) when your dog doesn’t responds to you the same way she used to.   You need to treat your dog with extra kindness and compassion.  Your dog can and will be happy and fulfilled if you treat your pup with extra love, patience and understanding.


Creating My Own Raw Food Model for Our Dogs

 By Kimberly Gauthier, Keep the Tail Wagging

When I researched raw feeding, I learned that the two main models are BARF (biologically appropriate raw food) and Prey.  After more than two years of feeding raw to my dogs, I’ve found that the main difference between BARF and Prey are the amount of bone and the vegetables.

BARF Model vs. Prey Model Raw Feeding

BARF Model:

    • 60-80% raw meaty bones, which are bones with 50% meat still attached (turkey necks, chicken backs, duck wings, etc.)
    • 20-40% fruits, veggies, offal (organ meat), muscle meat, eggs, and/or dairy products

Prey Model:

    • 80% muscle meat
    • 10% offal (half of the offal is liver)
    • 10% bone

Introducing the FrankenBARF Model of Raw Feeding

In April 2013, I transitioned our dogs to a raw diet prepared and delivered by Darwin’s Pet, a local company that ships raw meals nationwide for dogs and cats. Their food includes muscle meat, organ meat, bone, vegetables, fruit, and supplements – all ground together in a yummy dose of healthiness. 


Premade raw is the way to go if you can afford it. With four big dogs, we couldn’t continue feeding them 100% premade, so I joined a local co-op and made raw dog food at home. Because our dogs did well on the BARF model, I followed the model at home.

I immediately came up with one problem – I couldn’t find all the ingredients I needed. The grocery store doesn’t have a large variety of muscle and organ meat. I didn’t live near an Asian supermarket (which tends to have more options). And our butcher was expensive. 

So I started piecing together a BARF-ish diet for our dogs that I call Franken-BARF.

The FrankenBARF Model of Raw Feeding

FrankenBARF Model:

    • 65% muscle meat (alternated weekly)
    • 15% raw meaty bones
    • 20% fruits, veggies, offal (organ meat), eggs, and/or raw goat milk


My model is not a balanced diet on its own (nor do I stick to the percentages), so I add the following:


And I feed our dogs premade raw food that is available through our co-op: Steve’s Real Food, Answers, and Vital Essentials are our favorites.

Sounds complicated? I thought so too, at first.

When I started making raw dog food at home, I quickly became overwhelmed, because everyone has advice on what you should and shouldn’t feed your dogs. There are plenty of books, YouTube videos, and websites that offer guidance as well. Information overload happened quickly and then a friend advised me to feed my dogs what they need.

Feeding Our Dogs What They Need

After typing that last sentence above, I laughed, because two years ago, I would have responded “what the hell does that MEAN?”

We have four dogs that have different needs, and I started adjusting their diets to accommodate those needs. I also began paying attention to their poop (yep, gross, but educational) to learn more about what our dogs need. This daily examination helped me determine that two of our dogs have protein allergies (confirmed by our vet) and one of our dogs wasn’t getting enough fish oil. 

From there, I made adjustments to their individual meals – and it worked!

Where do the Fruits and Veggies Fall in Raw Feeding?

Although I believe dogs are carnivores, I also think fruits and vegetables have a place in their diet. I feed our dogs fruits and veggies, because…

    • They provide nutrients and antioxidants, which help fight cancer.
    • They are an excellent source of fiber, which supports a healthy digestive system.
    • They help a dog feel fuller faster (great for dogs on a diet).
    • They’re a healthy snack, and my dogs love them.


While some raw feeders believe fruits and vegetables are unnecessary fillers meant to save money; I disagree. While they don’t replace ingredients in a balanced raw diet, I believe they can boost a diet, making it healthier. 

A FrankenBARF Recipe

Check out the below recipe to get an idea of what a FrankenBARF meal looks like for our dogs.

    • Ground duck wings
    • Duck necks
    • Duck hearts
    • Kindly grain-free base mix by The Honest Kitchen (1-1/2 cups for every 5 pounds of food)
    • Green lipped mussel
    • Turmeric
    • Apple cider vinegar


I mix these ingredients in 8-quart bowls before transferring them to Rubbermaid container to be fed during the week. Each of our dogs receives fish oil, a joint supplement, a digestive supplement, and Olewo carrots and beets.  I add PetKind canned green tripe or fresh tripe once or twice a week (either mixed in their meals or as an individual meal).

When choosing a raw feeding model, keep your dog's need foremost in your mind.  It's easy to be distracted by well-meaning friends and strangers, but it's important to remember that you're an expert in your dog.

About the Author: Kimberly Gauthier is the blogger behind Keep the Tail Wagging, a blog about raw feeding, dog supplements, and raising littermates. Kimberly and her boyfriend are raising two sets of littermates in the Pacific Northwest where they enjoy a property with plenty of room to run and explore. Kimberly finished her first e-book on raw feeding called Raw Feeding from A to Z. Rodrigo, Sydney, Scout and Zoey are all herding mix dogs, including Blue Heeler, Border Collie, Catahoula, Australian Shepherd, and Labrador (a lover, not a herder).


 Photo compliments of DepositPhoto/Zuzule


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Treating Urinary Crystals for Your Kitties is Easier than You Think!

You know that awful feeling you have when you can’t urinate, well think of how your cat feels!  He or she goes to the litter box and just sits there and only a few drops come out at a time.  Or sometimes you kitty will miss the litterbox and that’s humiliating for them and a pain for us to clean.   It’s very likely in both cases that your kitty has urinary crystals.

Your cat typically has urine crystals from dehydration

While this isn’t always the case and depends upon your kitten, the majority of the cats that have urinary crystals simply aren’t drinking enough water.  Cats are extremely thirst tolerant and can be completely dehydrated and not even feel it.  Cats don’t always seek sources of water even when their body needs it. This is why cats so susceptible to urinary crystals and stones.

How can you get your cats to drink more water?

Cats are not like dogs and run to the bowl of water to drink it up when they are thirsty or even have just finished eating a meal.  Therefore, you have to get creative.  Always have water bowls out around the house.  Try getting a water fountain that spins fresh water and feels more like an interactive game to get them to drink it.



Your cat needs to eat wet food to help with crystals

We know our cats are finicky but it’s important for you to find wet food that your cats enjoy.  Wet food is 80% more water than dry.  In fact, adding more water to their wet food is even better – and we know our cats like mushy food.  Adding water to wet food is an excellent way to help your cats with crystals.

Stop feeding your cats any dry food for cats with urine crystals

If your cat does has crystals, it is time to stop the dry food altogether. Dry food will not cause the crystals, but it will be helpful in getting rid of the crystals.  You need to transition your cat to a wet food and stay on wet food for the duration of his life. 

Once your cat has urinary crystals, it never goes away completely

Once you have managed the first round of urinary crystals in your cat, it is important to discuss with your vet about your next follow up.  While the urinary crystals is certainly manageable, they can come back if you don’t take care of it from the start.

Want to know more about what urinary crystals are and how to know if your cat has them, take a look at my other article:  A Medical Condition No Cat Owner Wants for His Cat


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A Medical Condition No Cat Owner Wants for Their Cats!

As cat owners, we want are cats to be happy, healthy and eat well.  And, of course, we do our best to feed them good healthy food and take them to our veterinarians for their annual physical.  But, even with our best effort, our cats can encounter a painful condition where they have crystals in their urine or for those who want the medical term, Crystillaria.

What are Urine Crystals?

Sometimes crystals will form in the bladder of cats. While these crystals are microscopic, they have very sharp edges which rub on and cause irritation to the walls of the bladder. This leads to inflammation, irritation, and often blood in the urine. Affected cats will show the typical signs of cystitis--frequent urination with little passed, often with blood and causing them pain.



Is your kitty having trouble urinating?

One of the most common signs of urine crystals is when your kitty approaches the litter box and just sits there and doesn’t release much or any urine.  They try to relieve that irritation by urinating frequently or often outside the litterbox. Because they urinate so frequently, the bladder remains almost empty. Therefore the cat urinates only a few drops at a time or sometimes not at all, which can be painful for your kitty (and you to watch).

If you think your cat has crystals, take him to the vet immediately

If any cat has signs of crystals, he or she should be examined by a veterinarian immediately to stop it from becoming a bigger issue.  Your vet will withdraw urine from your kitty and conduct a urinalysis.  They usually check to see if there is bacterial, crystals, blood cells and other substances in the urine as well as measuring the concentration and pH of the urine. All this information gives the doctor clues as to the underlying cause of the cat's problem.

If your cat does have urine crystals, what happens next?

If your cat does have urine crystals, your vet will usually recommend treatment that sometimes will include antibiotics, a specific type of cat food (always wet) and will try to help you find ways to get your kitties to drink more water.

I hope your cat never encounters the painful urinary crystals.  If you want to know more about treating crystals, read my next article, Treatment of Urinary Crystals



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