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News / Business / Clark County Business

Working in Clark County: Marci Koski, cat behaviorist

By Kay Richardson, Columbian staff writer
Published: November 2, 2015, 6:02am
4 Photos
Marci Koski, a certified cat behaviorist, smiles at one of her cats at her home in Vancouver. Koski said her primary goal is to keep cats out of shelters.
Marci Koski, a certified cat behaviorist, smiles at one of her cats at her home in Vancouver. Koski said her primary goal is to keep cats out of shelters. (Natalie Behring/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Please don’t call Marci Koski a “cat whisperer.” She says she doesn’t have any special talents that any cat owner cannot learn. She simply passes them along. “I love seeing how the relationships between cats and their people can be improved, or even completely rescued,” she says. “My mission is to keep cats in homes and out of shelters. If I can do this by educating cat guardians about how to resolve their cat’s behavior issues … I’ve helped improve the lives of both the cats and the people they live with.”

Name: Marci Koski, cat behaviorist.

Residence neighborhood: Ellsworth area.

Business name: Feline Behavior Solutions, www.felinebehaviorsolutions.com, 503-927-1107.

Age: 41.

Educational/professional background: I have a Ph.D. in fishery and wildlife biology and M.S. in ecology from Colorado State University, and a specialized certificate in feline training and behavior from the Animal Behavior Institute. I have two jobs. I’m a cat behaviorist with my own consulting company called Feline Behavior Solutions. I am also a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service working on threatened and endangered species issues out of the Columbia River Fisheries Program Office. I also volunteer as the director of social media for Furry Friends, a no-kill cat rescue organization here in Vancouver (www.furryfriendswa.org).

How you got started in your business: I’ve been with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for nearly 10 years now, and have worked on a lot of conservation issues for species like bull trout, the coastal California gnatcatcher and the Laguna Mountains skipper. I’ve had a passion for animals and their welfare my entire life. I decided I wanted to do something a little more hands-on though, where I could directly see the results of my work helping animals. Since I’ve had cats my entire life and know a lot about them, I worked to get my certification in cat behavior and then started my cat behavior consulting company. I visit people’s homes to determine why their cat is behaving (in a certain way) and provide them with behavior plans and support to resolve the issue.

Personal/business philosophy: I am committed to compassion. While I don’t always agree with the way people do things, I know that there are reasons for their actions. I always want to do what is best for the cats that I meet, and am committed to helping people give them the best lives possible through education and resources.

Most rewarding part of job: I can’t tell you how great it is when I learn that a cat behavior client has followed through with the behavior plan I’ve written and is seeing results. Some people are skeptical at first, but they learn that if they stick with the plan, they see improvements in their cat’s behavior. And when you’re coming from a place of desperation, it surprises clients when their actions result in improvements. I am so happy for the cats that are adopted from Furry Friends because I get to know each one individually, and I know how much they deserve a loving family.

Most challenging part of job: I want to help every cat, however, it’s just not possible and this is very difficult for me. Sometimes a problematic behavior is the result of a medical condition or age, and while environmental changes can help make some improvements, it really falls on the cat’s person to get proper medical care for the kitty. Additionally, it is frustrating when I know that a cat’s behavior can be improved, but the client isn’t committed to doing the work to make it happen.

One thing you’d like people to know about your work: I actually do very little with the cats themselves, other than observe them in their environment; in fact, I mostly work with their people. My message is that anyone can do this if they are willing to learn and want a better relationship with their kitty.

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Your favorite travel destination and type: My husband and I have taken a lot of great trips — we’ve cruised to Alaska and through the Caribbean, visited the Grand Canyon, and sea-kayaked with orcas in the San Juan Islands.

Best feature of your Clark County community: I love all of the bike lanes and wide roads that are available for cyclists to use. I definitely need to be better about riding to work, but I really appreciate the bike-friendly nature of Vancouver compared to other places I’ve lived.

What would make your community a better place: I would very much like to see animal rescue groups like Furry Friends receive increased funding to support more spay-and-neuter programs for low-income families, as well as support trap-neuter-return programs for feral cats. Controlling the pet population can eliminate a lot of animal homelessness and suffering.

Favorite restaurant/pub/coffee shop/store: My husband and I love eating at Lapellah, but our favorite local go-to restaurant is Lindo Mexico. Their homemade flan cannot be beat.

Pastime: Did I mention that I love cats? I have five of my own that I spend time with and I was the cat handler on the set of a movie called “Zombie Cats From Mars” (it’s on Amazon), and raised some money for Furry Friends through a screening at the Kiggins Theatre. I also love to read, take photographs, and travel. I used to play roller derby with the Storm City Roller Girls but I had to give that up to really focus on getting my business up and running.

Most enjoyable book/play/movie/arts event in past 12 months: I’ve been on a Neil Gaiman kick lately. I recently read “The Graveyard Book” and it was mesmerizing.

Something you’d like to do this year/within five years: Within the next year I would like to purchase a new home in Vancouver, and within the next five years I’d love to visit the Galapagos Islands or Africa. There are too many animals disappearing out there and I have to see them in person before that happens.

One word to describe yourself: I asked my husband what word he would use to describe me and he immediately said “crazy.” I prefer the term “quirky.”

Person you’d most like to meet: Prince, because he’s an incredible musician and I’ve loved his music since the early ’80s; and because he’s reportedly a fantastic roller-skater. Yes, I would very much like to go to a skate party with Prince.

Columbian staff writer