Marci Koski's Story
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Marci Koski

Let’s Meet Marci!

I was always passionate about cats but was working with US Fish and Wildlife. I was an endangered species biologist, but found that I wasn’t doing anything with animals. So, I changed my career completely. 

I first completed the Specialized Certificate in Feline Training and Behavior, which gave me the credentials I felt I needed to start my consulting business on the right foot. But then I learned that there was a new advanced program, so I went on to get the Advanced Certificate in Feline Training and Behavior. I wanted as much information as possible so that I could serve my clients (both cats and their people) to the best of my ability. Having these two certificates gives me confidence in my education, and gives my clients confidence in my abilities. 

At home, I have five cats, one small fish, and a very supportive husband who is a middle-school band teacher. I used to play roller derby, but realized that cats are my life’s passion. I tied up my skates so that I could finish my professional certification, start my business, and launch my career as a cat behavior consultant. I’ve loved watching my business grow, and helping both cats and people is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.

Where do you live and work?

I’m currently a cat behaviorist with my own consulting business, Feline Behavior Solutions. I provide in-home services to clients in Southwest Washington and Portland, Oregon, and nation-wide through Skype or video-based calls. Basically, I help cats and their people resolve problems that could otherwise send cats to shelters; these include issues such as going outside of the litterbox, or aggression towards other pets and people. My mission is to keep cats in home and out of shelters by educating cat guardians about the needs of their kitties, and how they can provide an environment in which their cats can thrive and be happy. Because if your cat is happy, YOU are happy! I also volunteer at the Humane Society for Southwest Washington, where I assist with a prison program. I help the inmates with cat behavior and socialization of their cats. The cats live with them until they get adopted. I also volunteer at Furry Friends, a no-kill cat rescue.

How did you benefit from your ABI experience?

I loved that the Animal Behavior Institute offers actual courses; some other certification programs do not offer feline specific courses. I loved Dr. Chalcraft! The weekly discussion exercises helped me think about how I would tackle various behavior problems and they even helped me figure out how I wanted to write behavior plans for my clients. Two of my courses focused on hypothetical cases (and some actual cases from the instructors), so I feel like I was able to work through realistic scenarios and gain experience that would translate to real-life situations. This gave me a lot of confidence when I started working with my own clients, knowing that I’d approached their problems before, just in a different setting.

What was your favorite course?

I definitely enjoyed all of my courses and learned a lot from each one. The cat-focused courses were great! But I think my favorite course was ABI 126 Animal Minds and Emotions. It wasn’t focused specifically on cats, but it was so interesting! We learned about the evolution of the brain, how different types of animals learn and perceive the world around them, and how they perceive their environment differently from us. It gave me a much better understanding of how animals process fear and aggression (both of which I deal with as a cat behaviorist), and what intelligence and learning are all about. This type of course should be taken by anyone who works with animals in nearly any capacity.

How did you complete your field requirement?

I completed my field experience by volunteering with two very different animal rescue organizations. The first was the Humane Society for Southwest Washington, where I volunteered in the cattery taking care of cats available for adoption. I created a clicker-training program for the cats there in an effort to provide them with more enrichment opportunities as they waited for their forever homes. The Humane Society is well-funded and cats find homes relatively quickly. This is opposite to the other rescue organization I volunteered for, Furry Friends. Furry Friends is a no-kill all-volunteer-run cat-only rescue organization that has a private halfway house for adult cats and a network of fosters who care for kittens (and mother cats) or cats who have medical issues. The halfway house is not open to the public, but there are adoption events and all adoptable cats are online. So, the turnaround time for these kitties is slower, but they live in a cage-free home environment. I started there doing cleaning shifts, then headed up the social media team, and am now on the Executive Board serving as Furry Friend’s behaviorist. I still work with the Humane Society, and both experiences have been instrumental in making professional contacts and gaining valuable experience.

Would you recommend ABI?

I would, and I have, recommended ABI to others who are interested in cat behavior. There are not many non-veterinary cat behavior consulting programs out there that offer education through their certification process. I found that ABI wasn’t just a “check-the-box” online certification program; you do have to actually do the work (with weekly reading assignments, discussion topics, quizzes, and exams). The more work you do, the more you get out of it – the instructors and other students have a lot of information to share if you’re willing to engage! Furthermore, the field requirement gave me hands-on experience that worked well with the courses I was taking. It was a very well-rounded experience and I’m glad I made the investment.

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