Dr. Marci Koski is a certified Feline Behavior and Training Professional who received specialized and advanced certificates in Feline Training and Behavior from the Animal Behavior Institute. While Marci has been passionate about all animals and their welfare, cats have always had a special place in her heart. In fact, Marci can’t remember a time when she’s been without at least one cat in her life. She currently relies on her five-member support staff to maintain the feline duties of her household.
Marci’s own company, Feline Behavior Solutions, focuses on keeping cats in homes, and from being abandoned to streets or shelters as the result of treatable behavior issues. Marci believes that the number of cats who are abandoned and/or euthanized in shelters can be greatly reduced if guardians better understand what drives their cats to certain behaviors, and learn how to work with their cats to encourage appropriate behaviors instead of unwanted ones.
Do you have a question for Dr. Marci?
Leave it in a comment, and she’ll answer it next month!
Cat attacked human after sneezing
Hello Dr. Marci,
in my 60+ years of being owned by cats, I’ve never run across this scenario. My 3 year old Maine Coon mix (she’s been with us for about 1 1/2 years) likes to sit on the back of my side of the sofa in the evening while we are watching TV. (Might I add, that she is DEFINITELY my cat as she follows me everywhere…even when I leave a room and return.) One evening I was having a sneezing attack, which I have never had before. I was on my sixth sneeze, when suddenly, Dinah attacked my scalp with nails and teeth and drew blood. Needless to say, that stopped my sneezing.
Do you have any idea why my sneezing would have provoked such an attack? She is sweet and gentle and loves her scritchies otherwise. Thank you. – Bridget
Hi Bridget – thanks so much for writing in about this. I’ve had clients who have had similar experiences with cats they are very close to, and basically I think that Dinah got scared when exposed to a new situation (which was noisy, sudden, and seemly uncontrollable) so she attacked out of fear. You said that you’d never had a sneezing fit before, and because this was unfamiliar to your kitty, she may not have understood that you were just sneezing. Dinah’s reaction was probably the result of two possible responses to fear – she was either fearful that something was attacking you so she tried to attack it (and since the sound was coming from your head, that was probably the place to aim the attack), or she was scared of the sneezing itself and was “defensively aggressive”.
Like I said, I’ve had clients who have had similar experiences, and typically these are with cats that they have a close bond with and who are otherwise very sweet. It may be that Dinah was simply trying to protect you from whatever was attacking you. I hope that after the incident everyone calmed down and Dinah resumed normal behavior with you – she sounds like a lovely companion kitty who cares about you very much!
Cats meow for hours before feeding time
Hi Dr Marci!
I wonder if you can help me with this. My 2 cats are perfectly healthy and of a good weight, but they are so greedy! How can I stop them from meowing for food up to an hour before mealtime? I feed them 3 times a day and it happens every time, with the meowing ramping up to crazy levels when I’m preparing the food. They know they will get their food when it’s time and I never give in to their early meowing. I’ve started trying to clicker train them not to grab food and they’re good during the training session but it hasn’t worked at mealtime. I’ve tried waiting till they’re quiet before giving them their meal, but it also hasn’t worked—the pre-meal meowing still hasn’t stopped. Any advice? – Michelle John
that’s a great question, and this is something that many cat guardians struggle with. I’m glad that you’re using clicker-training – it’s fantastic mental enrichment, and it also reinforces behaviors that you’d like to see repeated. Keep that up!
One thing you might consider is an automatic feeder (or two). There are MANY different models out there – there are some that have cold packs in them to keep wet food fresh, or that can distribute kibble at various times throughout the day. If you use an automatic feeder, you might try feeding your cats more frequently, as cats evolved to eat multiple small meals throughout the day instead of two or three main meals. I recommend that cats never go more than eight hours between meals, so the more the merrier. The other thing that I like about automatic feeders is that it takes the human out of the picture – your cats will learn that YOU don’t provide the meals anymore, they now come from an inanimate object. When cats figure this out, they realize that there’s no point in meowing at you for food, since you don’t give it to them! So, do some research and think about what kind of automatic feeder might be good for your situation; you might decide to just feed one or two meals using the automatic feeder and give them the other meals yourself, or use the feeder for all of their meals – it’s up to you.
Another thing to try is food puzzles or puzzle feeders, and slow feeders. If your kitties eat their meals very quickly, you might want to slow them down so that they feel full before they finish eating, then leave some to come back to later. There are a lot of “slow feeder” bowls out there for dogs, which work just fine for cats; as long as they have to use their paws to grab up kibble, it will take them longer to eat. If you give your cats wet food, you can put it in small ice cube trays or smear them on Licky Mats (silicone mats with bumps/grids on them). There are all sorts of puzzle feeders out there that you can use for meal-times, but there are also food puzzles that you can use for between-meal snacks. If your cats are just starting out with food puzzles, start simple – I’m a huge fan of empty toilet paper rolls – and then get progressively more difficult as your cats develop their foraging skills. You can also use muffin tins, water bottles (just cut a little hole in the side so kibble or treats can fall out as it is rolled around), and other simple containers. There are also a LOT of commercial food puzzles available that range in complexity – my two favorite brands are Trixie and Catit. If you want more information about food puzzles, the website http://www.foodpuzzlesforcats.com is a fantastic resource!
I hope these two ideas help – keep up with the clicker training, and have fun!
Flea control for feral cats
Dear Dr. Marci,
Is there any thing like brewer’s yeast, or any other home remedy to help feral cats from fleas? I feed 3 small colonies, and try to help them. I do give them apple cider vinegar when I can they look healthy, but like to help them with fleas. Please let me know if brewer’s yeast will work for them. Thank you so very much for your time. Sincerely, Lucy
this is a perfect question for Dr. Lynn Bahr, a veterinarian who also writes a column for The Conscious Cat. You should ask her about brewer’s yeast; she wrote about flea control for feral cats here: https://consciouscat.net/2019/07/08/ask-the-cat-doc-respiratory-issues-introducing-a-new-cat-flea-control-for-feral-cats/ . Please ask her your questions about yeast, apple cider vinegar, and flea control; since I’m not a veterinarian I don’t want to recommend anything that is potentially unsafe or ineffective.
Also, there is an article on The Conscious Cat about nutritional yeast (different than brewer’s yeast) with some information for you: https://consciouscat.net/2015/02/16/nutritional-yeast-secret-weapon-get-finicky-cats-eat/
Best of luck to you, and thanks for taking care of those kitties! I’m sure that they are benefiting from your help and care.