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The Foundation of Pawsitivity

Jackson hangs out with our Cat Pawsitive Pro Trainer-Mentors. Left to right: Jackson, Sara Russell (in purple), Miranda Workman, Lisa Stemcosky, Samantha Bell, Molly DeVoss, Carrie Seay, and Tabitha Kucera

JGP Trainer-Mentors Put the “Pro” Into Cat Pawsitive

Interviews conducted by Rachel Loehner of Three Chatty Cats

The Cat Pawsitive Pro class of 2021 is underway at 11 shelters all across the country. And while the shelter cats are the stars of the program, the Trainer-Mentors play an important role throughout the semester. Each Trainer-Mentor is assigned a shelter, and they are responsible for training the staff and volunteers on how to work with and clicker train the cats. The Trainer-Mentors are the number one supporters of their shelter, and they are the first to celebrate in a cat’s success with the staff and volunteers. They’re equal parts professor, cheerleader, sounding board, trouble-shooter, and idea generator.

Let’s meet this semester’s Trainer-Mentors!

Miranda K. Workman, MS, CABC, CCBC-KA, Fear Free™ Professional

Profession: Director of Behavior & Research, SPCA Serving Erie County; Adjunct Professor, Animal Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation & Anthrozoology, Canisius College

Role with Cat Pawsitive Pro (CPP): Lead Trainer-Mentor

How many semesters have you worked with CPP? I have been with CPP from the very first semester.

What hobbies/interests do you have outside of working with cats? I love reading and sports. I have decided that once I am finished with my dissertation, I am going to start writing for fun again.

What pets do you have at home? Athena (10yr old FS Dutch Shepherd), Sherlock (14 yr old MN Jack Russell mix), Amelia (4.5 yr old FS Shih Tzu), Maizee (5 yr old FS Oriental Longhair), Aspen, Willow & Clotho (domestic rats), and Shelly & Thumbelina (domestic mice).

Anything else you’d like to add? It has been heartwarming to see how much our animal companions mean to us, as individuals and society, during this pandemic. There is nothing so wonderful as when we share a touch or a hug with our nonhuman companions – especially since our social opportunities with our human social network has been shattered. They keep me sane!

Samantha Bell

Profession: After working as Cat Behavior & Enrichment Lead for Best Friends Animal Society for 6 years, Samantha recently became the Celebrity & Entertainment Relations Coordinator for Best Friends (on top of being their cat expert). She also manages her private business samanthabell.org doing cat behavior consulting, appearing on TV as a cat expert, and speaking at conventions about cat behavior.

Role with Cat Pawsitive Pro (CPP) in 2021: Trainer-Mentor for Heaven on Earth Society for Animals and LifeLine Animal Project

How many semesters have you worked with CPP? 6 semesters!

What are you most looking forward to this semester? I’m so excited to be working with two Best Friends partners, Heaven on Earth and LifeLine Animal Project. Not only am I familiar with both of these amazing organizations, but I’ve fostered for Heaven on Earth! I’m really looking forward to connecting with both of these groups and meeting their cats! Bring on the kitties. I can’t wait to meet them!

What is your favorite part about Cat Pawsitive Pro? My favorite thing about CPP is watching these cats transform and crying about how magical it is for years to come. I’m serious! This is why we do what we do! This stuff is life-changing!

What hobbies/interests do you have outside of working with cats? Outside of working with cats, I work with celebrities (they’re kind of similar, to be honest). I research to find celebrities who have adopted pets, and then find creative ways to get them to promote animal rescue on social media and in interviews. Because of this, my hobbies and interests include movies, TV, and pop culture! I also am obsessed with Animal Crossing and love to cross stitch.

What pets do you have at home? I have 3 loving and very entertaining cats you can see on IG @YohanAndDesmond: Yohan (orange & white, 8 yrs old), Desmond (orange, 8 yrs old), & Packard (grey & white, 6 yrs old). Yohan is a weirdo and a cat behavior expert’s dream. Desmond is a perfect, loving angel. And Packard is a very special deaf cat that loves to raise foster kittens and help shy cats learn to trust humans. He does a lot of my work for me!

Molly DeVoss, CFTBS (Certified Feline Training & Behavior Specialist), CCBC (Certified Cat Behavior Consultant), CFFP (Certified Fear Free™ Professional), CRM (Certified Reiki Master)

Profession: Executive Director of Cat Behavior Solutions, Host of Cat Talk Radio

Role with Cat Pawsitive Pro (CPP) in 2021: Trainer-Mentor for Roice-Hurst Humane Society

How many semesters have you worked with CPP? 4th time returning (2018 was my first year).

What are you most looking forward to this semester? I’m looking forward to working with a shelter in the Southwest this semester. This is a part of the country that has been historically underserved for rescue resources. I’m also looking forward to the new challenges the pandemic restrictions have placed on us all; while they present limitations, I also think it brings about opportunities for us to discover new ways of doing things.

What is your favorite part about Cat Pawsitive Pro? My favorite part of CPP are the weekly live meetings with the team. I love hearing about their successes, the “a-ha” moments throughout the week, and hearing about how the cats are progressing. Even though I’m not on site, I get emotionally attached to these cats too and their transformations are moving.

What hobbies/interests do you have outside of working with cats? I’m an artist (painter) and graphic designer.

What pets do you have at home? Pico de Gato is my new kitten – we got him in May of this year and he is 9 months old. He is a spicy red marble tabby.

Anything else you’d like to add? I’m proud to be a part of the Greater Good’s Cat Pawsitive program because it has such a long-lasting ripple effect; touching so many souls well beyond when the program ends. I love getting email updates from past semester participants; keeping me apprised on cats and people who were in the program.

Tabitha Kucera, RVT, CCBC, KPA-CTP, Elite Fear Free™ Certified Professional

Profession: I am the owner of Chirrups and Chatter Cat and Dog behavior consulting in Cleveland, Ohio. I am a certified cat behavior consultant through the International Association of Behavior Consultants, a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner, and an Elite Fear Free and Low Stress Handling Certified Registered Veterinary Technician. I am also the co- chair of PPG’s Feline Committee, the Vice President of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, president elect for Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians, and a board member of The Together Initiative for Ohio Community Cats. I help cats, dogs, and their people with behavior issues and help people understand and relate to their animal companions which leads to a stronger bond and a more gratifying relationship between animal and human. I also educate others through writing, behavior consulting, workshops, and lecturing on cats and dog behavior and care, including force free training, working with fearful animals, fear free handling, and more.

Role with Cat Pawsitive Pro (CPP) in 2021: Trainer-Mentor for Animal Friends Humane Society and Orange County Animal Services

How many semesters have you worked with CPP? This will be my 3rd semester as a Trainer-Mentor with Cat Pawsitive.

What are you most looking forward to this semester? I am looking forward to getting to know the shelter staff, volunteers, and cats of the shelters I am working with and working together to help improve the lives of the cats in their care.

What is your favorite part about Cat Pawsitive Pro? My favorite part of Cat Pawsitive Pro is working with shelter staff and volunteers and helping them better understand and relate to the cats in their care, working together to benefit the animals they work with, and of course, the positive changes in the cats we work with.

What have you learned personally by being a Trainer-Mentor with CPP? Being able to provide this education to shelters has been one of the favorite things in my career. There is very limited information on cats out there which makes it difficult for many, including shelters, to know what to do with the challenging cats, and clicker training is an amazing tool that should be in everyone’s toolbox. I am lucky to be able to work with a variety of shelters and cats and these experiences have taught me so much.

What hobbies/interests do you have outside of working with cats? I am a tattoo enthusiast, constantly trying to find the perfect hair color, nature lover, working out, and listening to music and podcasts.

What pets do you have at home? I am the lucky caregiver of 6 senior animals – 5 cats and 1 dog:

  • Chocolate Chip, 11, feline
  • Malt, 10, feline
  • Jellybean, 8, feline
  • Norman Squeakers, 8, feline
  • Cupcake, 10, DSH feline
  • Ness, 9, canine

What’s the most unusual animal you’ve met or worked with in real life? I have had the pleasure of working with a variety of species from pigs and donkeys to lemurs and llamas, learning about training other species helps to strengthen my skills as a trainer, allows me to be a better trainer, and is so fun!

Sara Russell, CPDT- KA, KPA CTP, Fear Free™ Certified Professional

Profession: I currently own my own company offering training, behavior consulting and dog walking.

Role with Cat Pawsitive Pro (CPP) in 2021: Trainer-Mentor for Humane Society of Parkersburg and Williamson County Animal Center

How many semesters have you worked with CPP? I believe this will be my 5th semester as Trainer-Mentor.

What are you most looking forward to this semester? What I’m most looking forward to this semester is seeing the transformation in the cats once they start the program. I love watching how clicker training can help increase confidence in shy cats and help as an outlet and direction for the extroverted, high energy cats. I also love using clicker training to help solve problem behaviors in the shelter to reduce stress and anxiety (in the cats and the people!)

What’s the most unusual animal you’ve met or worked with in real life? An “unusual” animal I trained was a chicken at Terri Ryan’s chicken camp. I had never handled a chicken before, so it was a brand-new experience for me. I worked on getting the chicken to spin in a circle using targeting.

Carrie Seay, MS-CABAC, CBCC-KA

Profession: Behavior Consultant

Role with Cat Pawsitive Pro (CPP) in 2021: Colorado Animal Rescue and The Animal Rescue League of Berks County, Inc.

How many semesters have you worked with CPP? 4 semesters

What is your favorite part about Cat Pawsitive Pro? My favorite part is seeing how excited the trainers are when they see the changes in their cats. The beginning can be slow, but once they learn the training techniques, they become empowered by using them and seeing the possible changes they are making.

What hobbies/interests do you have outside of working with cats? I would normally say traveling but that hasn’t happened much! Lately, I have been getting more into crafting, mostly things for business though.

What pets do you have at home?

  1. Fiona, Long haired calico, 14 years
  2. Bianca, Cornish Rex, 5 years
  3. Cayenne, Brown Tabby, 10 months
  4. Pepper, Tuxedo, 10 months
  5. Maverick, 5 yr, blue heeler
  6. Aspen, 11 weeks, golden retriever

Lisa Stemcosky, CCBC, SBA, CPDT-KA

Profession: Feline Behavior Manager at Humane Rescue Alliance in Washington DC and owner of PawLitically Correct, a cat behavior consulting business.

Role with Cat Pawsitive Pro (CPP) in 2021: Trainer-Mentor for PAWS Chicago and The Humane Society of North Myrtle Beach

How many semesters have you worked with CPP? This is my 6th semester as a TM.

What are you most looking forward to this semester? Watching the trainers and cats in the program learn new skills that they’ll be able to use forever.

What is your favorite part about Cat Pawsitive Pro? Seeing the excitement from the trainers as they see the positive changes in the cats they are working with.

 What have you learned personally by being a Trainer-Mentor with CPP? I’ve learned to be a better teacher. How to break down behaviors better, how to better describe the “how to”. All of this I take with me to my private clients and to the staff and volunteers that I work with at HRA.

Do you have a favorite success story from a previous semester? If so, how did CPP training play a role? Little Bit from Independent Cat Society during the 2019 semester. Little Bit had been in their care for 6 years, no one had been able to touch her in all that time. By the end of the semester, she was soliciting attention and enjoying being pet.

What hobbies/interests do you have outside of working with cats? I love to garden. I have been in a community garden for 10 years. I grow veggies and do a lot of canning and pickling of them.

What pets do you have at home?

  • Whitlow, 15-year-old cat
  • Nonami, 3-year-old cat
  • Davey, 3-year-old cat
  • Ongoing rotation of foster kittens
A few of the Trainer-Mentors at Animal Care EXPO. Left to right: Samantha Bell, Miranda Workman, Tabitha Kucera, and Carrie Seay

Cat Pawsitive Pro’s 2021 class kicked off this month, and we’ll have lots of amazing stories for you once training gets going in earnest. Check back here to learn more about the participating shelters, and all of the wonderful work they’re doing with their Cat Pawsitive Pro cats!
 
Want to keep up with news about the lifesaving work of The Jackson Galaxy Project’s Cat Pawsitive Pro initiative? Follow us on Facebook at The Jackson Galaxy Project. You can learn more about Cat Pawsitive Pro and support our work at www.catpawsitive.org.

The Jackson Galaxy Project is a Signature Program of Greater Good Charities.