Today we’d like to introduce you to Rachel Geller.
Rachel, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
If I look at the big picture, I got started when I was a very young girl who rescued all the stray cats found in the neighborhood. I had four cats, and I was taught by my father, a rabbi, that I had to feed my cats before I fed myself because they were dependent on me. Every morning, before I sat down to my own breakfast, I fed and took care of my cats. This early love and stewardship for cats was the foundation for my story as a cat behaviorist, which started three years ago.
I had volunteered at and served on boards of animal shelters, and I decided to deepen and broaden my knowledge of cats. The Humane Society of the United States offered a course on “Cat Behavior and Retention” and I signed up. One day, while I was finishing up my certification as a cat behavior counselor, a woman called me, crying about her cat. She said her husband was about to have the cat put to sleep because the cat was not using the litter box, and would I please come over and help? I remember asking her address and driving immediately to her house. It was at that point that I realized that nothing meant as much to me as helping people with their cat behavior problems. Without fully realizing what I was about to undertake, I created and instituted a Cat Behavior and Retention Program, which has now been implemented at several Massachusetts animal shelters.
Today, I help people to stop looking at cats as animals who are misbehaving and to start looking at them as animals who are behaving normally. In my first year, I was able to solve over 300 cat behavior cases, resulting in keeping all of these cats in their homes rather than being surrendered to already crowded shelters, or worse. Each year I have been able to solve more cases with a 90% success rate. I have also become affiliated with several area shelters. I am on the board of directors of The Cat Connection in Waltham, where I also provide cat behavior counseling and volunteer training. In addition, I am the cat behaviorist for Here Today Adopted Tomorrow Animal Sanctuary, a member of the Education Outreach Committee at Baypath Humane Society, and I provide behavioral consults for Cat Rescue of Marlborough and Hudson.
I do all of this completely free of charge. I do not want there to be a financial barrier preventing people from working with me to keep their cat. Going back to my dad who was a rabbi, he also taught me that when you save one life, you save the world. I know realistically that I can’t save every cat, but I can save the life of each cat who comes to me, with her owner, for cat behavior help. And to that one life, that’s all that matters to me.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There have definitely been struggles along the way. Many of the difficult situations have occurred when one family member wants to work with me to solve the cat behavior problem, but another family member wants to get rid of the cat because of behavioral issues. I remember one particular time when a man called me in desperation, he loved the cat and wanted to work with me, but his wife was threatening to move out if he kept the cat. He begged me to come over and help, so I drove 30 minutes to his home on a Sunday night.
After spending two hours with this couple, I set up a program for them to follow and assured them I would be with them every step of the way. I also told them that I was very confident that the problem was fixable. The wife agreed to give it two weeks. The next morning, I woke up to a voice mail saying that an hour after I left, the wife changed her mind and moved out, so the man surrendered his cat to a shelter. I was really upset over this; it is hard not to get emotionally involved.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Rachel Geller, Ed.D., Certified Cat Behaviorist – what should we know?
My profession is Rachel Geller, Certified Cat Behavior Counselor. I specialize in solving cat behavior problems, including but not limited to: litter box issues, inter-cat aggression, multi-cat households, inappropriate scratching, cat introductions and working with shy/fearful cats. I am most proud of the fact that with empathy and guidance, I help people understand their cats and I’m able to get them to work with me, allowing their cats to engage in their natural behaviors in a way humans can live with.
What sets me apart from others is that my services are free; I do not charge my clients and I stay with them every step of the way until the problem is solved. Another quality that sets me apart is my ability to use empathy and compassion. In most cases, by the time I receive a call for my services, people are at the end of their rope. They have most likely tried many different interventions, and they have searched the internet and attempted to solve the problem on their own.
The client may be under a great deal of pressure from a spouse or other members of the household to get rid of the cat. I spend a lot of time listening and let them know that I get it, and am non-judgmental. Often I’ll start the process with one small, easy-to-do technique that I’m certain will yield success; in this way, the client sees there is hope and is more apt to keep going with me.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
To start off with I’ll define success from my perspective – success is when a client agrees to work with me, follows the plan set forth based on the cat’s needs and the client’s needs, and the result is a cat staying in her home. In this way, two lives are saved: by keeping a cat who already has a home in her home, that spot in the shelter can be used by a cat who truly needs it, a stray or abandoned cat who does not have a place to live until a forever home is found.
What makes me successful is my empathy and compassion. I check in with the clients almost every day and I let the clients know that I’m 100% available to them. I am committed to saving cats and all of my time is donated with no charge to any clients. I have strong listening skills and work hard to meet the needs of both the client and the cat.
- Website: www.thecatconnection.org
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org