When I first began paying close attention to the behavior of the animals around me, I was too young to realize what I was actually doing. My cat took advantage of this and began training me, and before I knew it I was thoroughly hooked on studying animal behavior and social communication. Once I was old enough, I moved outside the realm of doing behavioral work with my pets (which included cockatiels, parakeets, cats and dogs with the occasional small mammals and fish mixed in) and by age 15 was working with owls, ravens, and other raptors and small mammals at the Mass Audubon Blue Hills Trailside Museum outside Boston, MA.

While at the museum, I began working specifically with a Saw Whet owl – a tiny notoriously shy bird about the size of a man’s fist. When I had first met Saw Whet he was terrified of humans, despite having been at the rehab facility for years (having initially come in as a young bird with a broken wing and leg, he had been unable to regain flight and was non-releasable). Saw whet was a very easily distressed bird and was handled only by the most experienced staff, even after eight years handling him was still a challenging as he would bait (leap or fall off his perch) as soon as you approached the cage, and his erratic flopping around the enclosure raised concerns that he would injure himself. I began behavior modification work with him in May of 2002, initially working with him for 1-2hrs a day once a week, and a month later when school let out would work with him twice a week for about 2hrs a day. By the time I left for college in late August he had made a drastic turn. I could approach the cage and open the door, Saw whet would wait and step onto my gloved hand. Once his jess’s had been strung and he was out of the enclosure he would allow me to use a pen to stroke the top of his head and upper back. He would allow himself to be placed on a perch while his enclosure was cleaned and he would sit without baiting. If it was a nice day, he would sit on my glove as we walked around the pond outside and talked with guests in the park. When a guest brought a large somewhat excited German Sheppard into the park one afternoon while we were walking, I expected him to bait, but he did not, much to my surprise. By October, two months after I stopped working with him, the staff could handle him as easily as I could.

Similarly I worked with a parakeet at home that distrusted people and was impossible to handle. Her rehabilitation took somewhat longer but was in many ways more successful, as she became easy to handle and very personable. Our cockatiel was very fond of my mother and would frequently speak to her and give her kisses, and our parakeet seemed to recognize the affectionate behavior and began imitating Tweety, by giving kisses and saying phrases like “Tweety bird” “pretty bird” even though she had been unmanageable during the time when those phrases had been taught to Tweety. My previous parakeet, Kailani, had within the span of 6months gone from fairly unfriendly to playful and affectionate – frequently flying to my shoulder while I’m working (often while I’ve been typing for this website) and giving me kisses and playing with my hair. My current two parakeets, Lind and Sayuri,¬† are in the early stages of learning basic commands and giving kisses. We’re also working on reducing unnecessary screaming squawking behavior¬† and building out-of-cage behaviors with my cat out in the main apartment.

My experience is by no means limited to birds. I have been studying feline behavior and communication for longer than 18 years, and have been incredibly successful working with both domestics and strays. During the 20yrs I owned my previous cat, Love, I learned from a young age to pay attention to her behavior – both behavioral and vocal. Through traveling locally and internationally, and a habit of wanting to befriend all the cats I met, I soon realized that feline behavior and vocalizations were universal – though different species produced the sounds in slightly different ways, and each cat had their own distinctive voice. This enables me to work with a high degree of confidence with both domestic and stray cats of a wide range of temperaments, through an equally varied range of behavioral problems. I currently own a very very fluffy Maine Coon mix named Zoharet, who spends his days delighting me with his goofy behavior and sweet mild mannered attitude. Zo is well trained, he comes when he is called, knows a variety of other commands, and is very very patient and tolerant of the birds.

Currently I’m a graduate student at the University of San Diego. I work with Dr. Bowles of the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute studying vocal learning in killer whales and social communication. I have not strayed far from my behavioral roots and still eagerly work with animals when I have an opportunity to. I decided to launch Polly Wanna Solution after being made aware of a growing need for avian behavior modification among pet owners in the San Diego area. While this site focuses primarily on avian and feline behavior modification, I am always more than willing to discuss working with other pets – domestics, strays, or exotics.