Last year Animal Planet aired a new show entitled: My Cat From Hell. Initially, I decided to avoid watching it, fearing cats would be shown in a harsh, unfair light as overly dramaticized miscreants to be shunned, unworthy of our compassion.
I decided to watch one episode, not having seen any previews. After the first segment was over, not only were all my fears cast aside, I sat there in awe, realizing that this show had the “legs” to do for cats what folks like Cesar Milan and Victoria Stilwell do for dogs. Cats finally had an advocate with a sound approach to training guardians to understand how their cats think—which will, in turn, save the lives of countless misunderstood cats.
Set your DVR's for this SATURDAY night at 8pm EST (USA) to catch the Premiere of SEASON TWO!
My Cat From Hell features Jackson Galaxy, a Rockabilly styled, Cat Daddy, who is covered with colorful inked portraits of some of his favorite felines. Galaxy must have been a cat in a past life for he has an understanding about their behavior that borders on uncanny.
We watch Jackson strolling casually down a suburban sidewalk with a guitar case in one hand. Is he going to play tunes to this episode's crazy cat? Heck no. Jackson's guitar is left behind. The case is filled with toys, treats and possibly some magic fairy dust; the tools he uses to work with cats that are misbehaving badly and whose owners are at the end of their rope trying to work it out on their own.
I recently spoke with Jackson about his passion for helping cats.
One of the most often asked about behavioral issues Jackson encounters is litterbox issues and aggression. About 90% of the consultations he does encompass these two big issues-and no surprise-as they are the most difficult to live with.
©2011 Animal Planet. From Season One: Jackson talking to Amanda & Matt about why their cat seems to hate Matt.
How Does He Do It?
Jackson looks for patterns to emerge to help solve the problem. Often times the guardian lacks an understanding of cat behavior and can't spot the patterns that result in the behavior issue. Jackson helps them learn to spot the pattern and make the necessary adjustments.
The solution is not always so obvious. If he's dealing with a guardian who already has a good background understanding cat behavior and can't see the pattern, that's when Jackson's ears perk up. Jackson's been working with cats for over 16 years. When he gets a case that's challenging, those are his favorite ones to work on. It helps keep him grounded, reminding him that cats are individuals and one solution for one cat, may not work with another. It also helps him grow in his understanding of what makes cats tick. His humility about what he knows is clear. He's confident, but humble. He understands there's always more to learn and is a willing and open-minded student with a gentleness that is very endearing.
So He's Like Dr. House on that TV SHOW, House…but for Cats Instead of People?
Some people mistakenly refer to him as the “House” for cats-referring to the fictional character, Dr. Gregory House, on the Fox TV show, HOUSE. House is a genius who loves to solve the puzzle of what's ailing his patients. He's the last stop on the diagnosis train-next stop, death; if Dr. House can't save the day.
©2011 Animal Planet. From Season One: Jackson with Carre and Brian watching surveillance videos of Minibar.
In some ways, Jackson IS like Dr. House, but he's NOT a fictional character. Jackson is brilliant when it comes to his understanding of cats (and probably many other things, too, but we mostly chatted about cats). Though Jackson does admittedly love the “puzzle” of solving a behavior issue, for him, the payoff is not proving how clever he is, the payoff is knowing he gave one cat a happy life and more importantly saved that cat's life.We all know too well what happens to cats who behave badly. Often times they're cast aside, let outdoors to fend for themselves or dumped at a shelter where they will surely be euthanized.
One by one, cat's guardians are left stunned by the quick improvement in their cat's behavior after they follow Jackson's orders. Cat haters are turned into proud kitty-parents. Though Jackson admits he's only on the cat's side, it's clear, the humans benefit just as much.
Bizarre Behavior or a Cat Who Deserves a Medal?
I asked Jackson about weird behavior issues he's encountered, thinking I had him beat on that one. Again, I was wrong. While it won't be aired, Jackson did a consult about a cat who urinated in his guardian's MOUTH while the guy was ASLEEP! Jackson was able to tease out the issues of what was going on because of his own life experience. Jackson had suffered from sleep apnea and knew the resulting snoring could possibly be terrifying the cat. He asked the guardian to do a sleep study at the local hospital and sure enough, the gentleman's doctor told him he needed to be treated for sleep apnea. His cat was waking him up because the cat was afraid something was WRONG and wanted to make sure he was okay. Perhaps the cat witnessed the guardian stop breathing as sleep apnea patient's often do? Once the sleep apnea was treated, the cat stopped peeing on his dad. This cat should never have been scolded, but given an award!
What Role Would You Say that Nutrition Plays in Cat's Behavior Issues?
Anyone who reads this Blog knows I'm a die-hard advocate for species appropriate nutrition for cats and I was very glad to know that Jackson underscored that nutrition plays a BIG ROLE IN EVERY CONSULT he does. “Free feeding is the devil.” That structuring feeding time can stop your cat from howling, yowling and pacing around your home. That instead of thinking their food just is there all the time from no known source and there's no relationship to you, now your cat sees YOU as the provider of good things. This helps form an important bond. A simple thing like keeping to a timetable of feeding can make big changes in your cat's life-and overall health.
Jackson's passion about proper nutrition came around the same time mine did. We both learned about nutrition after losing cats to diabetes. It just didn't make sense that our cats should die so young. Jackson lost his seven year old cat to insulin resistant diabetes. Something didn't add up about how his cat got sick in the first place and Jackson realized it was up to him to find out what to feed his cats when the advice he got from his Vet just didn't make sense.
What Jackson loves about the internet is the plethora of information out there on what to feed your cat, so now it's a lot easier to find out what to do. One thing is clear and just common sense…as Jackson said: “There's no excuse not to feed a great diet…it's so easy to feed the right food…meat, meat, meat!”
Is There Such a Thing as Too Many Cats?
“Tacit approval to limits is absurd.” That said, of course there are limits, but they're different for every person, size of their living space and personality and number of cats. Galaxy spoke about the “tipping point” which can come at any time depending on how many cats you have and their unique personality. You can have three cats doing just fine together, then you add a fourth. The fourth cat is fine with his new friends, but one of the others declares war and a storm of vengeful bladders begins to destroy the home.
Of Country Lanes & Super Highways
Jackson had been to a home where there was no furniture at all and only an air mattress for a bed. The owner was so passionate about her cats she would not give them up, but she had no real home left after they had urinated and destroyed just about everything she had. With thirteen cats, you might expect plenty of problems or that she was clearly nuts, but, as Jackson said if you set your home up to be Mabyberry, (for you young folks, that's a reference to the 1960's TV program, The Andy Griffith Show) a one lane town with a dirt road, you're going to have problems. If you have one cat traveling in one direction and another cat headed towards him, there's no way to get out of each other's way. One of those cats will be like a car on that small dirt road-it will have to go into the ditch, which means fights, peeing and unhappy guardians.
What you want to do is create a “super highway” in your home with plenty of “off ramps and on ramps.” Lots of vertical places for the “tree dwellers” (cats who feel safe up high) as Jackson refers to them and plenty of place for the “bush dwellers,” too. If you do it right, you could have no limits to how many cats you have and we all know what happens if you do it wrong.
If Things Don't Work Out, is Re-Homing a Cat Okay?
I admit I asked this question for myself. I've long grappled with the thought that one of my cats would be a lot happier in a new home. I realize it was the easy answer and I've always felt guilty thinking about it, since I don't feel I've exhausted every option to help her be happy here.
Jackson didn't hesitate to answer that all he cares about is cats being happy.
If that means that after observing the situation, there are times when there are no changes that could be made to help that cat be happy in their home. He NEVER would suggest simply giving the cat to a shelter since that's one of the WORST thing you could do. He feels with respect and careful consideration a great home can be found.
Speaking of Shelters…
Jackson is also passionate about helping shelters. He sees so much burnout of the staff, who care for many animals and who put a lot of effort into getting them adopted, only to see more animals coming in the door who need the same love and care. The “conveyor belt” never stops moving and these folks need help. Jackson would love to see a national foster home program, where instead of there being overflowing shelters, people just take foster animals into their homes until a new home can be found. If millions of people took ONE cat or ONE dog, think of how empty we could make those shelters! (and this is of course, taking into account that everyone is also spaying and neutering their pets)
Will Success Spoil Jackson Galaxy?
I channeled my inner Barbra Walters and asked Jackson how he felt about the reports I read about woman wanting him for more than just his cat-savvy mind? As soon as I asked, I could feel my face turning red, then heat up. I was completely embarrassed that I even asked him that question and I could tell from his bright laugh, that I caught him off guard.
Jackson said the attention was completely unexpected, but given that 95% of his clients are WOMEN, it didn't surprise me at all. We all know the perfect guy loves cats, but when he understands them the way Jackson does, it makes him quite the eligible bachelor.
Jackson's goal, at age 12, was to be a rock star. All he knows is performing on stage. It's ironic he finds his fame (until his CD comes out) through his understanding of cats. Plus, it's not about being a celebrity. Galaxy may have an outer space name, but his feet are firmly planted on the ground.
He admits he's NEVER asked a girl out on a date, ever. He's quite shy and really, who wants to risk being turned down? (not that he would be). Even without asking anyone out, he's found love before, but what about now?
As we spoke, I held my breath, wondering if he was going to answer the question about if he was unattached or not because I know many of you want to know. I got my answer, but was asked to keep it “off the record” for now. Since I'm going to be begging Jackson to help me with my cat issues, I better keep my mouth shut.
Perhaps there's a woman who's a man-whisperer out there who can get to the bottom of this?
Need Help with Your Cats?
Though Jackson is busy with his show just about to air and a new book and possible book tour in May (Cat Daddy: My Life with the Original Cat from Hell), he still does consultations as time allows. If you'd like to book his services (for cat behavior problems!), please email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
MY CAT FROM HELL – New Episodes Beginning Saturday, January 7 at 8 PM ET/PT.
Cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy tackles the most catastrophic cat cases he’s ever encountered in six all-new, one-hour episodes of MY CAT FROM HELL. Armed with 15 years of experience, a proven training program and his signature guitar case filled with cat toys, Galaxy is on a mission to help cat owners find the source of conflict with their furry friends. In this season, Jackson swoops into solve a gamut of feline-related issues and repair the relationships they’re ruining, including the hair-raising case of a cat terrorizing its owner’s Pilates business by attacking her clients. Whether it’s the cat or the owners behaving badly, leave it to Galaxy to save the day!
You can “LIKE” Jackson on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JacksonGalaxyCatDaddy and on Twitter: @JacksonGalaxy Make sure you tell him I sent you!
Update: The kitty I rescued yesterday from a kill shelter in the south, who was named in honor of Jackson, is doing well in his foster home. He was neutered and vetted and will be coming to CT to my rescue group Kitten Associates, then on to our sister, no-kill shelter, Animals in Distress. If you're interested in adopting Jackson (the CAT), please contact me directly: email@example.com