Talking With Jackson Galaxy
I spoke to Jackson Galaxy for this article, and it was an honor. I’ve been a fan of his work with cats for years. Getting to talk to him about the awesome work he’s doing was incredibly exciting. This special and unique opportunity allowed me to listen to him talk about how passionate he is about cats and animals in general. He cares about them so much and knows he is living his life’s purpose by helping with his new foundation, TV show, books, and website. Galaxy is a down-to-earth dude who keeps himself incredibly busy saving feline lives and keeping cat families happy and healthy.
Jackson Galaxies’ mission can be summed up with his response to the following question, because nearly all of the problems cat families face can be solved with it.
What is it that cat parents are missing when it comes to solving problems that arise from having cats? “It’s empathy,” says Jackson Galaxy, the ultimate cat expert.
You may know him from his hit TV show, My Cat From Hell, on Animal Planet, where he helps cat parents solve cat problems and family problems. The cat problems range from cats tearing up furniture to attacking people to peeing outside the litter box. The family problems are sometimes when show guests are up against an ultimatum where a boyfriend might tell his girlfriend that it’s him or the cat. Jackson Galaxy helps solve all of these problems. He can get so tuned into why a cat is acting out he can help cat parents relieve any problem they might be experiencing. Just watch the show to see how he does it. Season seven of My Cat From Hell is set to begin airing on Animal Planet in Spring of 2016.
Empathize with Your Cat
So, how do you empathize with your cat? It’s actually quite easy. Put yourself in your cat’s shoes paws. Get down on all fours and roam your house to see everything from your cat’s perspective. What might be frightening your cat? What could be bothering her? Is something blocking your cat’s litter box? It’s all about seeing the world through your cat’s eyes, literally and figuratively. As Jackson Galaxy points out, it’s cat mojo 101. You have to step away from the emotional aspect of the moment. Galaxy says, “I get it, I get it. Cat peed on the bed. It sucks, and I know that you’re angry, but you gotta be able to step away from that.” Galaxy advises to remember you are the parent of your cat. Common complaints from his clients are that they don’t understand why the cat is doing this to them and that they want to get rid of the cat. But these are basic cat problems. It’s not the end of the world. If it were your human child, you wouldn’t be saying these things. For example, if your child has never had a history of violence at all, but one day gets in a fight you are going to want to know what happened. A parent says, “What is wrong?”, not “Why are you doing this to me?” Ask yourself what it’s like to be your cat who, as Galaxy points out, “is an animal that’s just barely domesticated, living in the confines of the world that requires compromise from a very basic instinctual biological level.”
Getting Your Cat to Stop Caving
Cat caving is a term that some people may not be familiar with because it isn’t one of the more common cat behaviors. A caver is a cat that needs to get under places and make a nest for himself, often a fear-based behavior which is a detriment to both his social interaction with his human family and his overall confidence. The first step with a kitty caver is to slowly block access to all of the places he could go under such as a bed, sofa, or closet. With every “No,” however, Galaxy believes there must be a “Yes!” behind it. In this case, when you’ve blocked as many and as much of the under places, your cat will still try to seek comfort in the form of a new cave. The “yes!” Galaxy recommends is offering your cat a cocoon. Galaxy says, “The difference between a cave and a cocoon is that you get to determine where it is.” If your cat is always under the bed, for whatever reason, offer him an enclosed cat bed that he can crawl into and hide that is right next to the bed. This way he only has to take one small step to have access to this new safe place. As your cat becomes accustomed to the new cocoon, you can slowly move it, giving you more control over your cat’s environment and social interaction.
Be a Patient Cat Parent
If you’ve been following the show for awhile, you already know this won’t happen overnight or without some bribe. You need what Galaxy refers to as a jackpot treat, whatever their favorite treat is. It’s different for every cat, but it is the one thing your cat will do anything for. Save it for when he goes into his cocoon, which will become his base camp. Another tip Galaxy mentions, “…one thing that I’ve noticed worldwide which is our tendency to free feed cats that I think is a huge mistake.” He points out that it is easier to get a hungry cat to leave a cave than one who knows he can simply catch a meal later when there are fewer stressors waiting for him outside the safety of his kitty cave. Be tactical in feeding times and treats!
Creating cat base camps doesn’t mean you need to be a construction expert of any sort. It’s all about collecting scent from your clothing, cat toys, blankets from beds, cat towers, anything that will help your cat recognize that what you have created is for her. She will say to herself, “Oh, this is mine.” When you collect these items that your cat loves the cat base camps will grow slowly throughout your home. Galaxy reminds us, “And that gives your cat a significant territorial leg up when they’re trying to develop some mojo around their territory. So hopefully the message gets across that – you know – you might call it no excuses catification.”
The cat superhighway is as important for your kitty as the traffic plan of your home is for your human family and guests. You create conversation areas in living rooms, a reading cubby for rainy days, and a dining area that can accommodate everyone. In between these areas you make sure there is ample space to move and walk with minimal foot traffic issues. The same sort of thing needs to be done for cats, except their highway and areas will be vertical; this is the cat superhighway. Galaxy notes the importance of the superhighway especially for multi-cat homes, homes with children, and homes with dogs or other pets, and it doesn’t have to be available in every room. Galaxy explains, “…start with one room that can be sort of your center…you don’t have to go crazy with construction.” Begin in the most significant areas such as the living and bedroom and use the vertical space by staggering shelves and ledges and making sure windows are easily accessible.
It’s important to note that not all cats like to be up high, and the construction of your cat superhighway must be planned around the preferences of your kitty family. Some are tree dwellers, and some are cave dwellers, and some will fall somewhere in between. Galaxy says you need to find where your cat gets their mojo going on and build for that sweet spot.
Do Not Rob Your Cat of Her Individuality
Identify what your cat needs, and find a way that is socially acceptable for him to have it. This means you have to pay attention to how your cat behaves. As an example Galaxy says, “When a cat walks into your living room are they looking up? Good. Build up. Are they looking from under the coffee table and watching the world go by from there? Go lower.” Paying attention to the individuality of your cats is essential to learning to adapt to their needs so you can change their environment and encourage behaviors that are more acceptable.
Learn more about caving, cocooning, the cat superhighway, and how to be an awesome cat parent with Jackson Galaxy’s new book, Catify to Satisfy: Simple Solutions for Creating a Cat-Friendly Home, available , November 17, 2015, and co-written with Kate Benjamin.
These things come up as cat parents. When a problem arises with our cats, we must step back and try to see things from their perspectives. Why would he be behaving this way? What is making him upset? Empathize with your cats and you will have a happy household.