Last week I had the chance to chat with Jackson Galaxy aka “The Cat Daddy” is the Host & Executive Director of Animal Planet’s long-running hit show My Cat From Hell. Jackson is a two-time New York Times best-selling author with over 20 years of experience as a cat behavior and wellness consultant. I’ve loved and been loved by cats all of my life, so it was a real pleasure to speak with Jackson. It’s so clear that he has a true love and passion for what he does.
Make sure to tune in Saturdays on Animal Planet, at 8pm. Check your listings for specifics.
Chatting with Jackson Galaxy
How did My Cat From Hell get started? Was it your cat or someone elses?
It was cats in general. When I started working at an animal shelter back in the early 90s, I really didn’t know much about cats, I had cats in my life but I didn’t spend a ton of time wondering about them.
After spending a ew weeks at the shelter, just doing my thing, cleaning cages, adoption counseling, we started to notice whenever I was in a room, the cats were coming to me, and you know, just sort of around me, like I had food in my pocket or something. It became this running joke at the shelter, and then it became apparent to me that we’re in a dire situation, we’re killing a lot of cats, and if there’s a way to take that empathy that we have for one another and turn it into something useful so we cannot kill these cats, let’s do that.
And that combination of burying my head into the books and just spending as much time with them as I possibly could and it started to click. We were dealing with very specific behavior problems, these were problems that landed the cats in the shelter in the first place.
Did you ever meet a cat (or owner) that seemed hopeless?
Person? Yes. I’ve given up on a lot of people, but I’ve never given up on a cat. The question is kind of loaded in a way. I’ve never met a cat that didn’t leave my hands happier than when it got there. Do I always solve the problems to the satisfaction of the human? A lot of times the human expectations of what a cat will or will not do is totally unrealistic. I can’t change them. Being cats or being dogs, or anything else you know.
What advice do have for new cat owners to help prevent a “cat from hell” situation?
Cats are not dogs. Just because they are a four-legged species that lives under your roof, that’s where it ends. Everything, from what motivates them, what gives them confidence, or mojo as I would say, what your relationship with them should look like is completely different.
That’s where it all begins and for a lot of humans that’s where it ends too. I would say learn about cats. Learn about what makes them special and then think about how you fit into that equation as opposed to trying to squeeze them into your equation. You’re going to wind up getting frustrated when you try to put the cat shaped peg into the dog shaped hole.
Who is your favorite Cat from Heaven?
I wouldn’t say favorite; believe me I love every single one of them. It’s such an intense pleasure to be able to take the show into that direction, and to be able to highlight what cats bring to our culture, to humans, because we spend a lot of time talking about the conflict part of it, to be able to highlight these guys is an intense pleasure.
That said, this season we featured a cat named Mac and Mac had a lot of challenges. Besides an incredible nasal deformity and cleft palate, which makes his breathing very difficult, you’ve got cardiomyopathy, so we know his life is going to be shorter. Just a ton of physical problems. And the people that take these cats in are special people. The stories I pick for the Heaven stories always start with the cat, and then it’s about their special humans. It’s about the community itself. And it’s about organizations that support the animal, it’s always rings to the tree.
With Mac, it all comes down to his adopters. Joe and Lauren are incredibly special human beings. Joe, in the mid 80s, he was 14 years old, he was diagnosed with aids, he had open heart surgery, and as part of a blood transfusion he got tainted blood.(this is before Ryan White, he was the first) Here’s a kid, the height of the aids panic, here he is marching into junior high with picketers, he turned it around, he starts a day camp for other kids with aids. From that point on he becomes this tireless crusader.
Imagine that at 15, and now he identifies with Mac in this incredible way. The scene with the two of them, taking their meds together. You’ve got the Mac basket and you’ve got the Joe basket, and there’s the two of them, taking their meds together. Joe takes care of Mac because only he would know how to do it without thinking of him like a chore. And then you’ve got Lauren, who takes care of both of them. Who clearly is, talk about fearless. You’ve got a husband who’s living with aids, you’ve got a cat who’s going to live a short life, but that doesn’t stop you from giving your entire heart to them. That’s a story. I was just honored to be in their presence.
Tell me more about your upcoming show, Cat Meets Dog.
Having a home where the cats and dogs aren’t getting along, that brings a special dynamic to things. I come in to address the cat problems. A dog trainer, ZoeStathis-Sandor, comes into address the dog problems. Madness and hilarity and shenanigans ensue. It was a really interesting, different experience. For one, I work by myself, and does Zoe, so for us to come together and come up with group plans on the fly and agree on how to treat the family and the animals and come out on top. That was a challenge.
There are times when the humans weren’t willing to go there. If you don’t have the buy ins from the humans, forget about it. Then the final recommendation is “we don’t think so.”
MY CAT FROM HELL- (Saturday’s at 8/7c) Cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy has seen everything in his long career and the newest season of MY CAT FROM HELL is no exception. Between working with a cat named after him and saving the lives of 50 kittens, Jackson delves into his personal evolution exploring his past, present and future as he connects with remarkable felines in some of the most extreme circumstances
This season Jackson helps guardians fall back in love with caring for their best friend. He works with a couple hesitant to have children due to their cats’ behavior, a family who bought a bi-level house just to keep their cats separated and, in an absolute first, Jackson encounters a cat guardian with an extreme cat phobia. Plus, in order to save the lives of 50 kittens due to overcrowded shelters, Jackson enlists renowned kitten expert Hannah Shaw to drive 16 hours with him from Los Angeles to Colorado’s Boulder Humane – the shelter where he got his start – which has agreed to take them in and find them loving homes.
The series’ segment, My Cat from Heaven, returns with heartwarming stories exemplifying the healing power of the feline, including a cat and his guardian who lift each other’s spirit as they both fight chronic diseases, a cat who brings comfort to hospital patients of all ages and a young cat who becomes a surrogate to foster kittens.
Jackson Galaxy’s aim is to correct cat behavior and improve relationships between felines and their guardians…sometimes, it’s not only the cat’s attitude that needs Galaxy’s magic touch! In MY CAT FROM HELL, Jackson always has one goal in mind – to prevent cat guardians from giving up their cats and contributing to already overcrowded shelters.
Upcoming book and another show on Animal Planet – Cat Meets Dog – This show will premiere in the Fall. It follows Jackson and dog trainer Zoe Stathis-Sandor as they hope to establish harmony in households where kitties and canines don’t get along. The pet experts also will educate each other on their preferred species and try to convince the other of his or her favorite animal’s ultimate superiority.The two will combine their skills and expertise to help those in desperate need, including a couple who are ready to live happily ever after but can’t because their pets are fighting like — well, cats and dogs.