Animal Planet’s Latest Star Is The Cat’s Meow
NEW updated interview part II and exclusive photos from the Daily Show shoot at our new cat-centric website www.CatWisdom101.com
Animal Planet’s Latest Star Is The Cat’s Meow
Crazy cat ladies, look out; there’s new cat daddy in town by the name of Jackson Galaxy. You can see this L.A.-based cat behaviorist in action on the hotly anticipated reality show “My Cat From Hell” premiering Saturday, May 7 at 9 PM et/pt on Animal Planet. He’s out to prove there are no cats from hell, just misunderstood pussycats. The show debuts hot on the heels of the popular “Must Love Cats” show. Is the pendulum shifting from dogs to cats? Determined to find out how the landscape of cat lovers is changing, I spent a recent afternoon chatting with Jackson Galaxy. We covered so much ground, I’ll be posting part two of the interview at my new cat-centric blog, Cat Wisdom 101 launching soon.
It doesn’t take a psychic to figure out Galaxy is not his real name. Years ago, Galaxy says, a designer came up with a cool galaxy design for his music CD. The name suited him and it stuck.
At first glance, Jackson Galaxy is the quintessential, bearded, tattooed L.A. hipster musician type with a laid back tone and a mellow voice; but scratch the surface and you’ll find a 45-year-old, Jewish New Yorker who happens to love and understand cats like no other. As an intuitive life coach, it didn’t take me long to figure out underneath the tattooed surface is a “mensch” -- a good guy with a good message..
On the My Cat from Hell show, viewers follow Galaxy on the job as he consults with human clients that have cats with issues. Frankly, the title of the show isn’t one I would have chosen. Cats have been unjustly demonized for centuries, but reality television is all about heightened drama and hissy fits, and as a result, demand juicy titles. The three episodes, shot last year, required sensitive pussy-footing. Imagine: not only did the skittish cats have strangers visit their homes but with a camera crew in tow. It’s a testament to Galaxy’s skills that he was able to work his magic under those conditions.
Galaxy believes that making television is a compromise. Stars rarely get final say on most decisions. The upside for him is gaining a larger platform and an audience to spread his message about cats. He believes the by-product of entertainment can be education. His major goal is to create awareness for no-kill shelters.
Sixteen years ago, while living in Boulder Colorado, Galaxy worked at animal shelter where he discovered he had a knack for feline communication. It evolved into a-one-on-one consulting with pet clients. Ten years ago, he partnered with a vet who created a line of homeopathic remedies for pets called Spirit Essences. He bought the company and continues to use the remedies with his feline charges. The wide range of pet remedies address behavioral issues from bullying to feral cat rehab. The re-designed Spirit Essences Web site is launching next week. SpiritEssence.com
Cats are sensitive creatures with an aura of mystery around them. Part of the mystique is how they communicate differently than us mere mortals. Galaxy’s job like all animal behaviorists is to bridge this communication gap. Better communication = happier cats and happier pet parents or guardians.
Galaxy believes that the number one cause of feline behavioral problems is stress; often mirroring human behavior. If their humans are stressed and anxious, the cats will mirror the stress; often with symptoms like peeing outside the litter box, or worse. If you’re yelling at your spouse or kids, it may impact your pet. It brings to mind the expression, “there are no bad dogs, only bad owners.” Does this hold true for cats? Galaxy believes it does; maybe not bad owners, but misinformed ones. We all know how smart cats are. They can devise ingenious and maddening methods of communicating their displeasure. So, on the flip side, I ask, “What’s your number one tip for happier cats? Galaxy responds with an emphatic, “Play.” He doesn’t mean a half-hearted attempt to throw a ball while you’re playing Angry Birds or checking email, but a variety of daily, active engaged play. Most cats don’t have the chance to hunt outdoors and engage in their instinctual behavior. It’s up to us to satisfy their need with play, games and toys that mimic their natural instincts. A bored cat is an unhappy cat.
We joked about all the crazy pet products on the market from silly costumes to those covered strollers and agreed that they simply impose a human structure which does not respect a cat’s natural dignity. Galaxy is an advocate of what he calls the “raw cat” or natural cat. He says, “I don’t believe in making them jump through hoops, making them shit in toilets, making them ride bicycles even if they are trainable. I believe there’s an amazing amount of beauty just as they are. They give so much simply by being in the room with us.”
The more we talked, the less the externals mattered. The boundaries are blurring regarding who are cat lovers. Galaxy is excited about the shifting demographic that includes more men. “Guys need to know it’s okay to love cats and that women dig cat guys. I hope this is the beginning of a trend and I’m incredibly excited and honored to be the face of what a cat guy can be.” It’s clear that cat lovers can come in all stripes. The fact that cats are now hip is bringing in a new generation regardless of gender, age, lifestyles of beliefs. This translates into more cat adoptions and less cats languishing in over-crowded shelters or being euthanized. It’s Galaxy’s dream to see the end to no-kill shelters.
The landscape of cat lover’s is changing, one cat at a time. If enough people tune into “My Cat From Hell,” perhaps it will be renewed for more episodes. More air time translates into more feline awareness, more cat adoptions and lives saved. And isn’t that what all cat lovers want?
Jackson Galaxy is currently writing a memoir about his beloved cat (and teacher), Benny.