The unlikely television personality teaches people to develop their own "cat mojo" with their feline companions
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Many cats are tail talkers. If those tails start to twitch and wag, watch out for fangs and claws, warns cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy.
If you try to pet a cat when its tail is wagging and get bitten, “You had it coming,” says Galaxy, who helps solve behavior problems, both human and feline, on his Animal Planet TV show, “My Cat From Hell.”
When a cat’s angry enough to wag its tail or the fur on its back stands up, its ears flatten and eyes dilate, the owner needs to figure out what’s wrong, he says.
Galaxy figures cats and owners equally share the blame for relationships gone wrong, but when it comes to changing behavior, cats are the easier students — by a wide margin.
His house call kit is a guitar case loaded with cat toys and treats. But there’s no magic wand in the box, he says. It takes time and hard work. “You get what you give.”
Galaxy, 46, has an usual job — and he’s an unusual guy. He’s 6-foot-5, bald, wears specs and ear hoops, sports a long goatee, prefers bowling shirts and sneakers, has tattoo “sleeves” and has started tats on his legs so that he’ll one day have a “full suit.”
He plays the guitar, has a degree in acting and has been addicted to drugs, alcohol and food. He’s also written an autobiography, “Cat Daddy.”
Galaxy was working at an animal shelter in Colorado more than 15 years ago when a man walked in with a cat in a cardboard box. The cat, named Benny, had been hit by a car and was “unbondable,” the man said. Benny and Galaxy spent the next 13 years bonding and developing what Galaxy calls “cat mojo.”
He had a practice with a holistic vet before moving to Los Angeles in 2007 and opening a private consulting firm. He was at a pet adoption fair when he met the friend of a friend who introduced him to reality TV producer Adam Greener (“Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition”). “My Cat From Hell” began airing in spring 2011. In each episode, viewers witness owners struggling to find domestic harmony with their cats.
Emilie Bandy and Mike Petriello are fans of Galaxy’s show. For seven months, they tried to turn their New York City apartment into a peaceful place for their cats, Olive and Pepper, but Olive attacked Pepper every chance she got. They went to the vet, gave Olive doses of Prozac, searched for answers online and in bookstores, slept in separate rooms so they could each care for one cat, and put planning for their September wedding on hold.
“We were genuinely afraid for the cats’ lives if we left them together,” Bandy said.
When they learned Galaxy was filming season three of “My Cat From Hell” in Manhattan, they made a video and submitted it. Their problem with Olive and Pepper became the summer’s first episode. In it, Galaxy:
— Gives Olive a food dish with a middle bump so she has to eat around it, ensuring that Pepper finishes and leaves first.
— Shows the couple how to build trees and platforms where Pepper can escape if Olive starts to attack. “Build a vertical world,” Galaxy says.
— Tells them to stop running every time Olive whines, scratches or throws a temper tantrum. “Don’t positively reinforce bad behavior,” he says.
It’s been three months since the last catfight. Bandy and Petriello are back in the same bedroom, wedding planning is again in full swing, and the couple spends hours each day playing with both cats in the same room.
The cats may never be fast friends, but they are coexisting — and Pepper’s confidence is growing.
Karen “Doc” Halligan of Los Angeles calls Galaxy “fabulous,” but acknowledges that he’s playing to a tough crowd.
“People do not understand the need to train cats and that they need socialization just as much as dogs. Since they have not been domesticated that long, people just think they are independent and don’t need it,” says the veterinarian, author, TV consultant and director of veterinary services for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Los Angeles.
Besides the show and his consulting work, Galaxy sells his own line of essence oils and is a board member for Stray Cat Alliance and FixNation in Los Angeles and Neighborhood Cats in New York.
Early on, there were a handful of cases that stumped him, but Galaxy believed then that psychotropic drugs were inappropriate for pets. He’s changed his mind.
“Why not use holistic, homeopathic measures? Why not use empathic measures? Why not use traditional Western measures? Why not use acupuncture and Prozac on the same cat?” he asked.
Cats have an attention span of about 3 seconds, so Galaxy believes punishment is pointless. “Count to 10, clean up, forgive and move on,” he says. Air in a motion-detecting can is great for disciplining cats the instant they misbehave, he says.
Despite cats’ short attention span, there is nothing wrong with their memory, he says. Most cats can be taught almost anything, he says, but he doesn’t believe a cat should be taught to walk on a leash or jump through hoops just to satisfy an owner. Most cats will feel the same way, he says, but some will enjoy the lessons and the activities.
Galaxy’s tattoos include 15 cats (Benny will be on his leg) but he also has three real ones, along with a blind dog.
Does he think cats will one day become doglike and gather in parks, take obedience classes, share play dates and go surfing?
“I totally hope not,” he says. “I love cats for who they are. I want everyone to embrace what I call the raw cat.”
More Related Stories
- I'm not achieving my dreams!
- The most popular Tumblr porn
- Slave descendants seek equal rights from Cherokee Nation
- Snapchat is secretly storing your photos
- Peace Corps to allow gay couples to volunteer together
- Facebook's hate speech problem
- Rand Paul: Congress should apologize to Apple, not the other way around
- When my home was destroyed
- Okla. mother's tearful reunion with her 8-year-old son
- New campaign compares gun control to anti-LGBT discrimination
- Study: Salt Lake City is gay parenting capital of the U.S.
- You are less beautiful than you think
- "Ghetto" tour lets you gawk at New York's poor
- Teen activist to meet with Abercrombie CEO
- Watch: Family emerges from storm shelter after tornado
- Okla. tornado survivor reunited with dog trapped in rubble live on camera
- My miscarriages made me question being pro-choice
- Why I tried to be a punk
- I'm terrified of the cicada onslaught
- Limbaugh: No one willing to impeach the first black president
- SAT's right answers are all wrong
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11