Jackson Galaxy: Thinking Outside the Box to Improve Cat Behavior

Jackson Galaxy

Jackson Galaxy, star of Animal Planet’s “My Cat from Hell”, needed a job.  In the 1990s, Galaxy had no experience with animals but found himself working at an animal shelter in Boulder, Colorado. Despite his lack of experience, the realities of shelter life soon inspired Galaxy to look within himself to see what he could do to get cats out of the shelter faster. Galaxy spent 10 years there working in a number of different positions, eventually gaining the title “cat boy.”

“The cats just gravitated towards me,” said Galaxy. “Really if your heart is in the right place, when you see the reality of the situation, it kicks you into high gear.”

For Galaxy, kicking into high gear, meant proactively addressing families who were planning to bring their cats to the shelter. When someone would call into the shelter, Galaxy would offer to go over to the caller’s house and see what he could do to prevent the cat from coming into the shelter at all. That model of problem solving became his job, and he began a private consulting business focusing on the connection between a cat’s physical health and behavior.

In 2009, Jackson was teaching a cat class in Hollywood which was attended by an employee of 3Ball Entertainment. As a result of that connection, “My Cat from Hell”, was born.

The most challenging cat case
The program focused on resolving conflicts and behavioral issues with cats. According to Galaxy, the most challenging case he dealt with on the show, involved Lux, the famous 911 cat. Lux’s unbridled aggression resulted in his family locking themselves in a bathroom and calling for help from emergency responders. The story received international attention. Galaxy received a call from the family after having just wrapped for the season, but he and the production team flew to Portland to see what could be done.

“That case tested me in a way I needed to be tested. It was a course in humility. Every time I thought I had written a happy ending for this cat he would slip back into his old behaviors and somebody would get hurt and end up going to the doctor,” said Galaxy. “It made me question my ability to solve these kinds of problems. I still monitor Lux for many reasons, in part because I have developed a close bond with him. Lux just made me double up in terms of my commitment and clarified my role as a student of behavior as well as my role as a teacher.”

Today, Lux is doing well. Galaxy felt that Lux was not safe to be in a home so he is currently in a sanctuary where Galaxy continues to work with him in a less pressured situation. Galaxy is pleased that Lux is not going to end up on a kill list and that humans won’t end up investing in him emotionally and getting hurt.

Galaxy said, “I always hold out hope. I also wonder if he’s going to end up at my house, but I try to put that off.”

Why cat behaviors are misunderstood
According to Galaxy, most cat behaviors are misunderstood. In contrast to dogs, cats are outside the human experience. Dogs have been bred for over 100,000 years to demonstrate behaviors that are not just recognizable to humans, but desirable. In many ways, cats are wilder.

“We just don’t get them on a basic level. For example, a cat pees in an inappropriate place and the first thing humans do is assume it’s a personal slight, and that couldn’t be any further from the truth,” said Galaxy. “All the work I’ve done over the years, my show, my books, my YouTube Channel, speaks to one message: You owe it to yourself to try and understand cats from a basic evolutionary place because from there, cat behavior becomes much more recognizable.”

Unfortunately, cat parents can get to a point where they are unwilling to learn, and they do the exact opposite of what will help. When families are in the middle of that dynamic in the home, they can get wrapped up in the moment. Galaxy wants to provide a step back so the cat guardian can see what’s really happening.

Jackson Galaxy’s advice for a better behaved cat
Galaxy recommends listening to your cat. Cats are wired for activity. If they are chasing your ankles or engaging in some other undesirable behavior you need to play with them.  It’s also important to be aware that cats are tuned into your physical rhythms. Your cat responds to the activity bursts of your day, such as when you leave the house in the morning and when you return home in the evening. You don’t have to spend an hour every time you play with your cat, even just 10 minutes every day will make a difference.

“If you see your cat behaving in a way you have never seen before, the first step is to go to the vet,” said Galaxy. “Don’t start concocting theories about revenge. Have a full physical exam done on the pet. Cats are programmed to hide pain, so new or unusual behaviors can be an indicator of pain.”

In addition to his work with individual cats, Galaxy has also established a foundation to demystify and address problems with cat shelters one at a time. Based on his experience, the two most pressing problems are that cats are not spayed and neutered often enough and that feral cats are being placed in shelters inappropriately. He believes that shelters looking to make no-kill a reality need to think like a business looking to attract customers. Galaxy believes that shelters need to become destinations that make a cat rescue event look like a cat café rather than a place for caged animals.

“I want to hook up with and fund organizations that are thinking outside the box,” said Galaxy. “I want to see ideas that create a symbiotic relationship between a shelter and a community. A shelter should be as much a part of the community as a bakery. Believe me, I’ve spent 20 years working in and around shelters. We’ve taken our current model as far as we can take it and have reduced the amount of shelter killing drastically, but we need to take it a step further.”

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Reviewed on: 
Thursday, October 20, 2016