Our catty health and good behavior depend primarily on two things: hunting and owning our territory. That’s what Jackson Galaxy told my human and the rest of the audience at Austin Pets Alive! yesterday. It’s the same message he conveys on his TV show, My Cat From Hell, and in his memoir, Cat Daddy. If you’re a fan of the show, you already know how Mr. Galaxy works.
How does he work? He helps cats get their MOJO back so we can be confident. “A cat’s not confident unless a cat is killing,” Mr Galaxy said. And how do we get the experience of killing when we live in a human-created world that finds that activity kind of socially unacceptable???
“Play is a necessity for cats. They must play every single day,” he said. A lot of the behaviors we get into when we’re not playing are the behaviors that upset the humans we live with. Mr Galaxy spoke for cats saying, “I need to hunt. If I don’t have anything to hunt, your ankle is fair game.”
Yup. We cats need hunt-type play. I agree fully. I like to hunt the large insects, but on the days that I don’t get to do that, I enjoy kicking the HECK out of the catnip banana or the rainbow or the big blue toy we got from HausPanther… We all love to hunt the Neko flies too. We love to play with our human, or without.
I’m so happy that there’s a prominent human who understands us! He also gets that we need to own our territory and how important play is to feeling secure about space. I also like it that Mr. Galaxy wants cats to live out or feline potential in our feline way. As he said, to reconnect with our basic catness.
“I like cats being cats,” he said. “I like what I teach them to further the cause of being a confident cat.”
In our life with humans in their houses, some of us are confident, he calls confident kitties hosts and hostesses. He did a great demonstration of host behavior with our friend Lydia from Understand Blue. Robin saw it and said Mr Galaxy mimics cats really well. She said Jackson Galaxy looked just like Huckie does every morning when she goes out into the garden to see him! Reggie is probably a host (NOW, but not back THEN when I first met him). Nutmeggy is pretty much a hostess too.
After the confident cat demo, Mr Galaxy talked about two other basic types of kitties who live with humans: Over-Owners and Wallflowers. Karma is an Over-Owner. She acts tough about territory because she really feels insecure about her space. Lexie, Becket and I are Wallflowers to varying degrees. We are really OK with the others owning stuff if it’s really that important to them. We just keep to the sidelines and find space that no one else wants to make a particular claim to. We also try to stay small, which is really hard for Becket because he weighs 18 pounds!
Karma needs more opportunity to hunt, according to Mr. Galaxy’s approach. An Over-Owner needs to have the opportunity to kill stuff (TOYS, usually, but we do have some actual prey in here as well) in the space to feel more secure. The rest of us, especially Lexie and me, need to have successful hunting experiences farther and farther into the center of the space to get us off the wall. Hunting stuff also helps us get BIGGER.
“I firmly believe every single cat can be the host or hostess, even if you’re going against genetics,” Mr. Galaxy said.
Mr Galaxy advised the humans to take their “human glasses” off and see things the way we cats see them. That’s when the humans will succeed in making life good for us in their houses. Humans also have to understand cat mojo — what makes us tick as a species and as individuals — to give us the best experience and the opportunity to fulfill our potential.
He advocates positive reinforcement training to shape behaviors — and so do I! — but recognizes that 100 percent of cats don’t respond to humans’ request, no matter how nicely the humans ask. When one of us keeps doing some undesired behavior, for example walking on the countertop when the human is preparing food, humans shouldn’t act out! Instead, they should look for another way to get what they need. In the case of food preparation, a cat can be asked to go in another room (with the door shut) until the food prep is finished.
At our house, for another, similar example, Reggie used to run outside when Robin went out to feed the Garden Kitties in the morning. Now, she makes sure Reggie’s in the kitchen or on the catio and closes the door to the garage when she heads for the back door. Reggie can’t run out the door because Reggie isn’t anywhere near the door. (Ask Robin about getting other humans on board with such hassle-saving solutions…)
Mr Galaxy talked about so much that we can’t tell you everything. You’ll find tons more on his website, for sure. The last thing I want to share is his humility. An audience member asked him how he’s dealing with his success. He said he’s fine:
“As long as I’m answering to a higher authority — and that’s every cat in every shelter in the country — I’m ok.”
Photo by Lydia Fiedler, used with permission.