Jackson Galaxy knows cats like noone else. He has been called anything from a cat whisperer to a cat shrink to a cat trainer. He actually prefers to be called a “cat listener.” He doesn’t like the term cat whisperer, because, he says “it connotates exclusivity. It says I can do something you can’t.” His goal is to make everyone believe that they can do what he does. According to Jackson, what it really comes down to is a case of “slowing your head down long enough to listen to cats.”
Starting Saturday, January 7, Jackson returns with a second season of the immensely popular Animal Planet show My Cat From Hell. If you missed Season 1, you can watch highlights on Animal Planet’s website, or you can download the entire season from iTunes.
I caught up with Jackson for this exclusive interview for The Conscious Cat earlier this week, and believe me, getting on Jackson’s schedule these days is no easy feat.
He just finished his first book, Cat Daddy: My Life with the Original Cat From Hell. This memoir is about his cat Benny, who, says Jackson, was “the most difficult cat I ever worked with. I felt like I was constantly in a lab with him, trying to solve problems.” He credits Benny with helping him come up with the methods that he still uses to help countless cats. The book will be released May 10, and is already available for preorder on Amazon.
In addition to putting the final touches on his book, he’s also been busy wrapping up shooting for Season 2. As in Season 1, the show features what most cat owners would consider hard core behavior issues. From spastic cats that threaten to break up relationships to aggressive felines that leave their owners bruised and bloody, these cats are not your average housecats. Each episode features two cases, showing the problem, Jackson’s initial visit with the cat and her guardians, and a follow up visit two weeks later.
“Season two definitely ups the ante from both the feline perspective and the human perspective,” says Jackson. “In a couple of the 12 cases highlighted this season, I saw behavior that I have never seen before in all my years working with cats.”
Jackson uses a variety of techniques, some traditional, some holistic, and some, according to him “I’ve been told are completely off the wall.” He had more leeway to try new things in Season 2, but once again, he thinks that any mention of his Spirit Esssences, a line of flower essences he developed with holistic veterinarian Dr. Jean Hofve, probably didn’t make the cut. Even though he used the essences in each of the cases he worked with for the show, Animal Planet felt that this might be too much of a stretch for viewers.
One of the things you’ll see in this season that you didn’t during the last season will be the use of clicker training. I was intrigued with this, because I have mixed feelings about the practice.
According to Karen Pryor, one of the pioneers of clicker training for animals, “clicker training uses a distinct and consistent signal to mark a desired behavior in real time and then follows that signal with a motivating reward. Because animals understand precisely which action earned the click and their reward, they learn new behaviors quickly, easily, and enthusiastically.” While I understand the value of operand conditioning when used with reward-based methods, the addition of the clicker always felt a bit like brain-washing to me.
Jackson says he has used this method successfully. Sometimes he uses a clicker, other times, he only uses the principles. However, says Jackson “I will only use this method to train cats to do things they would do anyway. I won’t use it for anything that goes against their nature, such as toilet training.” For example, “you can train your cat to sit on a stool in your kitchen while you make dinner. The cat wants to be close to you, but you don’t want the cat to get in the way. This way, the cat has fun, he’s out of your way, you get to be together, and everybody wins.”
Jackson is very excited about this second season. “I feel that I have a unique opportunity with this show to demonstrate that the cat community is much bigger than anyone thought,” says Jackson. “It’s important to spread that message.”
I couldn’t agree more, and I’m delighted that this show is returning. Tune into Animal Planet on January 7 at 8pm. Spread the word about the show and get all your cat loving friends to watch. Let’s make this season even more successful than the last one. After all, the more people watch and learn, the better off cats everywhere will be – and isn’t that what we all want?