NEW YORK – Jackson Galaxy, the cat fixer of Animal Planet fame, is out with a new book that urges humans to meet their felines halfway.
The host of “My Cat from Hell” and co-host of a new show that premiered in November, “Cat vs. Dog,” Galaxy offers up the A-to-Z of what it takes to truly understand the cat-human relationship in “Total Cat Mojo: The Ultimate Guide to Life with Your Cat.”
So what, exactly, is cat mojo, and how can their humans help out with that?
The book covers how cat owners can establish routines and rituals, track patterns of behavior and act accordingly, such as how many and where to place litter boxes, and how to help cats get their mojo back when things go wrong.
A good place to start, Galaxy said, is with the biggest mistake he sees among cat owners, the idea that cats aren’t cats at all.
“It’s the concept of looking at cats through dog-colored glasses,” Galaxy explained. “It’s the concept that you want cats to act like dogs, to come and seek your approval, to treat you like you’re the moon and the stars. That’s not who cats are. If we expect certain things from cats we’re going to be disappointed. If we look at them on their own terms we won’t be.”
Those terms, he said, involve recognizing the “raw” in your cat.
“The key is to see them as what they are, which is a prey animal, an animal that is conditioned to kill or be killed, to always be on guard of possible friend or foe,” Galaxy said. “You have to present yourself as a non-threat.”
Among his tricks is the slow blink, which is pretty much how it sounds.
“Watching them return that gaze to you is that Rosetta Stone, it’s that in, that way of saying wait a minute, we can wspeak together,” he said.
And then there’s what Galaxy calls “the Michelangelo,” which is extending your finger with the rest of the digits on the hand semi-extended, a la the Sistine Chapel. That, he said, the best way is to allow a cat “to then pet you, to just rub up against you.”
Taking such things on the animal’s terms, he said, “really goes a long way.”
Remember, Galaxy said, be patient and “know that you’re learning a brand-new language.”
Galaxy is a strong advocate of animal adoption. He urges cat owners with their hearts set on kittens to consider two over just one.
“I don’t even think you should be allowed to adopt a single,” he said. “They learn so much from each other. I think folks think that it’s twice the work when I think it’s half. They take care of themselves, they play together, they teach each other, like what are appropriate body languages, especially around humans. I think so many of the behavioral confidence issues we see later on in life these kittens aren’t going to have because they have each other.”
He specifically urged the adoption of black cats, which he said often linger in shelters due to their blending in while caged, along with long-standing stigma and superstition.
“I think it’s just really important that folks just check out their own biases,” he said. “Remember that black cats are not bad luck. The rap they got against them during the Salem witch trials really follows them to this day. One kind of curious thing is that a true, totally black cat almost doesn’t exist anymore because most of them were burned at the stake, so now they’ve got little pieces of white because that pure black was pretty much snuffed out.”
While remembering that your cat isn’t a dog, that you’re learning a brand-new language and that you must meet a cat halfway, Galaxy said a touch of anthropomorphization may not be the worst pet owner sin.
“You can’t paint anthropomorphization with a big brush. Sometimes it’s OK. Sometimes it’s OK to say your cat’s depressed, or your cat is angry, as long as you’re not projecting the reason they’re angry,” Galaxy said. “I think that we really tend to overestimate our own worth, you know. Well my cat hates me, my boyfriend, my girlfriend, my husband, my wife. That’s usually very oversimplified. You don’t want to look at them through human-colored glasses either. They are who they are.”