Call him the 'cat listener'

Call him the 'cat listener'
Jackson Galaxy is a cat behaviourist and host of American television series My Cat From Hell, which first aired on Animal Planet (Asia) in 2012.
PHOTO: Philip Cuenco

Cat behaviourist, cat consultant, cat daddy.

That's Jackson Galaxy, the feline version of celebrity dog expert Cesar "Dog Whisperer" Millan, has been given many names over his 20-year career.

Just don't call him "cat whisperer".

The US host of reality TV series My Cat From Hell told The New Paper over the phone from California yesterday: "I don't really like how that title implies that I have some kind of magical powers.

If you think I have magical powers, then you'll think you can never do what I do.

"I always want people to know that whatever I have, I can share with you and you can do it just as well as I can.

"I'd rather be called the 'cat listener'. I listen and then I translate for you guys - that's probably as much credit as I would give myself."

My Cat From Hell features Galaxy, 49, making house calls to resolve conflicts or behaviour issues between owners and their out-of-control cats, or between pets.

He uses training techniques honed from working with countless animal shelters.

The sixth season premieres over Animal Planet (StarHub Ch 424 or Singtel Ch 208) on July 29 at 10pm.

Galaxy will be in town next month for an adoption drive and a live show where he will talk about common bad cat behaviour and provide tips on how to better care for them.

"I have never met an animal that's beyond help. I think everyone deserves the dignity of being helped on their own terms," said Galaxy. For example, take his most challenging case so far: the infamous "911 cat" Lux.

Last year, the five-year-old part-Himalayan male housecat made headlines in the US when its owners called 911 for help after their enraged pet scratched their seven-month-old baby and subsequently became so aggressive, the family ended up barricading themselves in a room in their Portland home.

On the show, Lux was diagnosed as suffering from feline hyperesthesia syndrome, a complex condition that may sometimes cause a cat to lash out violently.

Galaxy decided to do something never seen before on My Cat From Hell: He recommended that Lux be re-homed with foster cat guardians.

Since then, he has had to move Lux around "quite a bit" and still receives calls for assistance from the foster families.

"Its particular unfortunate circumstance, in terms of the combination of its life - being rejected by its mother at birth - and its genetic make-up, makes it really hard to work with," said Galaxy.

"It's doing much, much better but it'll always be a little unpredictable, it'll always have that edge.

"It'll never be able to go to a home with children and it'll always need to be monitored. It really comes down to what its brain tells it to do - and it's not logical."


Though Lux's current whereabouts are confidential, he added that the cat is in "great hands".

"There's always the possibility I'm going to end up with it," said Galaxy, chuckling.

"Lux definitely taught me more than any cat I've ever worked with in 20 years. If Lux taught me anything, it's to never assume, never think you've got everything figured out."

But cats aren't the only thing on Galaxy's mind, which is why the owner of five cats and two dogs refers to himself as "bipetual".

"I love dogs as much as I love cats. I can't imagine working with cats all day long and not coming home to a dog," he admitted.

Some "cat people" have taken offence over his preference for pooches, especially after seeing his wedding picture which featured his dog Mooshka as his ring bearer.

Galaxy got married to 47-year-old animal rescuer Minoo Rahbar last year.

"They felt a sense of betrayal. People got angry with me, saying things like, 'Where are the cats?' It was crazy," he recalled.

"But I couldn't take my cats to where we were (Best Friends Animal Society's no-kill pet sanctuary in Utah). It was in the middle of nowhere. It's a really wild, rough country, no place for a cat to be outside.

"So, as a representative of all our animals, we picked the one that could handle it the best.

"My wife and I have a pact that when we someday move into a bigger home, we'll have donkeys and goats as well.

"But I understand cats on a level that's more profound than some other animals, so I work with what I know best."

This article was first published on July 24, 2015.
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