It’s All About the Mojo

The Cat Daddy him­self, Jack­son Galaxy, on how to help your cats get their con­fi­dence back so they can live their bliss

Modern Cat - - Contents - BY JEN­NIFER NOSEK

The Cat Daddy him­self, Jack­son Galaxy, on how to help your cats get their con­fi­dence back so they can live their bliss.

I’m not much of the star-struck type, but when I found out I’d be in­ter­view­ing Jack­son Galaxy, the coolest cat guy around, star of count­less “Cat From Hell” in­ter­ven­tions, and ad­vo­cate for mis­un­der­stood cats ev­ery­where, I had to rein in my in­ner fan­girl. Can you blame me? I would be in­ter­view­ing the Cat Daddy him­self! And you know what? He lived up to all the hype. This man’s pro­found re­spect for and un­der­stand­ing of cats will make you a be­liever. Read on for Jack­son Galaxy’s ex­pla­na­tion of how to help your cat live his best life. Hint: it’s all about cat con­fi­dence.

IN AD­DI­TION TO YOUR TV SHOWS, AP­PEAR­ANCES, AND LEC­TURES, YOU’VE AU­THORED FOUR BOOKS ON CATS, YOUR NEW­EST BE­ING TO­TAL CAT MOJO. HOW ON EARTH DO YOU FIND THE TIME? AND WHAT EX­ACTLY IS “CAT MOJO”?

The idea of mojo in gen­eral is that sort of in­de­scrib­able con­fi­dence—not cock­i­ness, but con­fi­dence—that comes from in­side, where you feel like you don’t have any­thing to prove. You don’t have to in­flate your chest and walk around and tell peo­ple who you are. You are at home.

SO A CAT WITH MOJO IS A CON­FI­DENT CAT THAT’S LIV­ING HIS OWN TRUTH?

It’s that bumper sticker, “live your bliss,” but cats do that nat­u­rally. If they are en­cour­aged, al­lowed to ex­press that “mojo-tive,” it makes ev­ery­one’s life eas­ier and the cats are a lot hap­pier. That mojo comes from the con­nec­tion that I call the raw cat. It’s the an­ces­tral, the cat sit­ting there in Fur­ball Cres­cent tens of thou­sands of years ago with a di­rect line into your cat. Al­low­ing that con­nec­tion to blos­som is part of where mojo comes from.

AND IN DO­ING SO, AD­DRESS­ING THE PROB­LEMS THAT ARISE FROM CATS NOT BE­ING AL­LOWED TO EX­PRESS THEM­SELVES?

Ex­actly! This book is a long time com­ing be­cause I was al­ways re­ally hes­i­tant to put out sort of “Cats for Dum­mies,” you know. I didn’t want to just sit there and solve prob­lems. What I wanted to do is re­ally let you know where a lot of the prob­lems come from in the first place.

SO IS THAT WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO WRITE TO­TAL CAT MOJO THEN, THAT YOU WERE SEE­ING THE SAME PROB­LEMS COME UP OVER AND OVER AGAIN AND THE ROOT OF IT WAS A FUN­DA­MEN­TAL MIS­UN­DER­STAND­ING OF THE CAT’S NEEDS AND ESSENCE?

Yeah, I mean, there’s not a day that goes by—lit­er­ally not a day goes by—that I don’t get stopped on the street; that I don’t have some­body rec­og­nize and start hit­ting me with what’s go­ing on in their home. I re­al­ize that no mat­ter what I’ve done, whether it’s my show, or the other books, or videos, or lec­tures, or what­ever, there’s still a gap so I re­ally just wanted to fill that gap. It’s about en­rich­ing the re­la­tion­ship. It’s about get­ting you on board with the fact that you don’t own your cat, you don’t have a cat—you are in a re­la­tion­ship. [And even then,] where we start to go wrong is think­ing that a cat is just like any other re­la­tion­ship.

WHAT ARE THE TOP IS­SUES THAT PEO­PLE WANT YOUR HELP WITH?

It’s blood and guts and pee and poop—that’s my job in a nut­shell. It’s lit­ter box is­sues and ag­gres­sion—whether it’s ag­gres­sion to­wards peo­ple and other cats, or other an­i­mals or chil­dren or boyfriends or girl­friends, what­ever—it usu­ally will boil down to in­se­cu­rity and the frustration that comes from that in­se­cu­rity.

Lit­ter box is­sues are like snowflakes, you know; they all come from the same cloud but they’re all sort of dif­fer­ent. That’s why we spend so much time on prob­lem solv­ing in the book. When it comes to cat on cat ag­gres­sion, which is a big is­sue [and big sec­tion of the book], it comes down to the proper rein­tro­duc­tion or in­tro­duc­tion of two cats. It is so im­por­tant to ap­pre­ci­ate mojo when you’re talk­ing about in­tro­duc­ing an­other be­ing into a cat’s world.

I re­ally do be­lieve that if it’s not a med­i­cal is­sue—that’s where you start solv­ing any prob­lem, is get­ting a clean bill of health—if it’s not med­i­cal or if it’s not a mat­ter of phys­i­cal dis­com­fort or men­tal dis­com­fort, which also re­quires some­times some phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­ter­ven­tion— be­yond that it’s the mojo is­sue. It’s the con­fi­dence in their ter­ri­tory; it is ter­ri­to­rial anx­i­ety, and that’s why I spend the first chunk of the book on that, on the keys that un­lock that con­fi­dence.

AN IS­SUE WE FRE­QUENTLY HEAR IS, “MY CAT BITES RAN­DOMLY.” CAN YOU TOUCH UPON THAT?

There are some of the ob­vi­ous signs. All cats re­spond to over­stim­u­la­tion in dif­fer­ent ways, but with that said, the tail is the place to start. So many cats use the tail as al­most this sort of es­cape valve for the ex­tra en­ergy that’s be­ing put into the body by you. And so they get to this point where’s there’s that twitch to the tail and that grad­u­ates to a sort of mi­cro wag, and then you’re get­ting to the point where your cat’s tail is wag­ging, and at that point, you should have stepped away from the cat five min­utes ago. They are let­ting you know through the only way they have, which is through their sym­pa­thetic ner­vous sys­tem, to show you that they are fill­ing up like a bal­loon. A lot of over­stim­u­la­tion is pet­ting in­duced. You’re sit­ting there sort of mind­lessly pet­ting or watch­ing TV or what­ever and sud­denly you’re get­ting bit. The most you can do here is not freak out and not take it as this huge in­sult, which hap­pens a lot, but back it up and see what was go­ing on in that mo­ment...what signs did I miss? Other than the tail, there are some­times sub­tle signs that a cat is en­ter­ing into that sort of re­flex­ive fight or flight place: their ears start go­ing back; that thing I call “back light­ning” where the back starts to twitch a lit­tle bit; their tail starts to go; their eyes will be­gin to di­late—things like that, which are ab­so­lute, un­mis­tak­able signs of ten­sion.

A lot of cats have ten­den­cies to­wards pet­ting-in­duced over­stim­u­la­tion. The first thing to re­mem­ber is that it is the choice of their body not their minds. Of course those

where we start to go wrong is think­ing that a cat is just like any other re­la­tion­ship

things are tied to­gether but it’s a phys­i­o­log­i­cal re­sponse. So the worst thing that you can do is come up with all kinds of crazy re­la­tion­ship-based rea­sons why your cat hates you and while you’re there spin­ning your wheels, you’re not re­al­iz­ing that it was a phys­i­cal phe­nom­e­non that was hap­pen­ing. One of the sure ways of mit­i­gat­ing that is to stay away from the full body pet where you’re do­ing earto-tail over and over again. It be­comes this un­bear­able sen­sa­tion to a lot of cats. If you stick around the cheeks, around the fore­head, and under the chin, you’re not go­ing to over-stim­u­late your cat re­motely as of­ten.

I THINK MANY READ­ERS WILL BE SUR­PRISED TO HEAR THAT YOU DON’T AD­VO­CATE FOR FRE­QUENT DEEP CLEAN­ING OF THE LIT­TER BOX. WHY DON’T YOU REC­OM­MEND THE DEEP CLEAN?

When it comes to con­fi­dent own­er­ship of ter­ri­tory, you gotta re­mem­ber cats cre­ate what I call sign­posts. Sign­posts are usu­ally scent-soaked ar­eas that cats will be able to go to dur­ing the course of the day. They smell them­selves on it and they go, “that’s right I own this, movin’ on.” Soft beds are scent soak­ers; cat trees are scent soak­ers and scratch­ing posts are scent soak­ers as cats put a vis­ual and scent marker on those things. It is like a hu­man walk­ing through their house. You have framed pic­tures ev­ery­where that re­mind you [of your] be­long­ing in this life; that is what sign­posts are for cats. Now the lit­ter box is the king of all scent soak­ers. That is where they mark; it’s not just a place to elim­i­nate—it’s a place for your cat to iden­tify a key part of her own­er­ship of this ter­ri­tory. What we do then when we deep clean it is we flush it away, eras­ing all traces of signpost-ness. [Don’t] clean it to the point where you can’t smell any­thing.

WHAT DO YOU AD­VISE IN­STEAD? SCOOP THE LIT­TER BOX A COU­PLE TIMES A DAY AND THEN LEAVE IT THE HECK ALONE?

Right, and then look, ev­ery month or ev­ery how­ever of­ten, then go ahead, wash it out. Don’t use bleach, don’t use vine­gar, for God’s sake. You don’t have to clean it within an inch of its life. I have known clients that have done the deep clean­ing twice a week. If you’re greatly of­fended, I mean re­cy­clable plas­tic—get a new one af­ter a cer­tain amount of time. Make sure that your lit­ter boxes are not just scent soak­ers but that there is enough of them to be sign posts through­out the so­cially sig­nif­i­cant parts of the house.

SO HOW MANY PER CAT?

There’s that old for­mula: for ev­ery cat you have a lit­ter box plus one. [So 2 cats = three lit­ter boxes] I think that works well as a guide­line. I think it’s much more im­por­tant to take look at where you are fail­ing in the re­la­tion­ship com­pro­mise por­tion. And part of that is how many lit­ter boxes do you have AND where do you have them? When it comes to the signpost part of the equa­tion, you say­ing to me that you have three lit­ter boxes but all of them are in the garage, in the mud­room or all three of them are be­hind the wash­ing ma­chine, That serves your pur­poses be­cause you don’t want to look at a lit­ter box but that does not serve a cat’s mojo pur­poses. Again, it’s about your will­ing­ness and where you’re will­ing to go.

HOW CAN PEO­PLE TELL IF THEIR CAT HAS A MOJO IS­SUE?

I break cats down to these three ma­jor cat­e­gories. There is the Mo­jito Cat, the cat who is like the host of the party—you know, you knock on the door and they open it with a tray of drinks and say, “come on in, let me show you around.” There is the cat ver­sion of that—any hu­man walks in and they’re head-butting you, wrap­ping them­selves around your legs, and lead­ing you into the house.

There is the Napoleon Cat, and that’s the over-owner. Be­cause of lack of mojo, lack of con­fi­dence, lack of this sta­bil­ity in their world, they will over-own things. Those are the cats that will end up perime­ter mark­ing, pee­ing on

It’s blood and guts and pee and poop—that’s my job in a nut­shell.

all of the walls and win­dows. Those are the cats that tend to pick fights with other cats even though they’ve sent the mes­sage time and time again, “I’m the boss of you.” [Even when re­sponse is,] “Okay, fine, you’re the boss off me,” the next day it’s, “Hey I’m the boss of you”—over and over be­cause the root of it is that in­se­cu­rity, that feel­ing down in their bones that I don’t own this.

And then the other side of the coin is the Wallflower. The Wallflower is the cat who has the same is­sue, the lack of the feel­ing of own­er­ship of ter­ri­tory, but that does the op­po­site—they do their best to just dis­ap­pear. If they could be­come like a cat-coloured wall, they would do that. Or a wall-coloured cat. I mean they’re just giv­ing it up. One is tak­ing it by force and one is to­tally ab­di­cat­ing.

SO WOULD YOU USE THE SAME AP­PROACH FOR BOTH OF THESE CATS?

At the heart of it, it’s the same ap­proach. For in­stance, we con­nect to their an­ces­tral pur­pose with [sim­u­lated] kill-eat. If we get the Napoleon cat in a daily ses­sion of play [“killing” toys] to eat­ing, into groom­ing and sleep­ing and into start­ing again, and thus con­nect­ing them with their an­ces­tor, then they own it. They don’t have to over-own be­cause they gain that sense; where they “kill” some­thing, they own that spot. That gives them that sense of own­er­ship through do­ing the job that they have been put on this planet to do and also we get that spare static en­ergy out of them at the same time. And with the Wallflower, same, they gain con­fi­dence be­cause they re­al­ize their pur­pose. Liv­ing their bliss so to speak, we can draw them out of the closet, out from under the bed, into the mid­dle of a room and they can learn how to con­nect with the play/prey drive in them and by that, gain con­fi­dence.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE NUM­BER ONE MIS­UN­DER­STAND­ING PEO­PLE HAVE OF THEIR CAT’S NEEDS? WOULD YOU SAY THAT WOULD BE AN OWN­ER­SHIP OF TER­RI­TORY OR…?

Oh, I would say it’s much, much more ba­sic. I think that we are in a large way guilty of look­ing at cats through dog-coloured glasses. That we ex­pect from cats what we ex­pect from dogs, on a com­mu­nica­tive level, on a re­la­tional level, on a way that we think they should serve us and they should be able to quote un­quote speak to us in the way dogs do, and we set our­selves up for great dis­ap­point­ment.

SO AT THE HEART YOU THINK IT’S A FUN­DA­MEN­TAL MIS­UN­DER­STAND­ING OF THE CAT’S ESSENCE OR THE CAT’S CAT- NESS THEN.

Yeah, it’s the thought that, I mean, look, both dogs and cats have four legs and they both have fur, but past that it’s like ap­ples and grape­fruits, man. They are dif­fer­ent an­i­mals. We took dogs out of the wild and im­me­di­ately started turn­ing them into this an­i­mal that can do jobs for us, that look to us for all the an­swers in the world. We did that. But with cats, they were lit­er­ally along for the ride for thou­sands of years. They did a job, they did it in­cred­i­bly well, and we were like al­right, stick around; you keep us from dy­ing from rat poop in our food, and we’re do­ing great to­gether. So we didn’t bother chang­ing them in any way and then sud­denly we are an­gry at them for act­ing out in that way that only a hun­dred or 150 years ago was to­tally nor­mal be­hav­iour. The dif­fer­ence is, we took them from the out­side and put them in the in­side and said “now do things for me.”

SO WOULD YOU SAY THAT MAYBE THEN PEO­PLE DON’T REC­OG­NIZE THAT, TO A LARGE EX­TENT, CATS RE­TAIN THEIR WILD­NESS, THEIR AN­CES­TRAL QUAL­I­TIES?

We are at a very in­ter­est­ing mo­ment in our co-evo­lu­tion with cats. Up un­til this mo­ment I re­ally don’t con­sider cats to be fully do­mes­tic an­i­mals. I think that by treat­ing them as such, we are not only set­ting them up for fail­ure, but we are do­ing them a dis­ser­vice. To a large de­gree...our de­sire to live with cats is to live with the wild. You know. But then we only take it so far and then we ex­pect them to be do­mes­tic. And you can’t have both, you know. If there’s one thing that I want you to come away from this book with, it’s think­ing more about the re­la­tion­ship you are in than the cat you own. [In do­ing so,] you’re not just do­ing good by you and your cat, but you’re help­ing to spread an ap­proach that, in my point of view will keep mil­lions of cats from dy­ing ev­ery year.

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