Cat tips from the man who wrote the book: TV’s Jackson Galaxy

In this Nov. 7, 2017 photo, TV personality Jackson Galaxy, from the Animal Planet series, "My Cat From Hell," poses for a portrait in New York to promote his latest book, "Total Cat Mojo: The Ultimate Guide To Life With Your Cat." (Photo by Brian Ach/Invision/AP)
“Dog-colored glasses” influence how people interact with cats, cat expert Jackson Galaxy told WTOP. But it’s unreasonable to expect them to be like dogs, he said, given how differently both species were conditioned over time. (Photo by Brian Ach/Invision/AP)

Cat stalking his feather toy at home.
It’s important to play with your cat every day, Galaxy said. And it’s equally important to understand that “the hunt is a lot of waiting.”

He advocates a method he calls “The Boil and Simmer”: “You bring them up to a boil for a couple of minutes where they run around like nuts, then you give them a break for a minute,” he explained. “Then up again, then a break, so that they are again physically mimicking the hunt that they would be experiencing outside.” (Thinkstock)

Black cat with a scratching post isolated on white
A lot of scratching posts don’t accommodate a cat’s innate needs, Galaxy said. “The cat needs to reach all the way up and pull down,” he said. “That’s how they exercise their upper chest. That’s how they really get rid of the dead sheaths of nail and leave a mark.

If they’re working on your chair or sofa, he explained, that’s because they pick things that have your scent. Double-sided sticky tape is fine, “but right next to that chair there has to be a sturdy and available scratching post for them,” he said.

It’s an example of his philosophy: Have a “yes” to go with a “no.” 

“Remember that a ‘yes’ is a way to enrich them and to better your relationship and to make them happy,” he said, “which should be at least part of the consideration.”

(Thinkstock)

In this Nov. 7, 2017 photo, TV personality Jackson Galaxy, from the Animal Planet series, "My Cat From Hell," poses for a portrait in New York to promote his latest book, "Total Cat Mojo: The Ultimate Guide To Life With Your Cat." (Photo by Brian Ach/Invision/AP)
If you’re going to adopt a kitten, the host of “My Cat From Hell” recommends adopting two. “Bringing up a kitten with no other cats and no other kittens, I think, is a mistake,” said Galaxy. He’s devoted a whole chapter in “Total Cat Mojo” to the issue of introducing cats to one another. (Photo by Brian Ach/Invision/AP)

elevated close up view of a hand giving a bowl of milk to a cat
When introducing cats, you only have one chance to make a first impression.

Start with exposing them to each other’s scent first, before they even see each other, Galaxy said. And make positive associations with it: Feed them on either side of a closed door. “The only time they smell food, they smell each other,” he said. “That’s the makings of a nice friendship.” (Thinkstock)

Cute purebred cat on the sofa
It’s important to remember that if you have a cat in your house, “you don’t ‘own’ a cat, you don’t ‘have’ a cat — you’re in a relationship with a cat,” Galaxy said.

“Cats are different than any other animal.  They’re still fairly domesticated and as such, you have to think about any other relationship — that it’s about compromising sometimes.” (Thinkstock)

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In this Nov. 7, 2017 photo, TV personality Jackson Galaxy, from the Animal Planet series, "My Cat From Hell," poses for a portrait in New York to promote his latest book, "Total Cat Mojo: The Ultimate Guide To Life With Your Cat." (Photo by Brian Ach/Invision/AP)
Cat stalking his feather toy at home.
Black cat with a scratching post isolated on white
In this Nov. 7, 2017 photo, TV personality Jackson Galaxy, from the Animal Planet series, "My Cat From Hell," poses for a portrait in New York to promote his latest book, "Total Cat Mojo: The Ultimate Guide To Life With Your Cat." (Photo by Brian Ach/Invision/AP)
elevated close up view of a hand giving a bowl of milk to a cat
Cute purebred cat on the sofa

NEW YORK (AP) — 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 the new show “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?

“It’s that inner confidence thing,” Galaxy told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “You don’t have a cat. You are in a relationship with an animal. That’s important to remember.”

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 speak 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.”

WTOP’s Jack Moore and Jack Pointer contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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