Jackson Galaxy’s deep laugh punches through the conversation.
The man with the unusual moniker and the talent to help “problem” cats is delighted to be coming to Purrfect Pals’ Second Chances luncheon on June 8 to help support the local cat rescue.
Jackson, who’s also known as the “Cat Daddy,” is the host and the executive director of the popular Animal Planet program My Cat From Hell and a two-time New York Times best-selling author, and an advocate for felines worldwide.
For the last two decades, Jackson has been a cat behavior and wellness consultant, helping felines across the country. Jackson discovered his passion for cats and his unique ability to help them while on staff at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley for the better part of a decade. He worked with cats both in the shelter, as well as in the homes of guardians threatening to send their cats to the shelter.
“I didn’t grow up with cats, but I always loved animals,” he explained. “We had goldfish, and when I was in eighth grade, we finally got a dog. I didn’t start spending time with cats until I was in college.”
The lifelong musician wasn’t born with a name that harkened back to an 80s hair band; “Jackson Galaxy” was the name of a CD that he’d come up with. “Probably fifty percent of the people I talk to say, ‘Hey, you’re the cat guy,’” he said, laughing.
Jackson’s first position with cats was at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley. “It hit me – this is what I should be doing,” he recalled. “The sheer volume, being around so many animals at the same time…This is my home. It was surreal. You wouldn’t expect to figure this out ‘late’ in life, but I’d been trying to support myself as a musician, taking on pretty much every crappy, dead-end, meaningless job, and I wanted to do something where I could do some good. When I saw the ad in the newspaper, I thought, ‘What better way to make a difference?’”
And more than two decades later, what a difference he has made! Jackson, who was always highly sensitive with people and their energy, discovered that it was natural for him to apply what he knew as a music artist to his relationship with animals. “I didn’t come at it with a scientific attitude,” he said. “I was just observing. I took what I knew how to do.”
Jackson admires many animal scientists, including Jane Goodall and Mark Bekoff. “They connect animals to the human emotional experience in a way that gets humans invested,” he said. “The more time we think about cats as others, as in other species, the more distant we are from them. A book like ‘Fix Your Cat For Dummies’ removes the individuality of the animal. Science does have room for the empathetic angle. I really believe that working with any species, whether it’s human or animal, there has to be room for both science and empathy.”
While Jackson started out by calling himself a “cat behavior consultant,” he found that this was too limiting to describe what he actually did. “There was no other box for me to put myself,” he said. “Then I became well-known as a behaviorist, but that’s so reductive, so I moved away from the term. You can’t call a human therapist a ‘behaviorist!’”
One of the most rewarding parts of Jackson’s job is helping people realize the importance of their relationship with their cats.
“The cool thing about my job is when clients realize that it’s fifty-fifty between them and their cats; it’s a relationship, and all relationships function under certain rules,” he said. “Just because one has four legs and one has two and one has more power, that doesn’t mean it’s not still a relationship.”
While My Cat From Hell has grown in popularity with each season, when Jackson first started filming the program, he did have a few concerns.
“The name wasn’t my idea,” he said. “I was concerned about that and my work seeming cartoonish. I was worried about cats on TV and whether we’d capture them well. But the argument to have a title like that made sense to me. At the time, there weren’t an cat programs like it on TV. This show has been attracting people who don’t even like cats.
“I would say that about 90% of the cases on the show – and I’ve done over 150 – they’ve all been really satisfying. Even if we don’t “fix” the cat, there’s a level of eye opening that happens from a client and audience standpoint that’s incredibly satisfying,” he said.
One of those cases, “Luxe the 911 cat,” went viral. “We grabbed the cameras and went up there,” he recalled. “I absolutely fell in love with Luxe, despite his serious problems. I’ve never been taken to the mat so sincerely by a case. I had adoration for him, but he was clearly the most challenging animal I’ve ever met. I took him out of the home and he’s in a new home now. He’s just chemically and neurologically dangerous; something is short-circuiting. I wouldn’t feel right putting him in a home, so he’s at a place where he’s getting amazing care and he has a great life with people who understand him and deal with his shortcomings. Who knows, I might wind up with him.”
Long before people knew who he was, Jackson had published his book, Cat Daddy, which told his personal story and why he was inspired to work with animals. “I give cats the credit for me being here today,” he said. “My own issues with addiction and how close I was to killing myself in many different ways, there’s a karmic debt that I owe to them. Without them, if it weren’t for taking that job at the humane society, I would’ve been dead 20 years ago. With the exception of my wife, and she gets this, too – animals are why I’m here. They give me all of the gasoline in my tank.”
Jackson loves organizations like Purrfect Pals and he’s excited to host their Second Chances Luncheon on Thursday, June 8.
“I love everything about Purrfect Pals,” he said. “I enjoy celebrating the people who dedicate themselves to animal welfare. It’s a never-ending cycle of giving your heart, time, and sweat to these animals. As soon as you save one, you’re on to another. Any chance that I have to go into an environment and let them know, hey, they’re loved and appreciated. You’re doing the work that will get us to the promised land. These are my people – it’s where I come from.”
Jackson applauds Purrfect Pals’ mission to help senior and special needs cats. “You get so much from adopting a senior or special needs cat,” he said. “Don’t think of it as a sacrifice – you’re not an animal martyr by bringing them home. Adopting these cats, you’ll ask: who rescued who?”
Jackson and his wife share their lives with five indoor cats: Pishy, Caroline, Lily, Gabby, and Velouria, three semi-feral cats who live in their garage and catio: Oliver, Ernie, and Sophie, three feral cats: Eddie, Lucius, and Archie, three dogs: Audrey, Mooshka, and Pasha, and 20-something Sammy the box turtle. “He was my mom’s turtle and she recently passed away,” he said. “We have an indoor enclosure for him and we’re landscaping an outdoor area for him, too.”
Animal Planet premiered My Cat From Hell in 2011 and it was an immediate hit. Jackson followed this success with a 2012 memoir, Cat Daddy: What the World’s Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Life, Love, and Coming Clean. Two years later, his second book, Catification: Designing a Happy & Stylish Home for Your Cat (and You!), co-authored with cat style expert Kate Benjamin, reached #1 on the New York Times Animal Bestseller list. Their second collaboration, Catify to Satisfy: Simple Solutions for Creating a Cat-Friendly Home, published in Fall 2015, was also a bestseller. Jackson’s latest book, Total Cat Mojo, is due out later this year.
Jackson also co-designed a line of innovative cat items, from toys to carriers, called the Jackson Galaxy Collection. He’s also intensifying his work for animals through the Jackson Galaxy Foundation, whose mission is to better the lives of at-risk animals by transforming the places they live and helping the people who care for them. Learn more at www.jacksongalaxyfoundation.org.
Purrfect Pals has been helping felines throughout Washington State for more than a quarter of a century. The organization was founded on the principle that “every cat matters” and it’s their priority to rescue those cats and kittens who need their help the most.
To register for the Second Chances Luncheon and meet Jackson Galaxy, visit this link today!
Let Purrfect Pals and Jackson Galaxy Inspire you on June 8th!
Please join us for the first annual Purrfect Pals Second Chances Luncheon! Guest will enjoy a delicious gourmet vegetarian lunch while learning about our new behavior rehabilitation program. Inspirational speakers will include Jackson Galaxy! There is no charge to attend the luncheon, but a minimum donation of $150 is suggested. For more information or to register email email@example.com.