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The Fundamental Flaw in How We Approach Cats

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How can you and your cat better co-exist? Cat behavioral expert Jackson Galaxy sheds some light on the topic.


Galaxy is the star of the Animal Planet TV series, My Cat from Hell, and one of the nation’s leading cat whisperers. He will be in town Sunday at Turner Hall Ballroom as his, and Kate Benjamin's, new book, Catify to Satisfy, comes out.

Galaxy says to successfully live with cats, you have to compromise. "This is a big compromise for many people - giving cats what they need from a design perspective, which of course plays into their behavior, and have it not completely offend your sensibilities at the same time."

Happy cats, he says, need a vertical world. "When a cat walks into a room, they are taking in from the floor to the ceiling and they are thinking, why can't I go there?" (Just Google "cat superhighway.")

Central places in the home that are scent marked are also very important to cats, a place that they recognize as mine. Galaxy says one of the key components to "cat mojo," or the thing that makes cats confident, is a sense of ownership of territory. Anything that retains scent is a signpost to ownership, he explains - such as a cat bed.

This is where litter boxes come in. "It is the king of all scent soakers. So when you have (a litter box) in a room... it raises (the cat's) confidence level," he says. "So, when I say to you, you need three litter boxes and your next move is to take three litter boxes side by side and put them in the garage, you are clearly not getting it."

Galaxy says the fundamental flaw in how we approach cats is that we look at them through "dog-colored glasses." "And we have for eons. And when I start discussing your cat’s problems with you, or your problems with a cat, it’s about your expectations of what they should be as a companion animal," he says.

"(For a long time), cats did one job, and they did this really well, which was to control rodent populations, and we left them alone," Galaxy says. "It is only now that we are trying to put demands on them... so we definitely need to have a little more patience and meet them at that communicative fence."

Cats are not going to do things to please you, he says. "That is not on their agenda, and it is very high on a dogs' agenda. And, we tend to take that as a insult as opposed to 'hey we took these guys out of the wild and said hey let's be friends.' We made demands on them that are not part of their genetic makeup."

Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.
Michelle was named WUWM's digital manager in August of 2021.