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Cat whisperer Jackson Galaxy in a category of his own

Jackson Galaxy, author and host of Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell, is the definition of a cat whisperer. Since the show premiered in 2011, the cat behaviorist has come to the aid of many cat owners, assisting them in working out various cat-astrophes and bringing harmony to homes with sparring feline frenemies. Galaxy’s new book Catification, written with feline environment designer Kate Benjamin, takes a paws-on approach to renovating your house into a cat-friendly home.

I spoke with Galaxy shortly before his book’s release earlier this month.

Did you have pets when you were a kid? I grew up with a dog. We had a family dog. That’s it, no cats. It wasn’t until I started working at animal shelters in the early ’90s that I began taking an interest in cats.

In Catification, you say the cat and dog populations in U.S. households are 95.6 million and 83.3 million, respectively. Is that because more of the cat households have multiples? Yes, that is part of the statistic. I think it’s 30 percent or so of all homes that have cats have multiples.

Were there ever other titles for Catification under consideration? Not even one. As a songwriter, I always wrote from the title down. I would start with the title and then write the song. The same thing with the book. The book was Catification and then it was written from there. 

How and where did you learn about cats in such detail? It was … book learning and street learning. Back in the early ’90s, there just weren’t that many resources out there in terms of the inner lives of cats. It’s almost like when you’re stranded on a desert island and you have one book with you and you read the hell out of that book for however long you are stranded. I had a couple of really important books with me and I just tore through them. I would develop theories back then. I had a hundred cats back there (in the animal shelter), and I thought, “I’m going to go back there and start working with these guys to see if I can get consensus from these cats if it works for them or not.” That’s how this all came about. Almost every process that I use now was all formed from that era.

In many ways, Catification is a workbook, with an emphasis on homework. There is a lot of carpentry involved in the process. Do you think the average cat guardian is capable of creating such living spaces — or are you aware of carpenters who specialize in catifying? If I did my job right, this book should appeal to people like me, who can’t even hammer a nail without breaking their hand. There are projects in there that we call “No Excuses Catification.” As long as you can go through your garage and find a planter, you can do something. As long as you have a bookcase that you can put a bed on top of, you can make it happen. You don’t need to make it look like it does in the book, but if you do, all the power to you. There’s not a lot of catification contractors out there.

Before becoming a cat behaviorist, you were a musician. Do you still find time to play? Unfortunately, not a whole lot. I’m still trying to find that balance. When I moved to LA, I broke up my last band because obviously we weren’t going to travel. I decided I would come here and do more studio work, cutting songs that had been sitting around and get them out there. Then the show happened and I am working all the time. I basically come home, spend some time with my wife and the animals, and go to bed. 

What does hosting My Cat From Hell mean to you? It means that we are continuing to elevate the status of cats in the worldview, which means that more cats get adopted and less cats die. That’s the bottom line for everything I do. At the end of the day, if the animals win, I keep doing it. Every year since my book Cat Daddy came out, I’ve been doing book tours, and we’re about to launch my next one. Every time I go out there, the feedback I get is that this TV show has saved lives.

Does your driver’s license read Jackson Galaxy? Of course it does. What else would it say?

What is the genesis of the name? Back in the day I thought, if somebody could be Ziggy Stardust, I could be Jackson Galaxy. I just did it. It was literally an impulse. It was one of those things where I thought, “That sounds cool.” Done. I can be a little impulsive sometimes.

On Stage

Jackson Galaxy will appear at 7 p.m. on Oct. 19, at the Pabst Theater, 144 E. Wells St., Milwaukee. Tickets are $29.50 and include an autographed copy of Catification. Call 414-286-3663 or visit pabsttheater.org to order.

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