Jackson Galaxy continues to be an inspiration for me. Why? The fellow big-shouldered, bald-headed cat guy is living his destiny, and I aim to do the same as it applies to my life. As I pointed out in a post last month, the host of Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell and the author of Cat Daddy is clearly using all he’s learned to live the life that The Big Overarching Almighty Whatever has in mind for him. I’ve known similar times in my life, but I continue to learn and grow into myself, with Galaxy as one of my guides.
Since my phone conversation with Galaxy in late June, I’ve turned several of the ideas he and I talked about into Cat Dandy columns, including one about how I see my cat, Thomas, as my friend. I’ve also taken to heart some of his advice about helping cats, and in early September I’m scheduled to attend a volunteer orientation at Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation. I couldn’t include all that I wanted in my initial post about our interview in late June, so here are more excerpts.
During my time at Catster I’ve been reminded that a lot of people have strong ideas about cats — and that some people can be quick to condemn anyone who disagrees with them. It’s the exception rather than the rule, but it drives me to distraction nonetheless when people heap shame on those who do things in a different way. So I asked Galaxy his feelings on such behavior and what we might do to get past it.
He began by saying there is a good side to people who voice strong opinions online: It shows that they care, and it also indicates that those people’s animals will spend their entire lives in a home rather than in a shelter.
Just the same, he says to such people, "Get out there and prove it" by doing work at a shelter, or trap-neuter-return, or anything that helps fight overpopulation.
He mentioned a commenter on his YouTube channel who repeatedly advocates declawing surgery. The person cites studies and statistics, Galaxy said, while using scientific words to describe the various parts of feet and claws involved, such as "distal phalanx."
"That attitude is removed from the animal’s experience enough to be dangerous,” he said. "It’s like they’re spending all their spare time researching cat anatomy," while ignoring a basic fact about how the procedure affects cats: "It hurts!"
Such an approach also reflects a worldview in which humans — because we’re the dominant species on the planet — are entitled to do essentially whatever we want to other animals.
"She [the commenter] is talking about dominion," he said, as in, "’We have the authority to do to them what we want.’ A lesson that animals can teach us is that we’re not the be-all-end-all. It’s not all about us. We’re not the center of the universe."
Maintaining the focus on animals is crucial, he said. He cites an example from My Cat From Hell where condemnation was definitely miscast. It involved a couple named Lucas and Candice and a 23-year-old cat named Pump. Pump had been adopted from an ex-girlfriend of Lucas, and after having some issues with the cat, Candice bonded with Pump and agreed to keep him.
Soon after filming ended, though, she sent Pump to live with her mother-in-law — and that started a firestorm on the web. The fury was pointless, Galaxy said, because in the end, Pump was in a good home with a person who loved him. The people who were so angry considered Candice’s broken promise more than they considered the well-being of the cat — which made no sense.
“It’s easy to succumb to the emotions of condemnation; much harder to expand our circle of love and access the bigger picture,” Galaxy wrote on his website after the outpouring of emotion over Pump. (Our own JaneA Kelley agreed in a post after that show aired.)
On a recent book tour for Cat Daddy, Galaxy said, some of the audiences were hundreds of people strong. He said the energy was remarkable, mostly because cat lovers have far fewer chances to express their species love in public than, say, dog lovers.
"People who really adore cats never have an excuse to get out and celebrate that," he said. "There’s no cat park — no cat playdate."
Because of this, we as a society "allow the stereotype to perpetuate of crazy cat people who never leave their homes, and who sit rocking slowly in the dark while petting their cats." (I addressed the tired idea of "cat people vs. dog people" in last week’s column.)
Just the same, people who love cats can do themselves and animals a disservice by playing into the stereotype too much.
"There’s a level of species-ism," he said, "that says if you love one [kind of animal] then you don’t like others."
Galaxy encourages people to be more inclusive, "because it’s about paying our karmic debt to animals."
People who take a more exclusionary approach are "acting sort of from a luxury standpoint. The bottom line is that if we all don’t have at least one cat in our life, they will be dying in shelters or on the street, because that’s the extent of the overpopulation crisis.”
"If you say only this type of person deserves a cat, then you’re missing that."
To be sure, Galaxy says, "Own your inner crazy cat lady, but bring more people into the club. Don’t celebrate and exclude others at the same time."
Galaxy lives with eight cats and two dogs. Three cats are his. Velouria is 21. She’s his last link to his life in Boulder, Colorado, where he first worked in a shelter. Chuppy (also known as Chippy, or Chips) is 19. "Her job is to sleep." Caroline ("She’s our spooky one") is four. She was adopted as a feral, and she gets to teach other ferals that they can be pets as well, Galaxy said.
Three cats he "adopted" when he and his girlfriend moved in together. They are Pishi (which is a Farsi word for "kitty cat"), Barry (as in Barry White — so named because of his deep-voiced meow), and Lily (Barry’s sister).
The final cats, two ferals who live outdoors, are called Sophie and Oliver.
The two dogs are Rudy, a blind Jack Russell Terrier who’s about 8 or 9 and who Galaxy has had for a while, and Mooshka, a 65-pound Chow mix brought to the house by his girlfriend.
Shooting for a new season begins pretty soon, in the fall, and when we spoke in late June he was casting for those episodes. Galaxy says they will necessarily be within the continental U.S., but beyond that he’d love to bring the show to the United Kingdom, Australia, and South America, among other places. Cities that might be included in the upcoming season include Austin, Boston, Chicago, and San Diego.
"Austin is practically a no-kill city," he said. "Anywhere where the shelter scene turns me on is where I want to be."
Galaxy said one of the best questions he got on his book tour was, "If you were reincarnated as an animal, what animal would you like that to be?"
His answer? An elephant.
"Their mystery is so amazingly deep — their communication skills, their inner life," he said.
Rather than studying elephants to understand them better, he said, "I’d just want to be a part of that."
What animal would you like to be if you were reincarnated? What’s your experience with flame wars? Or stereotypes about “cat people?” What do you think of Jackson Galaxy? Say so in the comments!
If Cat Dandy were reincarnated as an animal, he’d like to be a seal:
About Keith Bowers: This broad-shouldered, bald-headed, leather-clad motorcyclist also has passions for sharp clothing, silver accessories, great writing, the arts, and cats. This career journalist loves painting, sculpting, photographing, and getting on stage. He once was called “a high-powered mutant,” which also describes his cat, Thomas. He is associate editor at Catster and Dogster.