What I Learned From Binge-Watching “My Cat from Hell”


I’ve heard of Jackson Galaxy, of course. I saw him speak two years ago at the Cat Writers’ Association annual conference. I was impressed with his passion about cats and his dedication to making sure that cats found forever, loving, and well-matched homes.

I knew that he worked with people to help them understand cats and to improve what could be difficult situations. But I’ve never made time in my life to watch a lot of television, and I had never watched his show, My Cat From Hell. It seems that many other things were competing for my time.

Now, in our new house, we are able to stream Netflix, and I noticed the show was on the service. I was intrigued. So, I clicked.

I was immediately hooked and fascinated. Jackson knew his cats. He was working with a couple who had a particularly bad case with a small black cat. This cat was extremely fearful, always in full “fight or flight” mode, and could only be handled by one person.

Jackson did a bunch of fascinating things, and I learned a lot from watching this show. Some things I noticed I had been doing intuitively all along, but it was terrific to have these things pointed out and an explanation offered as to why they worked.

Here’s what I learned from the show. This episode dealt with an insecure cat, but the methods could help in many situations:

1. Make yourself small

Jackson initially met with the couple and then wanted to see the cat alone. The cat was in a bedroom, hiding under a bed. Jackson shut the door and got down on the floor next to the bed. He crouched inward to make his body as small as possible, thus conveying to the cat that he wasn’t a threat. The cat did lash out, once, but Jackson was able to make progress.

2. Make soft eyes

I’ve always done this intuitively, and it reinforced my knowledge to see it mentioned on the show. I spend a lot of time watching cats. It seemed to me they were happy and content when they made “soft eyes” (eyes almost slitted shut, with relaxed body language). So I would do the same thing back to the cat.

Turns out this is a good thing to do, according to Galaxy. This tells the cat that you’re relaxed, too, and you’re not a threat. Once Jackson made initial contact with this cat, he was able to quickly get to a point where he and the cat were making soft eyes at each other. That was a big deal with this cat, who was one of the most difficult cases Jackson Galaxy said he’d ever seen.

However, you never want to lock your wide eyes with their wide eyes, particularly with a frightened or stressed cat. That’s an invitation for escalation of fear or aggression.

3. Provide a circumference of height around the room

I found this insight really valuable, and so common sense that I was amazed I’d never thought of it. I know that cats love height and it makes them feel secure. I’ve always provided areas where cats can be up from the floor. But Jackson pointed out that this particular cat needed height options around the full circumference of a room. In other words, the cat needed height options close enough so that he could jump from item to item and never have to be on the floor. He actually had the couple rearrange some of the furniture in the room so that this was possible for the cat. This change made a huge difference in the cat’s confidence, which was evident at the end of the show.

There was a lot more, of course. Jackson is not only amazing at working with cats, he’s very good at working with people as well. That turned out to be crucial in another episode with a couple, in which the man was convinced that he didn’t like cats. Jackson was able to help him appreciate the household cats and bond with them.

I think I’ll be watching more television in the future, at least My Cat From Hell. I feel as if I can never learn enough about cats, and I love that these resources are out there.

Do you watch My Cat from Hell? What have you learned from the show? Do you put it into place for your cats? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr (cat fantasy novel out June 1), the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.

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