10 Things About What I Learned From Watching ‘My Cat From Hell’

Because often it’s the humans, not the animals who need a change of heart.

I was going to write an informative post about winter blues and how to combat them. I was about halfway through the editing phase when my WordPress app decided to crash and leave me at 11:50 PM with nearly nothing to post.

I was so extremely frustrated that I was back to the drawing board and quite frankly I was way too frustrated to finish the article again. But mostly, I was mad at myself because if I had started this earlier I might’ve been able to be more diligent in getting the post up quicker. Earlier though, I have a confession to make, I became extremely fascinated watching the reruns of the show ‘My Cat from Hell’ . So there I was, cursor blinking rapidly when I literally said ‘fuck it!’ and decided I would write about that tonight.

For those of you who haven’t seen this show which ran for nearly 7 years, it chronicles a Cat behaviorist by day, musician by night, Jackson Galaxy. He looks like he belongs somewhere in between being a member of Fall Out Boy to a biker gang-Hell’s Angels. The premise of the show features Jackson visiting with cat-owning families who are at their wit’s end dealing with a variety of problems, from food stealing, biting, litter box troubles, and more. Galaxy interviews family members, meets and assesses the problem cat(s), and then gives each family homework to complete before his next visit. He checks in on the families throughout the rehabilitation process to he can see how his advice is being implemented and to offer further tips and tricks to help turn these bratty cats into model citizens. 

As a dog person, I could admit I really didn’t take the time to understand what makes felines tick. This show has given me a good idea about why cats react the way they do and here are 12 things I learned.

1. A tail that’s lifted vertically, high in the air is one confident kitty!– Most of the time, this tail position indicates that the cat feels comfortable and open to interaction. However, please not in certain situations– like warding off a strange cat in his own territory – a high tail can also show a willingness to attack.

2. You know the Black Cat arched up like you see in Halloween posters? That’s a scared potentially aggressive cat- When a cat arches it’s back like that it’s trying make itself bigger as a form of defense. When a cat is fearful or angry to the point of being willing to fight, they’ll often make themselves as big as possible in various ways. A classic example is when a cat puts its back all the way up and stands sideways to the threat – a cat with their back arched in this position is telling you they’re terrified.

3. If they expose any part of their bellies or stretch out on their back they’re comfortable & trust you-The exposed belly is a sign of comfort and trust, but it is not necessarily an invitation for a belly rub as many people think so and get clawed. Just because they trust you doesn’t mean they want to be touched by you.

4. Ears tell the whole story-Its a great place to look for clues about a cat’s mood. Normal, forward ears indicate a cat that’s feeling confident, relaxed, or engaged. When a cat’s ears stand straight up, the cat is increasing their exposure, and you may be fooled into thinking it’s at ease; instead, sometimes the high, erect ear position indicates alertness or a desire to play. A cat with ears turned back is usually a good sign that a cat is feeling angry or fearful.

5. Apparently letting a cat sniff your glasses is a good way for them to see you’re not a threat without getting near them- Galaxy does this thing where whenever he encounters a new cat, he takes his glasses off and allows the cat to sniff them this way the cat is getting his scent without him infringing upon the cats’ personal space. It helped him to gage how receptive the cat was to interacting with him.

6. Slow blinking is a GOOD thing- Galaxy taught me that cats blink slowly to show affection and relaxation. If a cat blinks slowly at you, they are not threatened by you – in fact, they trust you. To bond with a cat, Galaxy open initiated the trust gesture by blinking slowly back at them.

7. I thought cats could sense my allergies and therefore wanted to be around me because of this-I was wrong. Although people can use direct eye contact to show affection, through Galaxy I learned that most cats actually find it threatening. That’s why in social settings, a cat usually gravitates toward the one person in the room who is trying to ignore it, such as me.

8. Cats are predators by nature know when they’re overstimulated in play and back off-When cats see something move (whether a mouse, cat toy, or human hand), they are hardwired to pursue it. Closer and closer, they inch forward until they reach arousal threshold-then they pounce and kill. One of the most helpful hints Galaxy gave on this show was to stay still. Literally freeze. This stop-action interrupts the inbred stalking pattern.

9. Audio Clues Help You Determine The Mood-Purring usually occurs during contentment and may also be a comfort-seeking behavior when the cat is recovering from illness or close to death. High-pitched gurgling or chatting indicates friendliness and an openness to socialize with. Growling, hissing, or spitting are emphatic warnings to stay away — at least until the cat has calmed down. Caterwauling is a very loud, guttural sound that cats (especially males that have not been neutered) make when threatened by other cats. This sound is common in deaf cats.

10. Provide LOTS of cat trees, and shelving for confidence is KEY- 90% of the episodes in which I watched featured Galaxy clueing in families on one major thing their homes were missing and that was a space for cats to climb and observe their space from above. Shelves and cat trees helped to make the cats be more confident and also outgoing. Having a space where they can retreat to and yet still be a part of the action observing was very helpful in rehabilitating the cats on the show and teaching them healthier habits. 

So is it worth watching reruns? YES! As with most animal rehabilitation-themed reality shows, there aren’t a lot of surprises in store here. Most of the problems the families have with their pets seem to stem from a lack of rigorous play, training, and reinforcing positive behaviors. There is usually one member of the family giving the ultimatum of it’s either me or the cat and luckily there’s always a compromise at the end. A common theme in the show is there’s always one person of the family who struggles with the advice Galaxy gives them. Just when you think the families will not succeed in working together to rehabilitate their cat it all comes together and turns out right in the end. It’s your typical reality TV show with a few overdramatic moments but ultimately I found sincere joy in seeing these grumpy felines adapt to a cuddlier and happier way of life with their human companions. It’s also interesting hearing Galaxy interpret and explain the different ways cats express themselves so that humans can better understand their signals. Proving once more, it is often times humans that need the training and not the animals.

What reruns do you like to watch most? Leave a comment below and let me know!

3 thoughts on “10 Things About What I Learned From Watching ‘My Cat From Hell’”

    1. Oh man! Well it’s super funny cause I never knew cats were so easy to figure out really, I just thought there were purposely more standoffish than dogs. Learned that it wasn’t the case from that show. In just about every situation it was neurological or just the cat having no constructive ways to conduct their energy. What kind of cats do you have? How old are they?

      1. My kitty boys are smoke Persians. They are eight-and-a-half, and will be nine on July 1st, next. I had the same experience, learning how nasty cat behaviors are often corrected by creating highways for them to escape each other if conflict arises or they are insecure. Of course, I also learned that all cats from hell are that way because people are ignorant of cat needs! LOL!

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