Catify to Satisfy: A Q&A With Cat Expert Jackson Galaxy

Just in time for Halloween, I’ve interviewed Jackson Galaxy, mojo-licious host of Animal Planet’s wildly popular My Cat From Hell and co-author of the new book, Catify to Satisfy. The twenty-minute chat was in advance of his upcoming appearance at next month’s Miami Book Fair, for which I’m preparing a small Miami Herald piece. 

True opportunist that I am, I thought I’d offer you some of the interview’s juicier outtakes here on Dolittler. 

Is your cat "from hell"? Let's hope not. But if s/he is, Jackson's probably got a solution.

Is your cat "from hell"? Let's hope not. But if s/he is, Jackson's probably got a solution.

Lots of off-topic digressions, conversational wormholes and pseudo-veterinary detours ensued in the [heavy] editing of this transcript. Due to the semi-impromptu nature of this interview, however (I was on the Stairmaster when Jackson’s peeps called), you’ll only get the stuff I managed to capture on paper. Enjoy!

PK: I have one very indiscreet question for you: What is vet medicine doing wrong? 

JG: Oh My God you’re going to get me into so much trouble!!

PK: OK, OK! [insert evil laugh here] 

JG: And that evil laugh doesn’t help! 

PK: OK so maybe you can tell me what veterinary medicine is doing right.

JG: Veterinary medicine is moving in a good direction. Vets now know they're not seeing enough cat patients –– and that’s bad for cats. They’re starting to understand that getting the cat to the vet is traumatic and that once they’re there it’s twice as traumatic. This awareness is definitely a good thing for vets. 

PK: I know it’s better at the national level but it’s so frustrating that we’re still so behind the times –– especially in my area. Did you know we have zero cat hospitals here?

JG: What’s that all about, do you think?

PK: In my area it’s probably to do with the fact that there are a lot of Hispanics and people from developing countries who have a different cultural conception of cats. I’m Cuban so I know what I’m talking about. Lots of my family think this way. They just don’t conceive of cats as indoor animals. Cats live out-of-doors. They fend for themselves. They go to the vet only when things go really wrong. If they’re lucky.

JG: You know I just traveled through Latin America and Asia and I found the same thing. But we have to be able to look at what they’re doing and say, you know, it’s not necessarily wrong. Here in America cats are part of the indoors but that’s not necessarily the case everywhere. We have to be able to look at that model and see what about it works for them so we can make things better for cats over here.  

PK: That makes a lot of sense. I mean, I definitely don’t lecture my clients who think this way. I’m just grateful I get a chance to see these cats at all. But back to the vet visit thing, I agree it’s scary in here for cats. That’s why in our upcoming renovations we’re building a whole separate cat side so they don’t ever intersect with dogs.

JG: Designing for cats is definitely starting to happen in vet hospitals –– building separate spaces for cats, making things more comfortable for them, quieter … 

(A digression about Jackson’s Catify to Satisfy book ensued. So you know, this book is all about designing your house so it appeals more to the heights-, tunnel- and obstacle-loving felines it hosts –– which, incidentally, makes it look like you’re playing a cat-sized game of Chutes and Ladders in its rafters. You must get it if you live with cats!) 

PK: So what else would you say to veterinarians if you had the chance?

JG: It’s funny that you ask because at the beginning, when I was starting out, I couldn’t get very many vets to listen to what I had to say. Now vets are starting to look outside their own practices for help on cat issues. Back to biologically appropriate cat issues [refers back to my question for The Miami Herald], I would hope they’d at least start to agree on issues surrounding nutrition. 

PK: Good luck! We can’t even talk about nutrition among ourselves without raising our voices. I mean, I can’t even mention raw food diets in front of veterinarians. There’s an incredible degree of intolerance and close-mindedness out there on the subject of nutrition.

JG: I think it’s inevitable that when we all talk about what cats really need –– about what’s biologically correct –– we’ll realize that we’re getting to the same place. If we take [biological needs] as our starting point, then it’ll be indisputable what’s right. From that point forward, as professionals, we make our own choices. 

[At this point we’re interrupted by Jackson’s PR people, informing me that my time is up.]

PK: No problem! I think I got more than my twenty-minutes’ worth anyway. See you next month!

-Dr. Patty Khuly