Written by: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor
I have been a fan of Jackson Galaxy’s show on Animal Planet, My Cat From Hell, for about a year now. Galaxy—a cat behaviorist by day, rock musician by night—helps families with problem cats. He looks pretty much the opposite of what you’d expect from a cat behaviorist: a big, bearded guy covered in tattoos and piercings. Yet he displays an understanding of cat behavior and psychology that can’t be disputed.
My own history with cats is somewhat complicated. About five years ago, I was staying with my then-boyfriend’s brother and sister-in-law when I was attacked by their two Siamese cats while getting ready for a shower. I won’t get into the graphic details of the scene, but let’s just say it looked like something out of a Hitchcock movie. By the time someone came and opened the bathroom door to rescue me, I had scratches on my chest, back, hands, and legs. Blood running down the shower drain? Yep, I had that too. Needless to say, for several years thereafter, I was extremely skittish around cats. A few years later, when I decided to get a pet of my own, I realized that a dog wouldn’t work well with my lifestyle. (I live in a high-rise apartment building, and I couldn’t see myself going out in the rain and snow to walk the dog. So I went to my local animal shelter and explained the situation, told them that I needed a cat who was very mellow and calm.
I wound up with Annabel, a dilute calico who may just be, in my humble opinion, the most ridiculously sweet, affectionate animal ever. I’ve had her for two years now, and I love her dearly, but even now, I find myself getting fearful about certain things. I take her to a groomer to get her claws clipped because I’m afraid to do it myself. I won’t pick her up; instead, I have to try to lure her into my lap when I need to take her to the vet or the groomers. (I can’t tell you how many appointments I’ve had to reschedule because of it.) So even though I have a cat who is basically happy and healthy, I am still a person with cat problems.
So it is from that perspective that I read Galaxy’s book, Cat Daddy: What the World’s Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Life, Love, and Coming Clean. There was also a more basic reason: I’ve been in a pretty hard-core reading slump lately, and I’ve been looking for things to read that are different than my usual fare.
The description, courtesy of Amazon:
Cat behaviorist and star of Animal Planet’s hit television show My Cat from Hell, Jackson Galaxy, a.k.a. “Cat Daddy,” isn’t what you might expect for a cat expert (as The New York Times noted, with his goatee and tattoos he “looks like a Hells Angel”). Yet Galaxy’s ability to connect with even the most troubled felines—not to mention the stressed-out humans living in their wake—is awe-inspiring. In this book, Galaxy tells the poignant story of his thirteen-year relationship with a petite gray-and-white short-haired cat named Benny, and gives singular advice for living with, caring for, and loving the feline in your home.
When Benny arrived in his life, Galaxy was a down-and-out rock musician with not too much more going on than a part-time job at an animal shelter and a drug problem. Benny’s previous owner brought the cat to the shelter in a cardboard box to give him up. Benny had seen better days—his pelvis had just been shattered by the wheels of a car—and his owner insisted he’d been “unbondable” from day one. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
An inspiring account of two broken beings who fixed each other, Cat Daddy is laced throughout with Galaxy’s amazing “Cat Mojo” advice for understanding what cats need most from us humans in order to live happier, healthier lives.
So first things first: it’s a memoir.
It’s a memoir, and we all know how I feel about memoirs.
When I first heard about the book, I was expecting it to be a little more informative, sort of a cat how-to manual. Even when I realized it wasn’t, I bought it anyway because I figured it would be a memoir about cats, which wouldn’t be so bad. And it wasn’t. Granted, Galaxy does go a little bit too much into the drugs-and-angst angle for my taste, but it gets better once Benny comes on the scene.
Benny, a cat who had been surrendered to the shelter where Galaxy worked with a broken pelvis, was labeled as “unbondable” by his owner. And in fact, Benny was a very difficult cat, even for someone as skilled and knowledgeable as Galaxy: temperamental, stubborn, unyielding. But the lesson Galaxy learns from Benny is ultimately one he uses with all the cats he works with: that we can’t expect cats to think like humans, so we humans have to think like cats; and that we need to work harder to empathize with our animals.
By far, the best part of this book is Galaxy’s description of the evolution of his relationship with Benny and the dynamic Benny had with the other cats in Galaxy’s household. At times funny, at times tragic, it’s the cat-focused stories that push the narrative along. I couldn’t relate when Galaxy talked about his struggles with drugs and anxiety. But I could relate when he talked about how much he loves his cats.
The book is filled with tips and tricks for dealing with cats. Unfortunately, I read the book on my Kindle, and what must have been text boxes in the original book showed up as random paragraphs in the electronic version. It might be better just to invest in the hard copy.
In the end, Galaxy’s book was not enough to sway me on memoirs. But it was enough to show me that my Jackson Galaxy fandom is going to continue for quite some time.