Let's just establish that right here at the beginning. It's not that I hate them (though I like to joke around that I do), they just aren't the pet for me. I prefer dogs: lovable, goofy, affectionate, jelly-belly dogs. Preferably beagles. So nobody was more surprised than me when I got addicted to a show on Animal Planet called My Cat From Hell.
Jackson Galaxy is a rocker. You can tell because he has weird facial hair and lots of tattoos! Also, he drives a pink car. But he is also a cat behaviorist and with the help of a camera crew and millions of corporate dollars, he travels the country helping train cats and their owners (mostly their owners) to resolve disastrous cat-related situations.
Aww, isn't he adorbs?
Some cats attack one or more of their owners. Others run out of the front door anytime it is opened. Some lie in wait for unsuspecting human victims, or attack other cats and dogs in the house. And then there is the pee--on the floor, on the bed, on the clothes. Pretty much anywhere you can think of it, these cats will pee there. But the point is that they are all acting out, sometimes violently, and the effects are more than just some scratched arms and ruined clothes. People's relationships with each other are impacted by the cat's behavior and when things are starting to fall apart--here comes Jackson to save the day!
What I really liked about the show is that Jackson makes it clear that the cats are not acting a certain way because they are crazy or even ill-treated, it's because the humans usually lack a fundamental understanding of cats' instincts. Cats are made to hunt and kill things. That's basically it. Your average house cat may be "domesticated," but you can't breed out instinct. They want to hunt, to pounce, to mark their territory, and to feel that the home is theirs. And it's when these instincts are not given appropriate outlets that cats...well, turn on you. WITH CLAWS.
AHHHH! Why, Fluffy, whyyyyy?
Jackson visits a home three times: first to diagnose the problem and suggest ways that the humans can alter their behavior and interaction with the cat. The humans need to change and then the cat will follow is basically the theme. Then Jackson returns a few weeks later to check in on their progress. He will usually make a few more suggestions and assign more "homework," and then come back again a few weeks later to check in one final time. And darn it if the cats don't respond.
At the end of the day, the cats aren't evil* and aren't acting out for no reason, it's because the humans haven't adjusted their behavior to what the cats need. And sometimes it comes down to something as simple as playing with the cat every day with a certain type of toy so they get an outlet for their hunting instinct (prey and play). Sure, some cats are more aggressive than others, but there are tricks like rearranging the furniture or investing in certain products that can help the problem.
As someone who has had little long-term interaction with cats, I find My Cat From Hell fascinating. And Jackson is a really nice, funny person (and NOT your typical reality over the top character) who genuinely loves cats and their owners. Or as he likes to say "human guardians." Or as the cats like to say, "human servants."