Play Therapy on My Cat From Hell – Oscar & Riley

Jackson had a lot to say about both Oscar and Riley, the two cats you saw in tonight’s episode of My Cat From Hell (season 3, episode 3).  So much, in fact, that broke up his remarks into two blog posts. This is the first, the second one is here.

This one is all about Play Therapy and Rehabilitating a cat out of a fearful association.

The next one will be about Jackson’s use of the holistic remedies he helped formulate, at work on these cases.

Let’s cut right to it for Jackson’s methods surrounding Play Therapy.

First up, Oscar, the Sphynx (guardians Travis and Diane).

What I wound up doing with Travis was, he had grown up on a farm and he didn’t know anything but running around watching cats outside.  He didn’t have an indoor cat in his life.  So now, not only does he have an indoor cat but it’s a Sphynx.  So he has to bathe the cat once a week, and there’s just a lot of grooming that goes on with a Sphynx.

But in terms of getting Oscar’s energy out of him, I gave him a Cat Catcher to use with Oscar, because having a mouse toy would approximate what he had seen on the farm, which was: cats chasing mice.  And it actually worked perfectly.

That Cat Catcher became Oscar’s favorite toy, because Travis knew how to play with that.

Next up, Riley (guardians Esther & Vincent).

One of the first things we had to do was make sure hand play was out of the picture.

Esther getting carved up by Riley had nothing to do with anything except the fact that she liked to play with her hands, and Riley didn’t know where to stop.  She would get overstimulated and just scratch up Esther.

So we relied on things like Neko Flies, like Da Bird, like laser pointers.  Remote things like mylar balls and furry mice.  No more hands.

Riley also kinda liked to fetch, so we had a little toy box of remote mice that Riley could play with.  But of course Riley didn’t like the box, Riley likes to be interactive with people.  So eventually those toys wound up coming out of the box and Esther and Vincent would have them in their pockets and that became distraction toys when Riley was being too wound up.


In the show, you saw Jackson discovered that Riley had been conditioned to become fearful of hands.  Here’s Jackson on how they re-conditioned (or as Jackson says, “counter-conditioned”) Riley, to make everyone’s lives easier.

In order to counter-condition Riley automatic reaction to hands, we had exercises which revolved around positive things with hands, which Vincent totally picked up on.

He would put freeze dried Bravo treats in his hand, and just play y’know, ‘guess which hand it’s in.’  And Riley would guess and nose around in that fist, and out would come the treat, which was great.

  1. Linda Panikowski   July 14, 2012 at 7:50 pm  

    Great episode…it was difficult to watch at times, knowing that the cats (and people) were so uncomfortable and unhappy. Nice to see a positive, happy turnabout for all involved! Thanks, Jackson =)

  2. Catherine   July 14, 2012 at 7:52 pm  

    Fantastic show. Loved both parts, especially how Vincent was able to, with Jackson’s invaluable insight, turn around the damage he had done to poor Riley. My Cat From Hell is really my favorite show – as owner of four cats I feel like I am always learning something even though my cats are all well behaved!

  3. Irish Cornaire   July 15, 2012 at 9:18 am  

    I learned something valuable last night as I always do whilst watching Jackson’s show and I learned the reason Oscar was peeing outside of the box is because he is declawed and the litter was hurting his pads,I am 100 % against declawing but some owners make it about them instead of thecats wellbeing but i digress,I would like to know the name of the litter Jackson suggested to Oscar’s owners because i am currently fostering a 4 year old declawed cat that is going to her new home in TX,I live in NY,she too goes outside the box and i would hate it if her new owner got rid of her because of that,I need to make sure she will be staying in her new home for life,so please asap if ye can let me know the brand of the litter.

    Thankye in advance,Irish Cornaire

    1. Jules   July 16, 2012 at 12:24 am  

      It was Precious Cat’s Cat Attract litter– Great stuff!!

  4. Tara   July 15, 2012 at 4:52 pm  

    These episodes are very informative about cat behavior although I would like to see other issues spoken about as well. Watching cat guardians be uncomfortable around their cat is tough. Last week my 11 year old cat “Riley” attacked me and I ended up in the hospital for 4 days because of it. I still haven’t regained the full use of my left hand. My little man has never had any behavior issues in 11 years and this incident has made it difficult for me to trust him fully again. Most behaviors on the show are due to fear, my cat did not display any fear characteristics. I was getting into bed and Riley swatted the back of my leg and as I sat down he stood up on his back legs, ears forward and pounced on my leg scratching and biting. Each time I got him off he jumped right back on me, biting my hand very badly. My Dad had to stand between us in order to give me time to get away. The vet thinks I may have brought in a tom cat smell, since he was sniffing my clothes right before the attack. He also sprayed on my clothes 3 days before this as well. Seems weird that it took 11 years for the smell of an outside cat to set him off.

  5. Gasp   July 18, 2012 at 11:57 am  

    On episode kitty dearest I saw how Jackson had couple change the cat litter brand. How can we find out what he recommened?

    Boy I love his shows.

    1. Team Cat Mojo   July 18, 2012 at 3:48 pm  

      I think Jackson mentioned that it was Cat Attract litter.

  6. timothy palmer   September 13, 2012 at 9:45 am  

    I took my cat to the vet recently. Since then, her personality has totally changed. She is not affectionate as she used to be. She is not as playful either. She seem to be more withdrawn too. It’s almost like she is angry with my wife and I. Is there anything that I can do to get her to act like she used to act?

  7. Ellen   October 30, 2012 at 9:26 pm  


    This is just a comment about the Cat Toy that Jackson advertises. I ordered for my lazy cat and he loves it, just comes to hunt-pounce-kill life for it! But the wire comes off of the wand pretty leaving you w ith a mouse attached to a sharp wire. I have just ordered my third in 3 months because the cat has so much fun with it, but I wish it were a little sturdier.

  8. Larry   March 30, 2013 at 6:32 pm  

    With our latest cat, Ranger, we have developed a new game that he loves – “food hockey”. We use the regular dry cat food, and toss it one piece at a time so it hits a corner with a wooden floor and walls, where it bounces, making a nice, satisfying click that alerts him to where it is, and he can then chase it, pin it down, and eat it. Which he does by picking it up with his paw, actually, he uses them like hands. When he’s really into it, we can bounce pellets off the rug, where their irregular shapes make them bounce like crazy in unpredictable directions, which he totally loves. When it comes to “play therapy”, this game beats them all – he gets to hunt, track, kill, and eat. This works out very well since he has been scared of the laser since we got him – likely he had some bad history there before we met him.

  9. Joselyn   January 10, 2014 at 1:18 pm  

    Sorry Jackson but to me it was obvious that Riley was being hit by Vincent. A cat cannot see behind it’s head to see a fist in the way the cat was grabbed by the back of the neck. The facial reactions alone show that Vincent was lying and that poor cat is still in the house with him. What did you expect him to admit on camera he hits the cat? It seems though you scared the crap out of him to a certain extent asking that on camera and it’s great that the cat was able to get passed some hand issues. However what happens when you don’t come around anymore and he has a “bad day” or gets “so mad sometimes”-his words. He’s an animal abuser…he face said it all.


We regret that Jackson does not answer questions posted in the comments. This is due to his demanding schedule and the high volume of requests he receives. But most importantly, since he has not met your cat, it would be contrary to his approach for him to give specific personalized advice for your specific situation. That being said, general questions and issues are addressed throughout this blog, in his book Cat Daddy and of course, the show My Cat From Hell.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>