In-Depth Mojo: Snickers & Dexter – training yourself to listen to your cat

In-Depth Mojo 410 Snickers Dexter

Sometimes humans just don’t understand.

Both these cat cases are great illustrations of how really understanding your cat is often 90% of the “battle” when solving cat-behavior problems. The other 10% of course, is actually doing something about it, making changes in the cat’s routine or environment.

Read below for Jackson’s take on the cases of Snickers the (former) show cat and Dexter the (former) separation anxiety cat.

And when you’re done, you can even check out this companion post about which remedies from Jackson’s Spirit Essences are great helps in these types of situations.

Snickers - the Pixie-Bob show cat

Snickers – the Pixie-Bob show cat

Snickers – stressed at cat shows

Snickers is a pixie-bob and her people (Laura & Rick) were pretty well driven to make her a show cat, even though she had no desire to be that.  My goal with them was two-fold.  One was to not demean their goals, even though I had preconceived notions about cat shows, and showing cats in general, and breeding cats and all that.

So first was to work a plan of action with them.  Okay, you wanna get your cat to learn to accept a cat show?  Well then we’ll do all the mechanics to get her to accept it.  So that is: feeding her in cages, and walking her around, getting her used to the sound of a cat show, recording the cat show and desensitizing.  Slowly bringing up the volume of the show while she’s eating.  Cause I gotta tell you, after going to that show, the volume is pretty intense.

Secondly, was to get these two to know their cat.  And if you know this cat, if you knew Snickers like I did after knowing her for 10 minutes,  you know that she wants nothing to do with being a show cat.  There were two very distinct Snickers.  One was the one I got to see at a cat show: aggressive, scared, uncomfortable, hiding.  And there was the Snickers that these guys got to see on a nightly basis, who was playing with the other cats, who was lounging by the T.V., who was snuggling with her people.  And I had to convince Laura & Rick that that was the cat they wanted.

Laura had shown in the house cat category for years and years.  She was a rescuer, she adopted all of her cats, she showed them in the house cat category, and she only showed the ones that wanted to be there. As a matter of fact, she had one cat who wanted nothing to do with being in the show, and she pulled him out.  They retired him because he wanted nothing to do with it.  The difference was that all her life – or all her showing life – she wanted a pixie-bob.  When she got that breed, she was determined to make her a show cat and that overrode her natural empathy.  And that’s where I came in.

So really, in this case, it was very much two-fold.  People issues and cat issues.  In fact, much more so on the people side.

One of the really in-depth things for me, was how I really had to change my mindset about cat shows in general.  Like I said, I had a very set notion and opinion about them.  And really by the time I left, I really had a lot of respect for the cats who liked being there.  There were certain cats – I remember seeing one – there was a British Shorthair, who just loved being there.  He was flirting with everybody, he was, y’know, putting on a show for the world, scratching on scratching posts and playing with toys.  And I got to point out to Laura and Rick and say see, now, this is what it should look like.  And in the meantime, their cat Snickers was tearing apart judges.  It was really enlightening for me to go to the show to know that house cats can be in shows now, that the move has been much more inclusive in TICA as well as the other purebred organizations.  They also had adoption events at the cat shows and again, I thought that was admirable, although my stance on breeding will not change anytime in the near future.  I did have a new appreciation for the people that love cats in this respect.

In the end, Snickers proved to everybody who she was and Laura and Rick listened.  And by retiring her, they really did right by her and it was a really gratifying experience. 

Dexter - one of Jackson's 'favorites'

Dexter – one of Jackson’s ‘favorites’

Dexter – separation anxiety

Dexter was a wonderful cat, one of my clear-cut ‘favorites’ for lack of a better word, of all the cats I’ve dealt with on the show.  He had nothing wrong with him whatsoever, really, whatsoever.  He had separation anxiety…(but) we dealt with that pretty quickly just by changing up his routine.

And also, y’know, there was the fact that Jeremy was off at work for long hours or he was in the hospital.  When he would go to the hospital, Dexter was alone for good chunks of time, and Erica would just come in and take care of him.  So, leaving was not a good thing for Dexter.

We de-sensitized him to the leaving by leaving for very short periods of time.  I actually had Jeremy and Erica leave, drive away, come back, feed, play, and also mix up…y’know, they’d always give him treats before they left the house.  So every time treats went down, he knew bad things were about to happen.  So we had to switch that up: give treats right when they got in the shower, when they got home, really mix it up.  And also…a very small apartment.  And Dexter just needed to play, to get his energy out.  Young cat, y’know?

And also now on the human side of this, Jeremy was absolutely paranoid about the germs that Dexter could spread.  Toxoplasmosis, and air, and, he was absolutely, I’m sorry, delusional, about the poop and pee that Dexter was trailing around in his long fur after he’d leave the litter box.  The guy was not prepared to actually have a cat.  He was convinced that Dexter was negatively affecting his health, which again: his stress was definitely affecting his health, but, uh, Dexter, not so much.  So I had to teach him, y’know, what having a cat was all about.  And how to be with a cat and realize that y’know, there’s certain things that go along with it.  Litter box is one of those things.  He would complain that the cat’s noise-making while in the litter box was keeping him up at night.  That his drinking from the toilet was so unsanitary that he couldn’t have Dexter around him.  But again, it was as simple as putting the toilet lid down.  Letting friends of theirs know by putting a sign up.  Y’know, silly little things.  It made me question whether he wanted a cat in his life or not.  And Dexter’s one of those cats, y’know, as a cat lover, I was ready to take him home cuz he was just that cool.  In the end, again, it was much more about teaching the human than teaching the cat.  Jeremy had to know that if he wanted to live with a cat, there’s certain realities.  None of them, I don’t think, affected his Crohn’s Disease.

In fact we know that the presence of an animal to people who are immunocompromised, who are sick, who are suffering, brings down their blood pressure, increases their quality of life.  You gotta let that happen and accept the minimal, miniscule health risks that may go along with it.

To this day, I’m not exactly sure how things went with them, cuz it was really a little touch and go to be honest.  But Dexter was fantastic.  He was playful, loving, and just needed a chance, and hopefully he got that chance.

  1. marilyn   June 20, 2013 at 1:41 pm  

    I have crohns and am a cat person. I’ve always gotten so much comfort from my cats in times of flare ups. I think Jeremy was probably stress more as a side effect of prednisone. That stuff can cause nervous anxiety and is a major key in treating crohns. Also his paranoid fear of the germs from litter could be due to immune suppressants. I am on both and I am very careful of germs. Our bodies have to have our immune system turned off at times to get crohns under control for a while. Crohns is an auto immune disease. After Jackson’s help I really think Jeremy will be much more comfortable with his issues with the crohns and its treatments. When his medications are decreased he will also be able to deal with stress and the germ fear. He will then get much more comfort from Dexter than he does from the crohns meds.

  2. Edson   June 26, 2013 at 4:32 pm  

    Jackson Hello how are you?
    I’m from Brazil, my girlfriend and I have a cat called treat.
    I have a curious thing with the cat. He is very messy, and too curious only has one thing he did not move and neither takes the position that the holy bible, funny huh? because it will be ‘. It would make a good story.
    Hugs and’m your fan I follow your program on animal planet.

  3. Rebekah   June 28, 2013 at 9:28 am  

    I have a 5 year old male, neutered Ragdoll cat that I love very much. However he has this habit of frequently wanting to “knead” my legs with a growl if I move. He will only do it if we are not interrupted by any other human. He meows loudly if I am on the phone since he wants to do his thing. Afterwards he licks his erected private area. Do you think that the neutering was not complete? He is not spraying and uses his litter box. Is he developing cat OCD? Should I try to break this habit with some kind of redirection? appreciate any help and love watching your show.

  4. Ruth   July 9, 2013 at 10:52 am  

    I have a Maine coon mix that is unaltered. When he goes to pee in his litter box he won’t cover it up. He will when he poops but not when he pees. Can you make any suggestions on what to do to get him to cover it up?

    1. Susan   October 15, 2013 at 2:27 pm  

      I, also have a Maine Coon and am so happy with him (and vice versa) He is a rescue cat that was within 2 hours of being ‘put down’ and was saved by the staff and hid him until they could bring him to a foster home. My cat has been taught to sit, shake (both paws, and knows when he got the wrong paw) he sits up and he lays down on command. I just wonder if there are any other ‘tricks’ I can teach him. We are very in love with each other and I am bed bound at times. He comes up and lays quietly by me and the only down side is..when company comes he hides under the bed. I live in a studio, so it is hard to coax him out, although for some he will come out to be loved on. I think this breed is so intelligent and huge, too!

      1. Quinn   December 5, 2013 at 12:42 pm  

        Susan, Maine Coon/Norwiegen Forest cats are the smartest breed, and biggest. I have had them for years and easily trained. To train, for example to go get your glasses, it takes several steps. Teaching one key word at a time. When that one done you can move to another word. Then you can combine all needed “key” words to a new word that represents the entire behavior. Example, treat instantly when he touches glasses and say “glasses”. To test he knows it, put glasses a foot away, then further say glasses and see if he goes over and touches them, treat/say glasses same time, and reward with affection. When satisfied he knows it you can teach another one. When he puts something in mouth (toy) mine always love dragging around long shoelaces, then treat right away and say “get” at the same time. Be sure to pet and praise each time. To test you can practice “get glasses” or “glasses get” if more individual word training needed. Each must be 100% before teaching next word. Then the fun begins. “Kitty would you get my glasses for me please” notice just 2 key words are in sentence and these are the only ones he hears, none of the others. Get Glasses. So you are unlimited in training your cat to help you when having to be immobile. Hope this helps.

  5. Toby   July 20, 2013 at 6:12 pm  

    Watching the episode with Snickers reminded me of the parents I’ve seen over the years dragging their unwilling children to their ballet classes (I work part time at a ballet studio) so they can live vicariously through them. Fortunately, Snickers’ guardians got the hint.

  6. Prabashini   July 24, 2013 at 2:13 pm  

    I have two kittens 4 and 6 months.male and female respectively.maine coone tabby,a gift from my son and a DSH,adopted from the shelter.They both knead when they on my bed ,not on their own bed,even though their blanket is much softer.
    Iv got 3 litter boxes around the house but they both always seem to want to use the same litter box at the same time or 1 after the other.Oh and they use all three,I clean all boxes everyday.
    It took them 24 hours of hissing growling,stalking and attacking,no blood,thankfully.
    i stayed awakw,gave constant cuddles to both but didnt invade their introduction to each other,36 hours later they sleep on the same bed,play and groom each other.
    this is just my recent experience and I wanted to share.Im very lucky and blessed
    to have them in my life.
    I love my cat from hell show,I follow it and have learnt a lot from Jackson via this program.Great work ,inspiring and also a great help.

  7. Linda Hansen   October 27, 2013 at 6:12 am  

    I’m wondering if one of my cats might have separation anxiety. He isn’t an aggressive cat, but the exact opposite, very extremely affectionate to the point he’s like Velcro. It may not sound like a problem, and 90% of the time I don’t mind it, but sometimes I just need some space. I work from home, so I’m with him a lot. He follows me everywhere. When it gets close to his feeding time things get worse. He will constantly rub against me, marking me on any area of my skin that’s exposed or my clothes even, will sit by me and poke me in the face. He will rub his nose all over me and rub the side of his mouth on my skin. This can start up to 2 hours before a meal. I feed him twice a day. He sleeps with me at night. I don’t mind that, but starting anywhere from 4-5 a.m. or so he will wake me up by rubbing his nose in my face and poking my face with his paw to wake me up. When I turn over or put up my hand to block it, he’ll jump down, but a few minutes later jumps back up and does it again. He’s relentless. When I’m preparing his food or any food in the kitchen, I can barely move around the kitchen and I’m tripping over him or stepping on him. I live in an apartment and it’s designed where I can’t close him out of the kitchen or my bedroom. I can’t put him in a closed room because he’s claustrophobic and he’ll starting tearing up wood, carpet, whatever is there. Sometimes I get so exasperated, especially if I’m under stress, I push him away and yell at him sometimes and I feel really guilty afterwards. I have 3 high towers and places for my cats to climb, play with them as much as I can and they can go out on my balcony. I’ve tried to do everything to give them a good environment. Has anyone else every experienced anything like this? I’ve thought about trying some of the holistic remedies to maybe calm him down, but not sure which one to try. I’ve tried the hormone diffusers. I adopted him when he was a little over a year, they said he was born in a shelter. He’s always been like this. I have another cat who is nothing like this.

    1. Hami   December 23, 2013 at 2:16 am  

      You said you play with him as much as you can. It really sounds like your cat still has tons of energy. Might need to play with him more. I know people said to feed cats twice a day. I feed my cats 3 times a day.

  8. kathypatty   January 29, 2014 at 1:40 pm  

    Hi Linda, there is a toy that is a fishing pole (a real fishing pole) with a mouse attached at the end. Because it’s a real fishing pole, you can cast it and throw the mouse across the room then reel it back in. I have a high energy cat, and use this toy with her all the time. I stand in the middle of the house and just cast from one end of the house to the other. I also cast it up and down the stairs. I would recommend you try this toy, it’s the only toy that will wear out this cat. You can search for “Cat Fishing Pole” to find one. I just did a search and discovered that more companies are making them.

  9. Ozzwepay   April 27, 2014 at 5:54 am  

    Jackson, you are a better man than I, when Jeremy was whining about Dexter meowing too much, I wanted to punch him in the face.

    1. lmdwyer   April 28, 2014 at 8:05 pm  

      Ha! I wanted to punch him, too. What a freakin’ baby. I get the feeling any small discomfort and he would be crying and blaming it on whatever. He is so negative, I don’t see what his girlfriend sees in him. She should take the cat and move out.

      1. Alicat   September 30, 2015 at 11:41 am  

        Chronic illness, pain and steroids (prednisone) can do profoundly stressful things to the way you see the world and those around you. It can feel like every tiny thing is contributing to your pain, discomfort and vulnerability. There is even such a response referred to by medics as ‘steroid psychosis’ which includes extreme agitation and paranoia. Imagine having those effects from a medication you have no choice but to take?! He was having a hard time evidently, and needed to learn to see the positive side of being around this gorgeous animal again. Punching someone in the face for being in that much anguish? Yeah great response – thanks goodness they got JG on the case to neutralise the situation rather than add more problems. I hope everyone is feeling better in regard to this case. Xxx

  10. Thatiana Silva   May 27, 2014 at 11:21 am  

    Good afternoon!
    I’m a big fan of yours from Brazil, and always watch your programs.
    I have 3 cats, a female and her daughter and a male who is not a part of the family.
    I’m a mother cat and one year she gave birth to 4 puppies, where 2 died and 1 missing.
    the third cat, a puppy of 5 months appeared at mionha House for two weeks.
    Since then, they (mother and daughter) are distant and angry with me. I can no longer do caress them, do not get closer to me.
    I am saddened by the rejection of them and would love to help me understand what’s going on, and what I can do.
    Thank you!

  11. Mark J   June 30, 2014 at 9:16 am  

    I hate to see Jeremy suffering with Chron’s disease. Chron’s is most likely not about his cat. Jeremy most likely could be helped with a change in diet. I am not the expert, but know many folks who have benefited from the change. Take a look at the article by Dr. John McDougall…

    To your health …and healthy cats!

  12. David   February 7, 2016 at 8:15 pm  

    Dexter is an AWESome cat and obviously adores his humans. Dexter probably wants to take care of Jeremy cause he can sense that he is unwell.


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.

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