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.
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 – 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.
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.