In-Depth Mojo: Max & Capri – The Hand-Off Technique

Jackson always has a new technique up his sleeve to help you help cats, and the people that care for them.

This one is called The Hand-Off.  When a cat attacks everyone except their guardian, you can use the guardian’s “insider status” with the cat to help widen that cat’s circle of trust…and spread the domestic tranquility.  Read on for more info on The Hand-Off.

Jackson talks about that and more in these behind-the-scenes comments on the cases of Max & Capri.

For even more info, see this companion post about which Spirit Essences remedies Jackson used in these situations.

Max - Jackson and Anna use "the hand-off" technique to help Max enlarge his circle of safety

Max – Jackson and Anna use “the hand-off” technique to help Max enlarge his circle of safety

Max – defensive aggression and the hand-off

I gotta say, the most interesting thing about Max – as we found out – was that it was a case where Anna’s family believed Max to be very aggressive.  And it was simply fear and he was actually one of the most fearful cats I’ve ever dealt with on the show!  He was one of the hardest we’ve ever had in terms of getting him out of hiding, getting him to appear on camera, getting him to display any of the behaviors that he apparently showed to the family.  So that was the hugest challenge with him.

But it also gave me an opportunity to demonstrate to Chris and to the rest of the family that, Hey listen, this is a cat you should feel sorry for, not one who you should fear.  And being able to have that base of recognition from the family gave me an “in” towards dealing with Max’s behavior and the family’s reaction as well.

The Hand-Off technique.  Once that we discovered it was mostly a fear thing, and that Max really, seriously only trusted Anna – I mean, nobody else could come near that cat – y’know, here’s this vicious cycle, where, because he only trusts Anna, he tends to be fearful/aggressive towards the rest of the worldWell, the more aggressive he got towards them, the more they backed away and left his world, the more isolated he became, the more he was overly bonded to Anna in this dysfunctional relationship.

So we had to break that cycle.  And that was using The Hand-Off technique.  And that was: teaching other people how to touch Max, starting with me.  As she was petting him, I was able to come closer while he was in a relaxed state, I was able to replace her hand with mine.  It also serves as a real – pardon the pun – hands-on demonstration of exactly the way to touch this cat and to achieve a relaxed state with him.  So it was a real monkey-see, monkey-do type of thing, so, y’know, you’re serving a couple different purposes:

  • Anna gets to say to the world, Hey this is how to relax my cat
  • and it also serves the purpose of widening his circle

And also, y’know, speaking of the circle, my initial take on him was that he was forming a circle of protection around his mom.  Well, actually, no, he was protecting himself by having her around.  Having that polar opposite take is something that I want my audience to see.  That I am just as susceptible to making overarching judgement calls on these cats as anybody else.  And it takes getting to know them on an individual basis that opens these doors to getting real work done.

Mountain Cat Trees

Tools of the Trade

Mountain Cat Trees cat shelves

Jackson had Anna’s son Chris install several cat shelves on the wall.

The reason for doing this was to give Max ways to get up high, which would in turn increase his confidence and sense of ownership of the space.

If he felt these things, he’d be less likely to attack out of fear.

Cats are territorial.  Giving them opportunities to “own space” can sometimes be a big part of being a cat guardian.

Capri - who was aggressive towards everyone except her guardian

Capri – who was aggressive towards everyone except her guardian

Capri – offensive aggression and the hand-off

Honestly, this was a real…y’know, actually when you think about the two cases side by side, they kinda make sense because Capri was also about the “hand-off” technique.  With Summer, I constantly referred to the concept of ‘sharing the wealth.’  That is the same thing as the hand-off technique, which is: show everybody, physically and energetically, what it is to be Capri’s best friend.  And also allow others to share in the rituals that you’ve created around you and your cat.  And in Summer’s case, it was almost a sad type of thing to have to let go of that.  But then there was that scene where Capri is in my lap and she begins to cry because now she sees that others can enjoy this cat’s company the way she does.  So again, it’s just a different type off hand-off technique, this time just with a different type of cat.

Capri was much more offensive.  Defensive of territory, but ready to take the fight to the people as opposed to waiting until she was being hovered over.

And again, you look for every little entree to fixing a problem.  With Capri, it was suddenly Summer telling me that she loved to hang out in this planter, and “do I have any suggestions to keep her out of the planter?”  Well, we can say no to the planter, but yes to the shape of the planter.  It was almost like a cradle for Capri.  So we put the Scratch Lounges all over the place, and that represented the shape of the planter and gave her a positive place to put scent, and a great place to lie down in socially significant areas.  Again, a nice example of the “no” and “yes.”  No, I don’t want you here…but why is it that you like this?…and let me substitute it with something that works for me as well.

The concept of sharing the wealth or sharing the responsibility – same with both cats.

Tools of the Trade

Scratch Lounge II

scratch-loungeII-2The Scratch Lounge II gives cats a

  • positive place to put scent
  • a great place to lie down in socially significant areas
  • and a great place for cats to satisfy their need to scratch scratch scratch

It’s a lounge and scratcher in one.  And it’s recyclable.

  1. Amber   July 6, 2013 at 8:57 am  

    Mr. Galaxy I have a problem and have no idea what to do about it. I’ve searched around for a place to post questions but to no avail. I know you’re a very busy guy and your time is very precious and demanded but I fear that you are the only one who can answer my question. I have 4 felines inside, 5 outside and I take care of a feral colony as well. Recently I brought one of the kittens inside to keep as a house pet (along w my other 3). I had NO idea that she was caring an upper resp infect., and that it would so contagious. Ok so now I have Cupcake (the youngest) on her 3rd wk of meds, Punk (the next to youngest) on meds and now my Kia (the eldest) seems to be acting like she’s gonna be sick as well. OMG, I have no idea what I was doing when I brought the young one in but I wouldn’t change my decision even if I could, I just would have kept her seperated until she was ok (which is no small task in a multi-cat household, lol). The baby adapted to taking her meds very quickly and now when it’s “candy-time” she just lays there, lol. My Punk is a TOTAL different story. She hates it! She crys, hollers, hisses, spits, scratches, she gives me a look that lets me know she is beyond mad. Anyways, ever since she’s had to start taking this antibiotic she acts likes she hates me. She doesn’t curl up w me anymore, and she keeps her distance. Has this ruined our bond? Will she forever associate me w/ the meds? Have I done something wrong by helping her ( I don’t believe that, but I’m at my wits end). She was the most social and now she’s more pulled back then all the others. Please help me. Tell me what I can do. I wouldn’t ask for your help if I wasn’t at a complete loss and since you are so intuned w felines ( I thought I was, I guess not) I know you’ll know what to do. Thank-you so very much.

    Reply
    1. tiffanygrace   July 6, 2013 at 5:12 pm  

      Amber Hey I have 23 that are in and out all the time. I asked my vet for the pill antibiotic and also bought a pill dispenser for cats at the vets. I asked for advice on how to make it as stress free as possible. So I always ask for pill form of meds for my felines. If they are sick I leave them in the vehicle with a sitter, register and only enter the vets office when it is their time to be seen. I have a cage set up that is big enough for a litter box, toys, food, water and a soft bed. Depending on the issue I place a sheet around three sides.

      Reply
    2. Lisa g   July 7, 2013 at 4:44 pm  

      Amber I saw your post and although I’m no mr galaxy I had to say something. First of all you never bring a kitten into a household with all your other cats without first taking it to the vet and having it fully checked out. this kitten could have any number of diseases you could have spread to your cats one of which could be feline aids. I also don’t think punk is treating you this way because of the medicine more likely he is upset about this new kitten. There are a number of books out about cats that cover this type of first hand knowledge about cats and I suggest you read one. Also if you are taking care of a feral colony and 5 other outside cats you bring in their scents, their fleas etc. which your indoor cats can detect and don’t appreciate. Sounds like you have your hands full with cats and I would get a book, talk to a vet a rescue shelter or something before things are out of control. I speak from experience and don’t say this to upset you. Next thing you know you will want to bring in another kitten and another please get some help especially with the feral colony getting them neutered etc. before you have 20 plus cats running around sick, fighting, pregnant etc not to mention more behavioral problems with your indoor cats.

      Reply
    3. Linda Foley   July 8, 2013 at 5:23 pm  

      Amber, giving meds is not easy but try doing it when they are relaxed. In order to get the cats to engage with you more try having them play with you, like using a long shoe lace for them to chase or another toy that has a distance from you. THen then will associate PLAY with you also and you will rebuild the bond.

      Cats understand more than you give them credit for. Talk to the cat and explain that the medicine will help them get well and follow it later with a treat.

      Make sure that the meds are not the only “special” thing they get from you each day, treats will re-enforce the fact that you are the fun person also.

      Reply
  2. JUNIE   July 6, 2013 at 1:47 pm  

    I’m not a cat expert, but I had to medicate my cat too and he would stand at a distance. So I got down on the floor, calling him in my sweet voice, and scratching a scratch board. I put down cat nip. I sat on the couch and let him gradually come to me. I did the slow cat blink while I sat there and then slowly turned my head to the side, as they do when they are totally comfortable.

    Reply
  3. robin   July 6, 2013 at 2:44 pm  

    Dear Jackson,

    I have 2 indoor cats, one is 2 yrs and the other just turned 1. The oldest-Jersey frequently has outburst of whining in the early am and she wakes me up every morning at 5 am to paw on the shower curtain or doors in the bedroom. She constantly sits in the closet on the top shelf and when anyone including myself comes in she hisses and will not let me pet her or even speak to her. She will come on the bed at night and lay right next to me and purr and be as sweet as ever but she is a witch all day. The vet suggested the second cat which I thought would help her, she took to Alli like it was her baby and for a short time she was better-now she is the cat from hell. Whenever my grandkids are here she is worse with the hissing and swatting and when she is out on the floor at any given time she will not let you pet her and acts as if she has been beaten by someone-I got her when she was 6 wks old and to my knowledge was not even swatted-it I can’t solve this soon she may have to find a new home-Im not a big drama person and she is certainly that-HELP!!!!!!! Thank you for your time.

    Reply
    1. mike b.   February 9, 2014 at 12:50 pm  

      Have her teeth checked? We have a cat that was affectionate at first (Bottle fed from a few days old, carried around in my girlfriends cleavage etc.) but then became more distant and eventually objected to being touched at all. Turned out she had bad teeth and once they were attended to she’s become much more approachable.

      Reply
  4. joan ward   July 6, 2013 at 3:09 pm  

    i to have a attack cat but he dont run or hide, he stands his ground, he runs to the door if it rings have seen him in the holloween side step and ready to pounce, i can go and pick him up and settel him down but he will walk by my side let me get a few steps ahead and nip the back of my legs he is a tabby / bangel mis fixed male Captain Jack he wnat to meet you jackson ty

    Reply
  5. greenjelly01   July 6, 2013 at 7:43 pm  

    What has happened to your show, Jackson? It seems to have taken a turn towards cheap sensationalism. I can live with the exaggeration of human relationship issues, and the dramatization of certain moments. But one thing is very disturbing – in every show now, Jackson seems to be pushing the cats to attack him, and get scratched and bloody. In earlier episodes, you would present your glasses to give your scent to the cats and familiarize yourself. It looks like you’ve gotten orders to show blood. This is not why we like and watch your show. We like your show for the things you do right, and we learn from it. Doing obviously wrong things to rile up the cats because your producers want some drama, is just plain wrong. I love your show, so I hope you can convince your producers to do the right thing.

    Reply
    1. Hami   December 22, 2013 at 12:22 am  

      It’s true that the producers seem to like to focus on people’s dramas.
      I wish the producers would show more of what techniques were being used to modify the cats’ behaviors instead of constant flash backs of what was said as if people have dementia and can’t remember what was shown few minutes ago.

      They also add those music to increase drama. I don’t give a care whether the couples will stay together or not. Just show us more of the techniques so that people will understand better and will know how to apply to their own cats’ situations.

      Many times in this season, I don’t understand how Jackson modify the cats behaviors – it was not clearly explained. It seems as if the producers think that it’s not important to focus on that area. People fighting is the number one thing that the producers are more interested in. They should go film TV soap operas since they love drama that much.

      Reply
      1. greenjelly01   January 6, 2014 at 8:30 am  

        >> Many times in this season, I don’t understand how Jackson modify the cats behaviors – it was not clearly explained.

        So true! Defeats the purpose of watching the show. I learnt so much from the previous seasons, but now it is just a soap.

        Reply
  6. Cerise   July 8, 2013 at 10:10 pm  

    I’m not Jackson, but I’ve had a multi-cat household for 30 years and I’m the Chief Med Giver.

    Be as low-key as possible at med o’clock. NEVER call the cat by name to come get meds or other procedures, like nails – or if your cat absolutely *loathes* to be brushed.

    Names are for fun stuff – like food, play and cuddles. That’s when you call your cat’s name and can actually expect them to come on a consistent basis (I swear this is true – all 10 of our cats come on command – because it’s NOT a command – they’re getting something good – and so do you!)

    You simply set up the meds (or take them with you), walk over and find the cat, either medicate the cat with as little fanfare as possible, a few blinks, cuddles and say, “All done now!” – or take the cat to the med station and do it there. Just be sure to be calm, reassuring, give eye-blinks and a kiss to the top of the head before letting the cat go.

    The first few times, the cat will probably run – after that, it’s not a big deal. They walk away and groom. : )

    It’s not a big deal as long as YOU don’t make it a big deal, capiche? : D

    If you see this as drudgery, your cat sees it as abject misery. If you are low key about the whole thing and as pleasant as possible *without using the cat’s name* – just, “Hey kiddo…yup…it’s that time again. Let’s get well!” – I *think* you’re going to have some pretty good results.

    Promise an end-date to the meds, if you can, in a low-key and cheery way. “Just a couple more days of this stuff…you’re doing SO well, love. SO well. Pretty soon this will all be in the past….”

    And *do* increase cuddles, blinks, and using the cat’s name during the good stuff. Make sure that you’re not just handling the cat for meds and nothing else – I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but it *can* happen in a multi-cat household.

    Go out of your way to walk around and visit everybody for no other reason but to give a cuddle, a kiss, an eye-blink, a play session – don’t make your presence all about crappy tasting meds (who thought *banana* was a bright idea for cats?) – make it about YOU and the CAT. : D

    You’ll get there. I promise you will.

    Have a good evening and enjoy some headbonks!

    Cerise

    Reply
  7. Dayna   July 13, 2013 at 4:19 pm  

    I’m hoping someone can help me. I have a neutered male about 6 years old who just recently has started urinating on my husband and myself while we are in bed asleep. For many years prior he has slept with us. We are a mutli cat and multi dog family. It’s happened about 5 times in the last 4 months. Any assistance is greatly appreciated.

    Reply
  8. Alessandro Fiore   August 6, 2013 at 11:08 am  

    Hi Jackson ! I am an Italian living in Germany , I have 2 cats that I adopted from Italy , Twity and Sebastian. Sebastian is a nice cat social everybody loves him, but Twity is a little aggressive , she never gets along with Sebastian , even though they eat sometimes together but just because I am near, otherwise she waits for Sebastian to eat then when he is not there he eats. And sometimes when Sebatian is a little excited he bullies her but no strong aggression or scratches from her, he is the one that gets some scarfs from her…
    The main issue is Twity is aggressive towards Hands ,she bites and scratches even mine, and she is always angry when he is around.. Any advice.
    Please thanks
    Alessandro

    Reply
  9. JoAnn Rogers   September 9, 2013 at 9:49 am  

    I hope someone can help me. I have a 3yr old female Ragamuffin. She can be as nice as can be – but when she needs to go to the vet, she acts like I’m killing her the whole way there. After arriving, she does try to hide in her carrier – but when the doctor or assistant comes close to her, she turns into a very hostile little girl. She is not declawed and I have to take her every 2 months – it turns into quite a chore. I have tried giving her different calming aides (sprays), but they never work (forget pills). Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,
    JoAnn

    Reply
    1. Lynda   September 12, 2013 at 12:45 pm  

      try a cat thunder shirt @ (ThunderShirt on Facebook) or ask your vet for a gel tube of feline Prozac. I leave four small to medium cages up at all times in loving relaxed areas of the house two placed end to end (the cages have two doors) I leave the doors open all the time I have small litter boxes in two and food in the other along with water. There are dangling toys catnip toys a balls in some. They take turns hanging out playing and sleeping in them. That makes it less stressful. I also just take them for a ride so they can watch out the windows.

      Reply
  10. judy hale   March 7, 2014 at 3:57 pm  

    hi jackson i need u r help desperatly!!!! my 7 mo old kitten yellow tabby cat scooter has become a big problem lately.he chews n wood doors alot.like a dog would do. also hes started to bite my hands more often and scratch me every chance he gets. not fun!!!he has tons of toys i play with him daily we even play chase alot.he is so active.he sleeps with me till he bites me then he goes off the bed.lol how do i break him from chewing wood and biting me and attacking me with his claws?????hes smart he fetches and stands up for his treats helps hisself to the stuff in icebox when its open hes right there to look smell grab and run.hes also spoiled rotten i need help im a disabled senior.trying to cope with him .please help.email me what ever tell me what to do !!!!!!!!many thanks judy

    Reply
    1. Linda   March 11, 2014 at 1:41 pm  

      Judy
      First you have a “teenager” you are dealing with and tons of energy. He may have toys but if you are the “best toy” they you have a problem. You should stop playing chase- you become THE PREY which leads to biting and scratching. Do not play using your hands at all. Hands should be for petting gently only.

      Toys should be the prey. Take a stick (like a fishing pole idea) and attach a hanging toy to it. That should be what is chased. I use a thick shoe lace tied to a pole and then we play. That way the shoe lace is the prey- it can fly around for him to jump up and catch or fly around on the ground like a mouse to chase.

      Biting and scratching wood- do you have several cat scratching poles? They are not expensive and are needed. Also learn how to trim his nails correctly- have the vet teach you. Ask the vet about eating wood- that is dangerous and he may need a blood test to see if there is a vitamin or mineral deficiency.

      You can also put double sided tape on the wood so he won’t scratch it or spray it with “bitters”- a spray you can buy at the pet store. It tastes bad so they won’t lick or chew on whatever you spray it on.

      Reply
  11. michelle   March 31, 2014 at 1:02 pm  

    Dear jackson..I need help. My boyfriend recently moved in with me. I have a pit bull that is a working dog for my seizures. And he brought in his cat. We literally have to keep her locked in my bedroom. Every time we try to introduce them sh makes him into a bloody mess and even leaves claws in his face. Yesterday we tried again and my dog even laid down and put his head down as if he was giving into her. She immediately ripped into him.she will also wait til he walks past and attack after he goes past. Please help me. I don’t want my bf to have to get rid of her.

    Reply
  12. lori   July 3, 2014 at 12:09 pm  

    We rescued Pedro 1.5 years ago. He is now 3.5 years old. He was ill when a cat org. found him on the street. They got him healthy and he lived in a vets cage for 2 years. Now he has a large apartment to run wild. We also have 3 other cats. Pedro gets aggressive after you hold him, when you put him down, he attacks the closet cat to him. 2 of the cats can deal with him, but our big maine coon runs and whines. How can we stop this aggression?

    He also like to bite. We do play with him.

    Reply
  13. Pam   July 8, 2014 at 4:56 pm  

    On June 1st, I finally trapped a cat who I’d been seeing next to the dumpster in our apartment complex. I had trapped a calico one about a week before – a friend took her in. It was the first anniversary of my baby furboy’s death (that boy was my raison d’etre for a good six years) and I was determined to finally catch him in my baby’s honor. Plus, this cat had a lot of traits that reminded me of my boy. So I brought him in, put up with some scratching and biting as I taught him to trust and realize my hands meant good things, got him neutered, vaccinated, etc. I have a PhD in psychology and have a good understanding of learning and motivation. My cats are trained to sit, speak, shake and high-five, so bear this in mind as I go through the rest of the story… So then it came time for the slow but sure introduction. I have two other cats, one who is a silly pushover of a puffball and the other that is… let’s just say reactive. I love them both dearly, and she was my first.. ever. She’s on amytriptoline and it’s done wonders over the year. So they got used to each other thru the door, I feed them on opposite sides, my 2 cats also got used to treats being provided every time I opened the door to the new cat’s room. They had a baby gate they’d sniff each other through. My new cat was protective of his room, but didn’t mind when my huge puffball jumped in next to the baby gate because he was too impatient to wait for his treats. More than a couple steps though, and the new boy got protective. I did some site swapping, but while my cats didn’t feel comfortable in his room and after a few minutes were also bored wanting out, my new cat quite quickly accommodated himself to the rest of the apartment. So since things were going fairly well with the gate, I slowly but surely allowed them to see each other without a gate. I had to redo this going back to the closed door a couple of times, but it’s become more difficult now. Here’s the problem. If he gets too close to my baby girl, she becomes a screaming spitting mountain lion. So he backs off and turns to attack my puffball boy, who just recedes into his fluff, backs himself into a corner (even when there is a safe place to jump to) and starts crying like a baby until I intervene. I’ve tried to distract with toys, but it’s only a temporary stop gap. And I always work the new cat with play to the point of panting before having him see the other two. Regardless, once the baby girl goes off on him, he ends up going after the puffball. I’d never heard the puffball hiss before until after it happened a few times. Before the baby girl goes off on him, he has absolutely no problem with the puffball and will simply sniff with curiosity and move on his way. Even lie down nearby him, sprawled out. But the puffball starts making his defensive meows (I swear he’s saying please stop) even though nothing bad is happening. Easy to understand – it’s a learned response and I’m trying to use food to extinguish it… not overly successfully though, because the reason for the fear still occurs. And even worse, I think the puffball sees it as unpredictable. SO, my end point is that now I have a baby girl who is hesitant about the new cat and is quick to react, but ok with him at a distance or when he doesn’t make eye contact. She’s even willing to slowly approach and sniff at him, so long as he pays her absolutely no attention. I have a puffball that is now petrified of the new cat. The new cat is taking over the puffball’s spaces (his bed, his place on the couch with me). And I have a new cat that is highly bonded with me and hates being in a separate room. I don’t think it’s separation anxiety, but I will say that he wants to be touching me somehow pretty much all the time. I’ve tried going through the introductions a couple times now, and it’s growing harder since the new cat is now familiar with the rest of the space. I think his tendency to go after the puffball when the baby girl shrieks at him is related to his lifetime outside. And so I have 3 main problems. 1) Get the baby girl to feel comfortable enough with him to not hiss, spit, growl or shriek. 2) Get the new cat to stop redirecting his fight instinct (rather than flight) to the puffball whenever the baby girl (or anything I suppose) scares him. 3) Get the puffball to stop being scared of the new cat. Food reward was working really well, and my puffball is highly food driven, but until the source of the problem is dealt with, I’m just making the food lose its beneficial edge.

    At present I end up spending 4 hours a day with them/taking care of them, and I do research for a living. I don’t have that kind of time, and can only split myself so many ways. It’s definitely taking a toll on me. Suggestions are highly welcome! (And sorry for the book of a comment.)

    Reply

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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