Sometimes the problem isn't the cat and their history. Sometimes it is. We get to see both scenarios in this installment of In-Depth Mojo – a behind-the-scenes look at the cases you see on My Cat FromHell – from Jackson's point of view.
Also available: this companion post about Spirit Essences holistic remedies for animals that are relevant to these cases.
Bea - lashing out at her huge 24-pound housemate of a cat, and his guardian
OK let's talk about Bea. Bea and Aragon (the 24-pound celebrity cat seen on Glee), Cece (Aragon's guardian) and Krista (Bea's guardian).
Really, Bea's problem…was she a grumpy cat? Sure she was grumpy. But that didn't really talk about why she was who she was. Really, again, human problems in this home.
Krista just thought it was a joke! She really enjoyed Bea beating up Cece or whoever else came in. And she enjoyed the fact that she owned a very special relationship with Bea. And maybe that's what we're talking about at the end of all this. Maybe we're talking about that really unique human dynamic with our animals, where they mirror what we consider our best traits.
With Krista, she saw Bea as taking no s***, y'know, absolutely 'stand up for herself, announce her presence, she is who she is, take me or leave me,' and I think that Krista just admired that. As odd as that sounds, I've seen it constantly.
Not only do we admire these traits but we also protect the relationship. So that's what we're seeing again with Krista. And once we unraveled that, and we allowed Cece to be a parent, and we also switched it up and also had Krista own a relationship with Aragon, well, then things started to change a little bit.
Krista hated the fact that Aragon was this T.V...this stage kid. She hated the fact that he was wheeled around in a stroller. She hated the fact that Cece went from being a pet guardian to a stage mom. She hated all of that.
But when she took ownership of Aragon, she also took ownership of the fact that he was very unhealthy, that he needed to change his diet. That he needed to walk some more, and she needed to participate. So, y'know, that was the real in-depth thing. Again, it sounds obvious that it comes down to the people, but in this case, it really was.
Bea, like I said: grumpy? Yes. Psychotic? No.
Tools of the Trade
Jackson brought in a cat wheel for Aragon, who needed to lose some weight for his own health. Overweight cats are prone to diabetes and arthritis.
The Cat Wheel Company specializes in exercise wheels for cats. They're made of strong, lightweight, recycled plastic and steel.
More exercise means less 'acting out' due to boredom, along with diminished aggressiveness.
Fi - litter box phobic
Alright, let's talk about Fi and Megan. Great, great story. As a matter of fact, probably one of the most rewarding cases I think I've ever worked on. Why? Because Fi was not just a lost cause. Remember, she was re-homed five times in five years. That includes four times in three years, by the time Megan had adopted her. And it was really rewarding for a couple of reasons. I mean she had never used the litter box as far we would ever know. She was declawed at a very early age and passed around after that.
So there were two pieces of the homework that I thought were key to our success. One was of course the cognitive, step-by-step work here. But there was also the personal investment.
Now Megan had basically said that she was never going to give up on Fi. But that wasn't enough. This was a cat who never used the litter box. Megan would come home from a long day's work and then wind up spending the next hour cleaning up pee and poop from all over the house. So she needed to have a little bit of a reward from Fi, and part of that was getting to know Fi better. So I had her do what I called "The Story of Fi." Writing the story of this cat, who we were putting together the pieces that we knew were her life, which was:
- given up
- and then from that point on, passed around
We know that she went from shelter to shelter. She was in a rescue group, that kind of thing. Home after home after home. OK, we know that part. Now let's invest it with, for lack of a better word, humanity. And that's where I had Megan write Fi's story from the first person. This is what it is to be me, Fi. So that's really where, y'know, in reading that story once Megan wrote it, it was really one of the most moving moments I've had filming My Cat From Hell. I cried like a baby listening to that story, it was so beautiful. So well-written, and so invested. And from that point, it became even easier to work on this case because we were doing it for Fi. We weren't just doing it for Megan anymore.
The second part of the homework that I thought was really the most key – for me, the most risky – was "build-a-box." And "build-a-box" was really about re-associating Fi with a litter box. But kind of in a way that I've never worked on before, which was… I had this idea in my head for quite a long time...to basically create something from nothing and therefore re-associate. So with Fi we knew that she would go on puppy pads. She wouldn't go on litter but she would go on puppy pads. Great. From that point, let's create a box around the puppy pad. So, like, I wanted to start with like a cookie sheet, something like that. So that basically she's stepping on to something, but not in something. We stumbled on something that was like, it was a puppy training box. So it was a plastic cookie sheet basically, that you put a puppy pad on, and from there, there were little walls that you would build around it. That was basically it. My attempt was to build a litter box around these puppy pads, and just push Fi's challenge line ever so gently to that point where she wouldn't even realize she was getting not just on something, but in something. And that "in" became the litter box.
And one of the most amazing payoffs ever was when Megan basically caught Fi going into the litter box for the first time ever. And how amazing that was. And since then, Fi has used a litter box as often as she ever used [puppy pads]. It was an insane payoff. And it just goes to show you that when a cat doesn't use a litter box because of pain, what they're saying is not "my body hurts," they're saying "this place hurts." Why would I keep going back to this place that reminds me of pain? So in writing "The Story of Fi," we discover this is why she hurts the way she does.
Then we re-write the story of Fi using the "build-a-box." It was an amazing case and I'll never forget it.
Tools of the Trade
If you build it they will come.
This is the type of puppy training box that Jackson used to help Fi re-associate with a litter box and get over her litter box phobia.
Tip: the product is not actually called "build-a-box."
There are various products that basically do the same thing, but go by various names. Here are a couple: