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.
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 world. Well, 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.
Tools of the Trade
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 - 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
- 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.