Jackson talks about looking beyond the obvious when addressing cat problems.
Animals don't do things randomly.
And what you think is the problem may just be the symptom, not the source.
Read on for Jackson's explanations of these concepts, using the cases of Kashmir and Riyo as examples. Here's In-Depth Mojo: Season 4, Episode 14.
PLUS – for more, see this companion post about the holistic solutions Jackson used in these cases.
Kashmir - not random attacks
Basically, I think there were a couple of different keys that we saw with this case.
First of all, there's never a 'random.' Your animal is never doing something randomly.
Kashmir was marking all over their house why? Because her territory was under attack by a colony of outdoor cats. One of the things that you didn't really see in the episode was that Brenda and Dean were letting Kashmir and Darla in and outdoors. So they would go outdoors, they'd wind up coming back in, and they were getting beat up outside by all the other cats. Now here's another interesting thing: it turned out that Kashmir would be staying inside, but they were still letting Darla out. Darla would go outside, she'd get the smell of the outside cats on her, she'd get back inside and what would happen? Kashmir would beat her up. That's not random.
Kashmir's sense of impending doom, territorially, informed everything that happened in that home. Everything.
For instance, another thing that you didn't see on the show was Brenda saying that they weren't letting Kashmir in the bedroom because she was peeing all over one side of the bed. Now that happens to be the side of the bed that I think Dean slept on. So she thought that was Kashmir saying "I hate Dean." When you think about Kashmir's territorial terror, then it makes more sense. It's not about Dean's side of the bed, it's about the fact that Dean's side of the bed was less than a foot away from the window. And then you have outside the window, the feral colony, the smell that was so thick in the air of testosterone and estrogen in that air. So, all of that was stuff that could be taken care of through taking care of the colony outside.
Also with Darla, the other important thing was the building of the cat superhighway, which didn't get a whole lot of airtime on the show. But it was pretty freakin' amazing, and how that helped the high-rise feeding, how that helped the cats be in the same room at the same time without violence breaking out was pretty astronomical. And it just showed that it is a matter of creating space between the cats so that territory can be shared and knowing that Darla was a down and dirty tree dweller and she was using the tree dwelling to get away from Kashmir now instead of going on top of a washing machine. She could be in the living room, in the main part of the house, in the socially significant area, with Kashmir occupying a different part of the house.
So these things worked really well. And even when we left the home, things were back and forth and y'know, problems would start to arise again...all I would have to do is remind Brenda, hey, run over the tools, remember the tools, and those tools usually helped solve the problem.
Riyo - was "totally anti-social"
There's a couple of stories here. One is look beyond the obvious. And the obvious was that we had cats peeing and pooping.
Well, it wasn't until we get to the house that we realize it's a much deeper problem and that is that you've got a cat that is basically feral, living in this house, who is gone 22 hours a day, never coming out. If they did see Riyo, it was an accident, and she would freeze, see the two of them (ed. note: guardians Theresa and Arman), and disappear again.
And the fact that these two thought the peeing and pooping around the house and outside the litter box was their main problem just goes to show you that you're looking at the symptom and not the disease. And the symptom is feces and urine. The disease is terror. And that was what was Riyo's problem.
Also, we saw that because they were very centered around, hey this is our new condo, our new home, and they wanted to sorta scrunch the cat's world into a little bitty place, the cats responded with hey we will not be scrunched. And that's where again: peeing and pooping around the house.
So literally, the presenting problem was solved the day I got there. When I came back there, there was no more pee and pooping. The complaints changed pretty drastically after that.
But besides that, it was really important for them to note that it was almost territorial karma. If you squeeze the territory of a cat, they will squeeze right back. And that's what happened with Arman and Theresa.
Now, the important part about this whole thing is Arman's turnaround, that Arman went from quote "the guy with the soft landing" – meaning that anytime he could turn around and say, you know what, these aren't my cats, and I'm going back to my parent's house where I'm not responsible for anything, – to taking responsibility….
One of the great things you see on My Cat From Hell is that by taking responsibility for the lives and well-being of your animals, that sentiment spreads. And in this case, it was letting his soon-to-be-fiance – y'know the one he's moving in with after years of being together – that hey I'm in this for the long haul. Y'know? By suddenly saying I'm not gonna go to my mom's house, you're not just saying alright I'll take care of the cats, but doing what we called "The Turbo Swap" (ed. note: Jackson had Arman take on the role of Riyo's 'friend and leader,' which was previously occupied by Turbo the cat. This was called "The Turbo Swap.") Arman also cemented his relationship with Theresa. He also let her know that I get it. I will be a parent to these animals the same way I will be a parent to our children. I will be an equal partner. And that sends a subliminal message to her, that he's in it for the long haul, in terms of the relationship. So talk about a win win!
The in-depth mojo part of this whole thing was that the last day of filming Turbo and Riyo was actually the last day of filming for the season. And I remember thinking how fortunate and how blessed we were to end the season on that note. On Turbo and Riyo in that beautiful tree. Arman really, genuinely turning around, becoming - growing up, really - in front of us. Becoming somebody ready to take responsibility. Having those moments where Riyo and Arman bond on the stairs and how that turned into something else. Seriously, there was not one moment of that – I don't even want to call it an episode – of that experience, with that couple, that wasn't huge. And it's amazing cause when I go into a case like that, I say well they're just peeing and pooping. And that's fixed in no time flat. But turning Riyo around – first using the social bridge of her friend Turbo, and then doing The Turbo Swap, and all of the dominoes that fall from there in terms of the human-to-human relationship, and how the humans feel about themselves – was magnificent and a catapult into the next season for me.