Bad Kitty—Maybe Not!

Jackson Galaxy, photo courtesy Catster.

One of the most frequent reasons cats are surrendered to shelters is behavior, either the litterbox variety or the violent personality variety. Helping people puzzle out what the heck is on their cats’ minds would definitely save a lot of space in shelters and a lot of feline lives.

I get a lot of eye rolls when I try to explain that the litterbox is in a bad area and that’s why they won’t use it, or that cats need to be “introduced” at their own pace, or you can’t play with a kitten using your hand as a toy and expect it not to attack your hand when it’s a full-grown cat on the prowl for some action. Yet understanding a cat’s behavior is often the last thing on the list, sometimes never even attempted, and why not? Well, sometimes it’s because no one ever suggested it and explained why your cat might be acting like it’s possessed.

Cats in general get less attention, less care, fewer veterinary visits and less treatment than dogs do, even though there are more cats as pets.

But feline health care has been changing, and what better to promote puzzling out a cat’s behavior than a TV show on a national network? Tune in today, Saturday, January 7, for the first program in the second season of My Cat from Hell to see Jackson Galaxy meet some really bad cats.

I have to admit that I don’t own a television—electively—so I didn’t see any of last year’s episodes, though as it progressed I read the reviews and watched the videos about some pretty frightening cats as I could on the Animal Planet site for the program.

And a bunch of authors who have seen the show have also interviewed Jackson Galaxy, and links to all their articles are included in It’s the Week of the Cat Daddy on Catster.

30 years of pissing contests

Right now I jokingly say I’m semi-retired from 30 years of feline rescue and fostering with two geriatric tortie girls who have never done anything bad in their entire long lives and five perfect black cats, all of whom get along wonderfully except for Kelly who’s a little scared of the big black cats. It’s like being in dreamland, like my reward for nearly 30 years of literal pissing contests on everything I owned, litterboxes in every room, scratched corneas, ripped ears and lacerated toes from in-house fights—and that’s not just the cats’ corneas, ears and toes—my own trips to the emergency room when I inadequately broke up altercations or tried to calm a frightened cat, and kitties with chronic urinary issues due to the stress of living with too many cats or one or two cats in the household who were aggressive. And sometimes they weren’t even violent, as little Peaches, as sweet as her name, who never, ever used a litterbox unless I put her in one at just the right moment. I’m still replacing sections of my floor.

The effects of continued abuse

And my Stanley who, for at least half his 25 years, had what veterinarians and I thought were real psychotic episodes, growling, backing himself into a corner, extreme violent behavior toward the other cats and he even bit me once, narrowly missing the artery in my wrist. I usually had to confine him for a period of days when this happened and he would eventually settle down. I knew from the beginning he’d been physically abused by the way he acted when you moved toward him in some ways, and I learned he had a severe urinary tract issue and would block if you looked at him funny. After years of observation the psychotic episodes and urinary issues came together and I realized that when he felt the first tweaks of pain from cystitis he would immediately go on the defensive, expecting to be kicked and slapped and who knew what else because he’d done what most cats with the condition did—he peed whenever and wherever he could.

Could I have used a Jackson Galaxy in those years! I may have even gotten a television so I could watch it.

Keeping problem cats in their home

But I also know of two cats last year who were surrendered to shelters and were no doubt euthanized for behavior issues, one urinary, one aggressive; the shelters even warned them what might happen and spent a considerable amount of time with the people making suggestions and helping them with treatment. I tried desperately to help the owners, referred them to a number of people and veterinarians, anything short of taking them in myself, and if they’d had the chance to see worse cases than their own and other examples it may have made all the difference to them. On the other hand I know of four cats where were in perilous condition for their behavior and I and others helped their people learn what the cats needed.

Support this understanding of feline behavior

With the support of a program like My Cat From Hell more cats could be saved from being abused, dumped somewhere to fend for themselves, or euthanized, either by their owner or in a shelter where their behavior kept potential adopters at a distance. Even if you don’t have a bad cat or don’t even know of one, tune in to support the show being on the air. And you never know, there may come a day when a cat will enter your life and you’ll be able to use what you’ve learned.


From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

3 thoughts on “Bad Kitty—Maybe Not!

  • January 8, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Very good commentary Bernadette. I truly hope we all collectively can help change the mindset of good cat-parenting – in many instances, I don’t think people even realize they are doing their pet an injustice. Better communication and education on the species is vital and Jackson is just the right guy to lead the pack!

    • January 9, 2012 at 10:14 pm

      Deb, I’m so glad to see feline behavior being taken seriously! Even the nicest people think cats are little dogs or even little people and it jut makes things worse.

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