With his tattoos, piercings, trendy beard and eyeglasses and rocker vibe, Jackson Galaxy might seem like the kind of guy whose pet would be some snarling beast at the end of a chain. Maybe an exotic reptile.
Although he does have pet dogs (and a turtle), Galaxy is famous for his near mystical ability to connect with felines and correct various behavior issues. The "Cat Daddy," as he's known, is the bestselling author of "Cat Daddy: What the World’s Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Life, Love and Coming Clean" and stars on Animal Planet's "My Cat from Hell."
"I’m here to break down the stereotype," he said during an interview. "I know more straight up rock-n-roll stars that are cat people. I mean like heavy metal."
This Saturday, he'll be in Atlanta to help celebrate Furkids' 15th birthday. The Atlanta shelter holds a fundraising gala from 6:30 to 10 p.m. at Fernbank Museum of Natural History, 767 Clifton Rd. In addition to Galaxy's presentation
767 Clifton Rd. In addition to Galaxy's presentationthe party will feature live music, live and silent auctions, dinner and drinks. Tickets are $150 per guest; see www.furkids.org for details and to make reservations.
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"With the Jackson Galaxy Foundation I’m constantly seeking out advocacy groups that are challenging the norm and thinking outside the box," he said. "Furkids is one of them. There are other great groups in Atlanta but I was attracted by not just by their numbers but their attitude."
The foundation has selected Furkids to participate in the Cat Pawsitive program, which introduces positive-reinforcement training to shelter cats. Galaxy and his team of animal behavior experts developed the program to enrich life for cats in shelters by building social skills, promoting the human-cat bond and reducing stress-related behaviors. Ultimately, the program aims to make cats more adoptable.
Earlier this year Furkids broke the Internet with its low-budget (actually, more like no-budget) YouTube video. Local contractor Paul Preston, whose sister Helen Preston volunteers at Furkids, came up with the idea for a cat commercial and Nicole Neill, Furkids’ adoption team manager, got on board. The hilarious bit has been viewed 30 million times, generating both attention and some donations:
Preston will be honored at Saturday's gala.
“The Furkids 15 th birthday celebration will give animal lovers and Furkids fans the chance to meet Jackson Galaxy and Paul Preston, two legends in the animal world,” said Furkids CEO and founder Samantha Shelton. “Furkids has grown to rescue and shelter more and more animals every year, and we are proud to mark our 15th anniversary with two celebrity guests who share our passion for animals.”
Galaxy, of course, loved Preston's clip.
"The YouTube video - that’s pushing the conversation along," he said. "You put out a video that goes so viral, you just kept the lights on for another couple of years."
He got his start in the cat world - don't call him a cat whisperer; he says he's more of a listener - decades ago while working in an animal shelter.
"The cats came to me. They picked me," he said. "I did not have a terrible amount of experience with cats. We were killing a lot of cats at that shelter. I thought, if they were picking me, what could I do to save them?"
These days his most common issues involve aggression and litter box problems, but his videos also offer tips on how to better understand and communicate with your cat. (Want to tell your cat "I love you?" Blink your eyes very slowly).
"I sort of hesitate in calling cats domestic animals. They are barely not wild," he said. "Cats are prey animals. In the wild they’re always being hunted. They rely on their fight or flight instincts. If there’s a room full of people and there’s one person who’s allergic to cats or hates cats that’s the one person the cat will go to because they’re leaving the cat alone."
He and his wife own five indoor cats and care for several other outdoor ones - some cats are just feral and humans must accept that, he notes. He doesn't actually know why he has such a knack for cats but enjoys using his natural gifts to improve the lives of cats and their owners (or, more accurately, servants).
"You can work all day, come home and touch a cat and that does more than 20 minutes of mediation. Your blood pressure goes down, your heart rate goes down," he said. "Animals bring a dimension to our lives that didn’t exist before. One of the things I tell people over and over is, who rescued who?"