Unlike some of the over baked stars of Jersey Shore, or the fame hungry ladies of the Real Housewives franchise, Jackson Galaxy never had his eyes set on reality television stardom. The heavily (cat) tattooed host of Animal Planet's My Cat From Hell, which will enter its second season on Saturday night after a successful three episode run last year, tells me that when he moved to Los Angeles four years ago to work on music and continue his private cat behavior consulting practice, he had no interest in breaking into the biz. But once word got around that the burly rock 'n' roller was also a seasoned "cat whisperer" of sorts, a friend decided to pitch the idea for a show. Shortly afterwards, a producer stopped by a session of one of Jackson's "Cat Mojo" classes, and the next day he found himself sitting in a production office.
For the uninitiated, My Cat From Hell chronicles the process of the self-proclaimed "Cat Daddy" as he helps frustrated cat owners (or "guardians" as he calls them) learn techniques to help their badly behaved felines, who are on the verge of being relinquished because of intense, yet correctable behavioral issues. During the course of an episode, Galaxy also dishes out helpful advice to viewers on forming better relationships with their cats, and promotes the idea that all cats are treatable, and deserving of help.
Despite the success of similar offerings such as The Dog Whisperer, Jackson tells me that while the network loved the pilot, execs weren't so sure advertisers would bite, and were also leery that viewers would tune in for a program all about cats. After an intense, 18-month waiting period of uncertainty, the show finally saw its premiere in May, and thanks in part to good buzz, and the support of cat lovers who saw the importance of the show's message, My Cat From Hell was picked up for another season over the summer.
I asked Jackson what fans can expect to see in season 2, and he says that since the show had already gained some notoriety, the casting net was cast much wider, resulting in a unique range of problems which he had never seen before. This season we'll be seeing 12 new cases, with one memorable example being a cat named Penny Lane. Galaxy tells me, "Her aggression was so unpredictable that I could be spending time with her and we would be fine, then she'd kick my ass, and then suddenly she's a kitten."
He says, "Just establishing a line into her world was amazingly difficult, but really rewarding. I felt so bad for her to be trapped in that body, and it was really painful to watch."
Another episode we can look forward to features a fitness phobic feline named Ruby who was intent on taking over an in-home pilates studio. The cat would not get off the equipment, and as a result, her guardian's were not only dealing with the stress of having a difficult cat, but also losing money because they couldn't have clients at the studio to work out.
The cats Jackson works with on the show are already stressed out and on edge, but bring a crew of 10 people into the picture, and things get even more complicated. He explained to me that once everything is set up, everyone retreats in order to get the work done, but he's still left with a camera and sound guy, plus 10 hours of filming, "hoping to catch what you need to catch." He says that when they first pitched the show, the one thing he couldn't guarantee was the cats. "There's no way you can push cats to show themselves. They will when they want to, I wish I could tell you otherwise."
"So who's harder to work with," I asked. "Cats or people?" adding, "I think I already know the answer to that!"
He begins, "With cats I don't have to work with expectations. I know what they expect."
"Humans have these expectations of magic bullets and Superman and that I am going to fix everything, and it's so completely unreasonable. That the problem for me. Not only do I have to show you that you've got work to do, but I have to get you to buy in and want to do this." He continues, "I want everyone who has a cat, and by the way, those who don't yet a have cat, to know what a remarkable life it is with them and what the possibilities are and how interactive your life can be with them. But you have to get past that layer of ridiculousness to get the buy-in."
One of the burning questions I had for Jackson was in regards to the controversy surrounding the show's title. I explained to him that while I've mostly only encountered extreme praise for the show, the one negative comment that kept popping up was over the title, and how people feel it perpetuates that stereotype that cats are evil. Jackson has some passionate feelings on the subject, saying that it wasn't his idea, and admitting that at first, he "wasn't a fan" of it either.
However, he eventually made peace with the network's decision to go with the inflammatory title, in hopes that it would help get the message out. He defends himself by saying, "You're never going to meet more of an advocate for cats," while also conceding had they had gone with a "soft and fluffy" title, it simply wouldn't have attracted the attention of curiosity seekers and casual viewers.
Another part of Galaxy's awareness spreading mission is to let men know that having a cat is cool. He says, "Cat guys don't look like anything, we don't act like anything, we just like to have them in our lives."
"It's important that cat guys step up. It's so important that we widen our troops. It should be all of our goals to work towards a no-kill nation. Whatever it takes, as long as the message is right, and we're helping and not hindering."
Looking towards the future, Jackson has an incredibly busy year ahead. In addition to the show's premiere on Saturday night, he also has a book, "Cat Daddy: My Life with the Original Cat From Hell," coming out in May (available for pre-order now on Amazon), and admits that it's a scary prospect for him. The book is a memoir based on his life with Benny, who he calls, "The biggest challenge of a cat that I think anyone would ever have to deal with. Every day we were together was a day I had to force myself to undo everything I knew and start again."
"Because of him I have a process I bring to the world of cats. He was always this baseline of crazy that I was able to bring to the rest of the world."
The books also deals with personal issues such as addiction. Jackson tells me, "I was killing myself in a lot of different ways." As an addict, he worked hard not to form lasting relationships with other humans, but ultimately it was his relationship with cats that helped saved his life.
There are also plans for a promotional tour alongside the book's release on May 10th, but beyond that, he's not entirely sure what the next six months of his life will look like. For one, he'll be waiting to see if My Cat From Hell will be renewed for season 3, and he's already hard at work on another book. As for his life outside of the cat world, Jackson plans to return to the recording studio where he hopes to spend time working on music, another one of his passions.
Wanting to wrap up our conversation on a silly note, I asked, "So, who who win in a cat fight between you and (Must Love Cats host) John Fulton?"
"I've already kicked Fulton's ass like 20 times, he's a wuss!" he says with a laugh. All joking aside, the two hosts are friendly (although he says they've only hung out outside of L.A., even though they both live there), and now that both of their shows have wrapped for the season, there are plans to get together and make some music.
Jackson ends our conversation with one last playful dig at Fulton before we say our goodbyes, saying, "For the record, he even knows this, he doesn't stand a chance."
My Cat From Hell Season 2 premieres this Saturday, January 7th at 8 PM ET/PT on Animal Planet. For more information on Jackson Galaxy, visit his website at JacksonGalaxy.com.