Learn how Jackson Galaxy, AKA “The Cat Daddy”, got his start in the cat world, and why his life’s mission is to make the planet a better place for felines.
Jackson Galaxy is an icon among the feline community – and it’s no wonder. Boasting more than two decades helping cats and their guardians live healthier, happier lives, this feline expert is well-versed in everything from litter box problems to whisker stress, and he’s teaching it with a feel-good mojo that’s impossible to ignore. On top of that, he’s the founder of the charitable foundation The Jackson Galaxy Project, host of the popular TV program My Cat from Hell, author of multiple books, and the proud creator of an extensive product line for cats. Inspired by his success, we spoke with Jackson to learn more about how he manages to do it all!
AW: Let’s start at the beginning! Tell us where your journey started.
JG: It began back in 1993 or 4 when I was working a lot of odd jobs and trying to support myself as a musician. I was living in Boulder, Colorado and just really wanted to do something a little more useful with my life. I saw an ad for an entry level position at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley… basically, a poop scooper and adoption counselor. I took the job and honestly within two weeks of working there it was clear that the cats liked me. We would be in big open rooms and the cats would just come to me like I had tuna in my pocket!
I had very little experience with cats, but I knew that a lot of them were being killed in the shelter. Because there was very little knowledge about cat behavior, especially cat behavior in shelters, I got as book smart as I could get and then I just went with my gut. I asked questions, spent a lot of time with the cats, and tried things. And that’s where it started.
AW: For our readers who aren’t familiar with you… what do you do?
JG: It’s funny because for many years I would refer to myself as a cat behaviorist, but that’s a little insulting to the cat! After all, would we want to call our therapists behaviorists? It reduces the animal’s life to a series of symptoms, and I don’t see cats that way. I see them as holistic beings, as complicated as humans are. So lately I’ve been calling myself a cat wellness consultant, or I just call myself “The Cat Daddy” and that gets me around a lot of problems!
AW: What are your missions and goals?
JG: My goal is to put myself out of business! I want to provide everybody with as much knowledge as possible about their cats, and give them the tools and empathy to build better relationships with them. This will help keep cats in homes and out of shelters.
On a larger level, my mission is to help humans understand and deepen their love for all animals. It’s really important to me that humans realize that animals are not possessions, but relationships you enter into and as such, they deserve a deeper level of involvement than we often give them. I think we have come a long way.
AW: What types of products make up your product line?
JG: We have a full line of toys, both interactive and what we call remote toys. These toys are indispensable because they really help your cat hone in on their hunting skills, which leads to what I call “cat mojo” which is the ultimate confidence. Remote toys are ones you throw and cats will bat them around, which are also important.
I have cat furniture, lots of beds, and we also provide organic cat nip and cat nip toys. We have an invention I call the “catnip marinater”, which is a device that lets you put toys in and they marinate in catnip.
Additionally, I have had my own line of flower essence remedies called Jackson Galaxy Solutions. I co-founded the company with a holistic veterinarian back in 2000, and we now have over 30 different formulas for cats and dogs addressing all kinds of energetic issues, behavior and physical. It’s been really encouraging to see that there has been an embrace of holistic remedies across the board.
I also have grooming supplies, from brushes to nail trimmers, litter boxes and scoops. There’s a lot of stuff! We will soon be getting supplements as well.
AW: What rescue-related initiatives are you involved in?
JG: I work in shelters and with rescue organizations to evaluate their protocol when it comes to cats, both from a behavioral and wellness perspective, and from an environmental and enrichment perspective. I try to help make the day-to-day process of having cats in their facility better, help increase adoption and retention, and teach staff and volunteers what they can do to help comfort and challenge cats.
AW: Speaking of rescue initiatives, tell us about the Jackson Galaxy Project!
JG: A few years ago, we started the Jackson Galaxy Foundation, now called Jackson Galaxy Project. We’ve had many different programs, but about a year ago I merged with GreaterGood.org and they are an amazing organization. By going under their umbrella, we now have the funds to bring to the forefront programs I’ve wanted to for a long time.
For example, the Cat Pawsitive Program is a clicker training program that we offer to cats in shelters and rescue organizations. By teaching them this, we are keeping their bodies and minds active, and teaching foster parents, volunteers and staff a new way of approaching the cats in their care. It helps to make them more adoptable.
Operation Homeward Bound is my transport program, which started out of necessity in Los Angeles because we have so many kittens here. I started by just driving cats to shelters that could take them. We then partnered up with Wings of Rescue, which is an organization that flies cats and dogs to shelters that have the room to find them new homes.
Safe Haven is a program where we go in and refurbish domestic violence shelters and make them friendlier for animals. We know that many women will not leave an abusive situation if it means leaving their animals behind, so we’re helping them get out. We are also going to be expanding that to homeless shelters in the next year.
Those are just a few examples. It’s something I’m very, very invested in and excited about.
AW: What’s next for The Jackson Galaxy Project?
JG: There’s a lot I want to do! We want to grow our existing programs, but there are other things that are important as well. Helping shelters and rescues better their environmental enrichment and how they house cats, for instance.
One of the other things I want to concentrate on is a “tip to tail” approach to having cats in a rescue or shelter setting, meaning I would like to help guide these cats through the system. Not only housing them, but really thinking about rescue as an opportunity to better their lives and prepare them for their forever homes. There are close to 100 million cats in homes in the US and many more that will need homes in the coming years. My commitment is to set them up for the best possible life while they’re in the hands of compassionate rescuers.
AW: We hear you also have a new book on shelves… congratulations! What’s the premise behind Total Cat Mojo?
JG: Total Cat Mojo is as close as I’m going to get to putting everything I know in one place when it comes to cats. I resisted writing this book for a very long time because I didn’t want to reduce the world of cats into problems and solutions. I wanted it to be a matter of teaching readers things about cats that they didn’t know and helping them to deepen the relationship they share with their cats. It helps people be more in tune with their cats and what makes them confident. The concept of “Cat Mojo” is that inner confidence which, when understood, can help us better appreciate their daily behaviors and needs, and ultimately develop a better relationship with them.
AW: You sure have a lot on the go! Is there anything else you’re involved in at the moment?
JG: I have dedicated much of my life to the protection of feral cats, educating the public about them, what can be done to reduce their numbers, and also advocating for them. They are just by and large either seen as pests that need to be eradicated or animals whose lives are so terrible that they should be rounded up and “be put out of their misery.” I will forever be an advocate and a passionate teacher of TNR, Trap-Neuter-Return, and its something I address throughout all of my work, whether it’s on TV, video, books, speaking engagements and of course through The Jackson Galaxy Project.
I also am a passionate advocate against the practice of de-clawing. I’ve provided expert analysis of cat behavior during the attempts to ban de-clawing across the state of California and, as we introduce new bills across the country, to ban it state to state. I think it is time that we join the rest of the world in banning this cruel practice.
Finally, I just think it’s essential to note that we should all be putting our resources into bringing more animals into our lives through adoption rather than going to a breeder. They are being born at an alarming rate and we just need to give homes to those who are already alive before we spend more time making more of them.
AW: This seems like a silly question, but do you have any cats?
JG: I have seven cats, but I also have three dogs and a turtle. I love all animals. My dream is for my wife and I to have a lot of property someday where we can have not just cats and dogs, but can rescue farm animals and large breed animals. We have a great love for donkeys, goats and pigs.
On that note, I’m an animal activist in all corners of my life. I do not consume animal products, period. So that means I am vegan, I don’t wear leather or suede, I will not buy anything that has been tested on animals, and I do not endorse products that are tested on animals. I don’t make a big stink about it, I don’t jump up and down and scream at people for their choices, but I try to educate just by being me and I hope that more people will follow the path of compassion. It starts with the cat in your life and then maybe it extends to the feral cats in your neighborhood who deserve your compassion. From there, we start to think about other animals that suffer and what we can do to make life on Earth better for them, because one way or another, we control their fate.