Treat Yourself Like a Cat: Part Two

I’m continuing on the path of cats & mental health. You feel me?

As I’ve scraped the bottom of the barrel over and over for things to do during quarantine, I rediscovered a show recommended to me when I first started fostering cats.

Despite its intimidating name, Jackson Galaxy’s show “My Cat From Hell” is anything but.

Jackson Galaxy shows you how to work with your cat to change its ‘hellish’ behavior. Desperate cat owners (or guardians as they are referred to in the show) seek help for things ranging from scratched up furniture, ‘unprovoked’ attacks, and overzealous territory marking (AKA peeing everywhere).

In the opening credits of the show, he states “there’s never been a cat I can’t help.”

That is wonderful news, and not just because it means the cat won’t have to go to the shelter; it means no cat is broken. The environment needs to change, not the cat.

I believe the same applies to us humans. No one is broken. Only their situation or environment. It’s much easier to change your situation than it is to change your personality.

The cat guardians in the show are often surprised by Jackson’s approach, thinking he was going to say, “you’re right! Your cat is completely crazy!” and maybe do some intensive cat training. Instead, he encourages them to see things from the cat’s point of view. How is the cat feeling? Is it scared because cars go by every night? Is it bored because no one has time to play with it?

Oftentimes after he asks these questions, the reason for the cat’s bad behavior becomes clear: the cat is bored, scared, and/or lonely. The cat is acting out because it’s crying for help.

The cat isn’t broken, the environment is. And while results aren’t instantaneous, the solution is usually relatively simple. Add more shelves so the cat can look out the window. Buy more toys to keep the cat engaged. The key is to be patient and to realize there’s no quick fix for anything.

Whenever I feel anxious, it helps me to think of my brain as a scared cat in a hectic environment. What would Jackson do? For starters, he wouldn’t yell at the cat and say “stop being anxious! You’re stupid for being stressed out!”

He would approach the cat with an open-mind, coo at the cat, pet it, and play with it.

He wouldn’t try to change the cat’s personality; he would assess why the cat is feeling the way its feeling, and work to improve the cat’s environment.

He approaches every cat with calm, acceptance, and love, and you should do the same for yourself. If your current situation is bad, remember you’re not broken; maybe its just your situation.