This is Jackson Galaxy, host of Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell and overall cat expert.
1. Cat Problem: My Cat Won't Stop Eating
Claire: So my question is, Merlin the Wizard will not stop eating.
Claire: And he is currently on a diet.
Jackson: What's his diet?
Claire: I don't know what mom feeds him.
Clare: We've had to put locks on our cabinets because he breaks into them and then eats the food.
Merlin the Wizard, in all his glory
Jackson: Well, here's what I would bet you. I would bet you that your parents went to the vet, the vet's like, "Oh my god, your cat's tremendous" and put him on prescription diet food. And my personal thing, without naming brands, is that prescription diet food, to me, is just a waste of time and money and actually winds up making your cats hungrier.
I really believe, very strongly, that all cats need the exact same diet, whether they're fat or skinny, whether they're old or young. That they are obligate carnivores, and they need meat and they need meat protein.
But that is the magic. It's what we call the "catkins diet." It's high meat protein and not much else. And if you feed your cat a raw diet, if you feed them at least a 100% wet diet, preferably grain-free, this stuff goes away. It takes care of itself. You don't need all the expensive diets. You don't need all that crap. Just give them what they're meant to eat.
Don't free-feed your cat. Just feed them meals. Oh yeah, that's right — you tell your parents. Feed them meals, because, just like with humans, our digestive system has to do its job. Right? We eat a meal, we let it work. We use the energy that the food gives us. We're hungry, we do it again.
My bet is that he's not on a routine. So he's constantly in that state of wanting. So if you do those two things alone, he will start to regain whatever is his normal weight.
2. Cat Problem: My Cat Likes It When I Watch
Candace: I have a little gray-and-white cat. His name is Harry. This is really embarrassing — but when I come home from work, he'll sit in front of me and stare me in the eyes and go to the bathroom on the carpet.
Candace: He's never gone outside of his box. And so he'll look me in the eyes when he's going. So it became a problem and I didn't know if it was that he was mad that I was not at home anymore or what the problem was.
Jackson: I just want to stop you from like going into that place of, he's being a jerk because he's mad at you. You know what I mean? Because then we're going into like, this is a human thing. Although it would be funny. Like your roommate is like, "I'm angry at you" and they piss on the rug, you know?
I mean, he is obviously saying something. How old is he again?
Harry, feeling his look:
Candace: He is almost 10 probably.
Jackson: Does he do it regularly?
Candace: He didn't do it at first, and then like a month into it, he started doing it. So I had to take him back to Dallas, to where he was at my parents' house, because he just kept doing it.
Jackson: Oh, so you just, wow. So that was serious. So now he's home again.
Candace: Right, and he hasn't done it at all.
Jackson: He's a normal guy again?
Jackson: OK. So, I mean, I wouldn't push it. I wouldn't try to bring him back. Whatever it was that was causing him that level of angst, that he was doing that. Because he was sending a message. Whether it was "I don't feel well" or "I'm scared," "I'm anxious," whatever that is, he was sending that message and now he's not sending the message anymore. So we want to leave it as it is. That said, you should then go get more cats and you should bring home two cats to your house now. Why not? Why do you keep laughing?
Candace: No, I'm not. I would love one.
Jackson: Do you think it's crazy? Well make it happen, man. So my solution is, get more cats. Leave him where he is because he's happy, and everyone's happy.
Jackson: Are you going to do it?
Candace: Yeah, I'll get a cat. I want a cat.
3. Cat Problem: Why Does My Cat Attack My Boyfriend?
Crystal: OK. My cat is Peggy.
Jackson: Oh, love the name.
Crystal: Thank you. She's my first cat. My boyfriend, he grew up with cats, so it's our first cat together, though. She's actually a pretty good cat, but my main question is, she treats us a little bit differently.
Ever since we've had her, she'll do something where my boyfriend will be walking by and she'll go after his ankles and sometimes kind of attack him. She's never done it to me. Only does it to him. I don't know why.
Peggy, ready for action:
Jackson: What it is, flat out, is called "play aggression."
Jackson: Your ankles are the closest thing to a mouse, right? Skittering across the floor. That's why it's ankles. And probably Peggy is under a table, waiting, or a chair.
Jackson: It's a game.
Crystal: It's usually just before bedtime.
Jackson: Great that you figured that out. So the best thing that you can do is ... she's just saying, "This is where my clock is" before you guys go to bed. ... My puppy does the same thing.
Crystal: Oh, really?
Jackson: Yeah, I have a puppy who, right when you're ready for bed, starts doing those crazy laps around the house. You know, like, Shit. And you just pull out toys and you play, because that's what you've got to do.
You bring out an interactive toy — that's the ones with the feather on the end, a fishing pole — go nuts. And do it before she does the ankle attack. If you know she's going to do it, then head her off at the pass. Provide that for her in a structured way every night, because she is saying something to you.
She is saying, "I didn't get enough." Right? And boom, you're in. But let your boyfriend know also that it's kind of a compliment. Backhanded, but it's a compliment: "You are my plaything."
4. Cat Problem: Mystery Pee
Kate: OK, I have two cats, Feather and Bug.
Jackson: Feather and Bug.
Kate: They just turned 9, both of them. One of them is peeing outside the litter box. Don't know who. Never caught either one in the act. We now have two separate litter boxes. We use Cat-Attract. We change the litter all the time and yet they insist. Someone insists.
Jackson: Someone's doing it.
Feather and Bug, respectively:
Kate: Yes. Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Jackson: All right. Here we go. Some basic questions. First is, is one of them more of a nervous cat, in general?
Jackson: Strike one. When they do pee out of that box, where is it?
Kate: Different places.
Jackson: So I mean, honestly, the first thing I would do is what I call the anti-treasure map" The anti-treasure map is, you have a map of the house. Like a drawing of your house. Every time they pee, "X," right?
Jackson: I've done it before with, like, painter's tape, the tape that doesn't stick to the carpet, and just put an "X" where it is. You will discover a pattern. You have to try to start getting into their head. Because in their mind it doesn't happen at random. They've got a plan. But it's about uncovering what that plan is.
Jackson: My money's on this. And my money is on that she's going through a period of not feeling 100% well and that she's avoiding the litter box for that reason. And to get her to feel better, the peeing stops. So in a way, of course, it sounds like I'm the king of the silver lining here, I'm like, "Hey, she's doing you a favor by saying, 'I don't feel good. Hey, this doesn't feel great, so this is why I'm doing this.'"
You're able to rule out territorial reasons by doing the "X marks the spot" thing.
If she's doing it anywhere near the litter box, then to me that is the 100% red flag — so if it's anywhere near the litter box. She's like on her way to the litter box, she's like, "Oh, take a right." Then you know, you know?
5. Cat Problem: Senior Citizen Cat
Justin: My cat, Bones, is 13 years old, and he's getting up there in age. Is there anything that I should keep in mind? Behavior-wise, that I should look out for?
Jackson: There's some things that happen in terms of dementia that I see constantly. But at 13, it's a little young. Again, remember, I have a 23-year-old who's not crazy, well, no...not that kind of crazy. But you'll see a lot of times, you'll turn off the lights at night. All of a sudden you'll start hearing this meow. This very plaintive...
Justin: I do know what meow you're talking about.
Jackson: You can solve that by just having night-lights around the bottom of the floor, because they really just lose their way. They just don't know where they are. Nutrition-wise, you want to make sure that, I mean, he looks great, but you want to make sure, even more so than any other time in their life, they are getting exactly that sort of bio-appropriate meal. That they're getting, to be redundant, we just talked about this, but just meat and lots of it. That is what leads them to a long life, free of the kind of problems that we see with older cats.
You want to keep his mind active. Cat TV? Best thing in the whole wide world. It is outside your window: You have bird feeders. You know, you give him more access to those windowsills. Make sure, like I said, right now he's fine. In a couple of years his hips, things like that. His paws.
Jackson: Ramps, right? Make sure that he gets up in those windows. Keeps that mind, even when you're gone all day long. Don't forget they don't sleep all day. They look out the window all day. That's what they do. So just to have something outside the window, that is engaging for him.
Puzzle toys. They could be round, they could be like a Rubik's Cube-looking thing. They've got treats on the inside, they've got to do this.
Justin: Thing inside-of-a-thing type of thing?
Jackson: Thing inside of a thing. So that you basically are always keeping that mind sharp and speaking to the raw cat. That prey animal. Those are the things I would do.
6. Cat Problem: My Cat's a Troublemaker
Jackson: Who's your cat?
Sami: My cat is actually my roommate's cat. His name is Louie. And Louie loves knocking full glasses of water off of every surface humanly possible.
Jackson: The thing is that he's just sending a very clear message that he's bored. You know? You bore your cat. When a cat's bored it's going to do stuff like that. So the idea is, what can you give them that takes their time, that's not that? You know what I mean?
Jackson: So there's a lot of toys. Toys fall into categories for me. Like, you've got the interactive toy. You're attached to one end, they're attached to the other.
Sami: Oh he loves those.
Louie and his paws, ready to knock stuff over:
Jackson: Of course. Then you've got remote toys. Remote toys are the ones like little mice and stuff like that, that they bat around and wind up under the fridge and you never see again. There's also self-activated toys. There's ones that you turn a switch and there's this stuff that happens and they have fun with that.
And for him, there's also, we come to the puzzle toy. So the ones that they're either a ball or square or whatever and they bat around and food comes out of it. That, I think might be a gimme for him. How old is he?
Sami: He's 2. He's a toddler or something?
Jackson: Oh no, no. He's a teenager now. He's totally like, "Mom can I have the car keys?" You're like, "No." "Mom can I have the car keys?" "No." And then you turn away and he steals the car. That's totally where he's at right now and this kind of thing is totally adolescent. But, that said, it is sort of a hint that you've got to be playing with the cat more.
7. Cat Problem: My Cat Loves Me Too Much
Ainslie: So. I have a 1-year-old cat, who I actually found in the parking lot here at BuzzFeed when she was 5 weeks old. She was tiny.
Jackson: Oh, wow. And by herself? There were no other cats around, nothing?
Ainslie: No. The valet said that she just walked out of somewhere, like a garage. She's really cute now and she's doing really well. However, I haven't slept for the last year because she sleeps on top of me.
Blue Ivy Carter, Blue for short:
Jackson: Well you know, the thing is, you've got a cat who is going to want to be more in need of maternal care because, at 5 weeks old, when you found her, to not have mom and siblings around is really young. I mean, there's a period between about two weeks and nine weeks where all this social information is fed to them. If they don't get that, socially they get really stunted.
So now, you're everything. You are that thing for her and so you want to encourage her to find a little bit more independence. The way to do that is, you get a bed. Like those little doughnut beds that will go right next to you in bed. The best ones are the self-heating beds.
So right next to you becomes this place. And you put it right next to you at first and then move it, to the foot of the bed or whatever, over time.
But she needs to be taught independence. It's not something that comes naturally, and because she didn't have a mom, really, she doesn't have any reason to have separation from you. Definitely too big a step to lock her out of the room. She's not ready for that at all.
So there's other things. I have something called a cocoon. It's a comfy cocoon. And it's something where you create the opening. You can open it up and it's a little sack and they go in it and it becomes that thing where they can be under, but still be near you. So one of those types of things where you're catering to what you know she likes to do.
If she likes to cuddle in and under, you can do that. But make sure it's just next to you. Like I said, it's going to take a little bit of time.
8. Cat Problem: I Have Scaredy-Cats
Dru: We have Guster, Book, and Martok. Book can do anything. He likes people; he hates cats. But Guster and Martok are super-scaredy-cats.
Jackson: Super-scaredy-cats. OK.
Dru: They're fine with me and my husband, but if anybody comes over or if there's any sort of disturbance outside they scatter. And once, my in-laws watched our apartment while we were in England, and Guster didn't come out for four days.
Jackson: You want to have a pet sitter. You want to have somebody who has established a relationship with these guys, and that's the place you'd start.
The way that you get a pet sitter in good with your cat, they come over and you take them through your routines. The person comes over, they make the meals with you. They put the food down. You have them come over a couple of days in a row. Then they get familiar with everyone's feeding them. Then they associate that person with Santa Claus. That every time that person comes over, great things happen.
Then you can start spinning that out, so that people other than you and your husband provide them with great things.
I've done this thing with scaredy-cats all the time, where somebody comes over, you give them a pocketful of the best treats that you have. You don't give them those treats at any other time. Except for when those people come over. That's the Santa Claus effect. That person comes over and all of a sudden there's tuna coming out of their pockets.
The only way to really get in with a cat is food motivation. So that's one way to do it. The other thing that I would really encourage you to do is, if they are what I call "cavers." Are they cavers?
Guster and Martok, the scaredy-cats:
Dru: They're cavers.
Jackson: So I would start closing off those places that represent caving. Under the bed, there's nothing good that comes from a cat being under the bed.
You don't have to do it all at once. You can block off, here's the headboard. The first half of it. At first, and expand it out. But you do have to push them. You do have to challenge your cats. If it's left to them, they will spend the rest of their life disappearing, because it works for them. At some point, you're going to have to say, "This isn't going to work for you anymore."
I swear to you, I promise you, on the other side of that line is a much better life for the cats. They just don't know it yet. At a certain point, you have to say, "I'm not going to allow you to cave anymore."
9. Cat Problem: My Cat Won't Stop Pawing My Face
Erin: I have a cat named Fish. She's a rescue cat. She's 2 years old. But she sleeps in the bed with us and I started waking up because she would put her paw on my mouth.
Jackson: She's like, "You're snoring."
Fish, the pawer:
Erin: But then she started doing it, like, during waking hours too. Like, if she's on the couch with me she'll just sort of touch her paw to my mouth. I was wondering if there's a reason why she's doing this. What is she telling me?
Jackson: I mean, it could be a lot of things and one of the things that you may look at, is in that moment, as opposed to saying, "What the hell are you doing?" Look in. What's going on here. How am I? Just for that one moment. Be like, what's going on? Am I stressed? Am I OK? Am I feeling all right? Have I just had an argument? Whatever that is, because my go-to response, is that she's trying to comfort. She's trying to comfort. She's trying to comfort you. So whatever that moment is, it's ... cats are so incredibly intuitive. They are so energetically tuned in. And they know when you need it.
It's amazing. Have you ever had the experience, in fact I posted a picture of this on Instagram a couple of weeks ago. When I had the flu and my cats were just, like, on me, like hot packs. They do that, and those cats never do that. Those two specific cats never do that. They did it because they know that by purring they can actually heal the physical body. So they just have that empathetic nature. So that would be the first place I would look.
Jackson: The second is, again, are you snoring?
10. Cat Problem: Is my cat TOO high?
Alex: I have a simple question about my cat: I'm wondering if my cat is having a bad trip when it has catnip.
Jackson: He's a sloppy drunk — that's fine. There's nothing wrong with being a sloppy drunk. I mean, catnip is, it's a psychotropic drug. It is. He's tripping. And the great thing is, he's tripping in the safety of your home. He's not out there getting into trouble and rolling out in the sunset and not getting arrested.
But yeah, there's the happy drunks, the mean drunks, the sloppy drunks.
Alex: And you can tell the difference?
Jackson: Oh, totally. I've gotten my ass kicked by the mean drunks. You give them catnip and they have that thing underneath anyway. They're kind of a butt to begin with, and you give them catnip and they're beating you up. They're just like, "Let's take this outside." And then you've got the ones that are like, "Oh I love you man. Did I ever tell you I love you?" You know, and sleep. And he's just the one who's like, he would be, like, at Coachella running around naked.
Alex: It makes sense.
Jackson: Be aware of the fact, you probably already know this, that I think it's better to give them the, let's say, the home-grown stuff. When it's stuff that they just nibble on at home, it gives them a little bit more of like a body buzz and less of a hallucinogenic, Oh my God. The man's after me.
I would go with that, and it's healthier too. It also, by eating catnip, it also helps digestion. Sold.