Left: Cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy. Right: The author and his asshole cat, Sparky.
Back when I was single and had a drinking buddy and we’d go out and try to talk to girls, I learned a lot about what women think of men with cats. Whenever my friend would mention that he had cats (as opposed to a cat), they’d look at him differently. In short, women are skeptical of men who have cats.
To be clear, that’s a plural “cats.” If you have one cat, women will want to see pictures and think you’re a nurturing, lovely man who has a soft spot for fluffy, warm things.
But more than one cat? Red light. A man with cats is often portrayed as a reclusive, strange creature who probably has issues and doesn’t have a very good lighting scheme.
“Whatever that stereotype was, whether it’s a crazy cat lady or the not-so masculine guy who likes cats, it’s totally different now. The game has changed and it’s time to re-examine why you’re keeping your love of cats under wraps. You’re afraid of judgment.”
Meanwhile, this is keeping men from surrounding themselves with the furry critters. We’re supposed to have dogs. Dogs are manly. Dogs go for walks. They play fetch. They’re our buddies. But cats?
So I called up Jackson Galaxy, host of Animal Planet’s My Cat from Hell (Saturdays, 8/7c), manly man with fantastic facial hair and general rock star. Here’s what he had to say about all things Men and Cats.
On the Stereotypes of Guys Not Being “Cat People”
“I think, traditionally, men somehow seem embarrassed by liking cats. That’s why you always hear, ‘I’m a dog guy.’
When My Cat From Hell premiered and people saw a guy (me) who didn’t look the way you thought a cat guy would look and that we are all shapes and sizes and degrees of social status. I was happy to blow that stereotype up. My Cat From Hell made it okay for lots of guys to like cats.
Whatever that stereotype was, whether it’s a crazy cat lady or the not-so masculine guy who likes cats, it’s totally different now. The game has changed and it’s a time to reexamine why you’re keeping your love of cats under wraps. You’re afraid of judgment.”
On What Women Think of Cat Men
“It demonstrates a comfort level with one’s masculinity. It demonstrates a confidence and I think women respond to that. At my live gig, I make every cat guy in the audience stand up and just have all the women take notice. It’s not what your father was. It’s a different ballgame.
Take one look around—whether it’s YouTube or Vine—at who’s posting cat videos. It’s not who you think it is. Going against a stereotype is a good thing and it’s a good thing for your dating life as well.”
On Getting Started as a Cat Man
“Go to the shelter, look for a cat that calls to you and go home with that cat. While you’re at it, get two cats. Cats like the company of other cats for the most part and they will keep themselves busier than you ever could, especially if you don’t really understand them at first.
I’m not about going out there and buying purebreds for status’ sake. Go spend $10,000 on a Savannah and end up with a hybrid cat tearing up your house and you have no idea what to do about it. Go to a shelter, give a cat a home, and let your heart lead the rest.”
On Training Cats Like Dogs
“You can’t train a cat the way you can a dog. You can train them, though. I think some men don’t like cats because they don’t treat you like the center of the universe. Men don’t like that. Dogs have evolved to please us—their motivation is much different than cats.
Cats take a bit of bribery and conditioning. You also have to question your own motivation: Why are you asking your cat to do something? I’m not a fan of those parlor tricks and cats performing for humans, but there is a lot of value in teaching them certain behaviors. We can teach a cat to sit at a spot in the kitchen while you prepare meals so they’re not all up in your business. It’s the same clicker training that you would use for dogs, actually. It works.”
On Asshole Cats
“Yeah, cats knock shit off tables. In fact, that’s the subject of the first or second episode of the new season of My Cat From Hell.
It’s basically the cat saying I’m bored—I’m looking for entertainment and I’m not getting it from you. The cure is to play with your cat. There are all sorts of interactive toys you can get. Just spend five, ten minutes of letting your cat chase something and knock it around.
There are toys out there for asshole kitties so they can knock things around and get rewards from it rather than from shattering your favorite whiskey tumbler. You have to redirect that energy. Listen to your cat when he’s saying ‘I’m bored’ by proactively playing with him.
Also, don’t leave a tumbler sitting around on a coffee table for your cat to play with.”
On How to Play With Your Cats
“When the energy rises in the house, that’s the time to play. When you get up in the morning, when you come home from work, before you go to bed, when everyone gets up and has that energy blast. This is when to get your cat into your rhythm.
One of the biggest complaints I get all the time is people’s cats waking them up at three in the morning. You can train around that, getting into rituals around playtime and then eating meals. It prevents the middle of the night cravings.
I have a method I call ‘Boil and Simmer.’ Cats are hunters—they’re built for sprinting and not a marathon. Playing with them for 20 minutes and letting them exhaust themselves is never going to happen. Instead, let them chase a toy around, get some energy out of their system, and then let them come down to a simmer for a couple minutes. You’ll think they’re done, but they’re not. They’ve got another wind in them, so you bring them up to a boil again.
By two or three rounds of that, your cat’s going to be done.
But the key to all of this is the type of toy. Don’t rely on little stuffed mice or bouncy balls and stuff like that. Those will be fun for 30 seconds, the cat will knock it under the fridge and that’ll be the last you see of it until you move someday. You need interactive toys. That’s the fishing pole kind where your hand is on one side and they’re on the other and you can really make an idiot out of yourself, run around a bit with them, play off their cues.”
“Cats are built to hunt, catch, kill, eat, sleep and start it all over again. It’s great to get them into that rhythm.”
On Letting Cats Be Cats
“The concept of the wild cat, the cat that has direct lineage back to the African Savannah, has always fascinated me. They’re built to hunt, catch, kill, eat, sleep and start it all over again. It’s great to get them into that rhythm. They’re so much more satisfied physically and their confidence level goes sky-high.”
On Cat Teeth Cleaning
“While it requires putting your cat under general anesthesia, it should be done on cats at least every couple years. I have a 23-year-old cat and I stopped her dental at a certain point because she’d had a reaction (not to the anesthetic) and I got a little freaked out. Her teeth have become such a problem in her older age and I would tell anybody that prevention really is a big deal when it comes to cat dental. Nothing else will clean your cat’s teeth, including that crunchy stuff they sell you.”
On Vacationing Away From Your Cat
“Pet sitting has really come into its own. It’s not just a matter of coming in, dropping some food and leaving. Cat sitters are now trained to keep those rituals in place. I don’t recommend bringing them into a boarding facility. Nothing is more important to a cat than territory and confident ownership of that territory, so if their rituals stay in place and everything remains the same while you’re away, you’re going to come home and your cat’s not going to bitch at you as much as you would have thought.”
If you’re as big a fan of Jackson as we are, check out The Jackson Galaxy Foundation, which seeks to better the lives of animals at risk and helping the people who care for them—a great cause for people and pets!