Jackson Galaxy is one of the preeminent cat whispers in the United States today. He’s a musician, actor, songwriter, tall with a shaved head and arms covered in cat tattoos. He’s highly experienced and highly regarded. AllPetNaturals sat down with him last week to find out how he became a cat whisperer, and his personal journey from a rescue shelter supervisor in Boulder, Colorado to the president of Spirit Essences – a successful holistic remedy company in California that is now famous for its homeopathic formulations used by pet lovers and veterinarians nationwide.
Q. Good morning Jackson. Where are we calling you?
A. Hi Bill, I’m in New York. I’m visiting my family, so I’m on my cell in the middle of Manhattan. Its about 10:30 a.m., which means you’re up early my friend.
Q. Jackson, tell us how you got started. I think everyone is interested in your career because from what I understand, no one in your family has any background in medicine let alone animals or cats, am I right?
A. Exactly. When I grew up we had a dog in the family that’s it. I was the only one that seemed to have an affinity for animals. So I was an odd man out kid. One day I got a job in the local animal shelter and I was drawn to the cats. It seemed to me they were misunderstood.
One of the problems that we had was the intake of more and more cats, so through exposure and practice I got to really understand them, and I began to learn and apply my knowledge to save these cats whilst in the rescue shelter. The big goal was to stop cats coming into the shelter in the first place.
Eventually this led to my rise to supervisor of the shelter, and then becoming more proactive by going out into the community to speak with cat owners to see how we might slow down the numbers of cats in need of rescue.
The next thing that happened was my reputation began to spread and soon I was being asked to consult on cat behavior; I then started my own consulting practice and that’s when I started to go to industry trade shows and conferences and eventually I met a very well known and respected holistic veterinarian and cat lover, Dr. Jean Hofve.
Q. So that’s the background. How then did you get into a partnership with Jean and Spirit Essences?
A. In 2001, I left the shelter and both Jean and I were on the same path consulting to cat lovers and helping various shelters and other organizations with their cat health problems.
Jean is highly regarded in the animal industry in the United States way before I came along. For years she had been treating cat behavior challenges. Since there wasn’t much in the market at that time, she formulated her own homeopathic flower remedies, and that’s how she started Spirit Essences. That was in 1995.
Q. Okay, what happened next?
A. Jean was so busy consulting, her company Spirit Essences was dying on the vine so to speak so she asked me to help. As I began working with her formulations we were noticing more and more both dog and cat behaviors were being positively changed by the remedies.
They are homeopathic preparations and its still a mystery to me as to how they work from a scientific framework — but seeing is believing and her formulas were really doing positive things for the animals.
In 2002 we went into private practice together and co-founded a company called Little Big Cat. We gave mind-body consultations and we focused on the connection between physical and behavioral health. We were partners and friends and both living in Boulder, Colorado at the time. We had some ups and downs but the company kept growing.
About three years ago I moved to California and in the meantime I bought the Spirit Essence company from her and we are now really moving forward. We couldn’t be more pleased. Jean is still active in the company and does the formulations and testing, and we make the major business decisions in consultation with each other, but on a day to day basis I run the company.
Q. Another thing we wanted to ask is where do you think the natural industry for animals is right now? We’d be interested in your perspective.
A. I think company’s like AllPetNaturals are ahead of the curve. I think you guys are very clever to be in the forefront of this industry which I see as becoming more mainstream almost on a daily basis.
When I first started, holistic animal medicine was truly a woo woo on the fringe of everything. Today the movement is embraced and becoming more and more popular and why not? Allopathic medicine and pharmaceuticals are not the only answer. There are other forms of medicine that work too.
And I guess my views have been vindicated because our business is thriving, yours is and many of my other customers are doing well too. People love their pets like their children. So as the kids leave the home, we are seeing parents focus more on who’s left behind and that’s our cats and dogs — our companions.
Q. I am dying to ask, what exactly is cat whispering.? Its what your famous for throughout the United States.
A. I try to avoid the words ‘Cat Whisperer’ since I’m not a vet, I’m not a trained animal behaviorist, but from years and years of working with cats I know what they want. I get them. I think my observation skills are fully attenuated to cats and I can interpret their behavior and then I can provide advice. The key is to actually observe them in the home.
I’m at consultations in people’s homes almost on a daily basis. I assess the situation when I first arrive. I had a case just today where a cat wasn’t using is litter box. I found out he had a previous episode with irritable bowel syndrome but as I was watching, his eyes, his gait, I could tell something else was up. A physical issue of some sort because the litter box to him meant a place where it hurts.
Q. Okay but cat whispering, I mean you’re famous as the guy who talks to cats! Its very fringe isn’t it?
A. Flash back 10 to 12 years ago, you’re right. People thought I was weird. The newspapers and magazines were full of stories about me. But over the past decade things have changed.
People don’t hesitate to call in a behaviorist when it comes to their dogs. Its a different standard but not cats until I came along. My pop psychology view is that dogs are looked upon as being more human, more like us so they become an extension of ourselves. If there’s an issue in the home people call in an expert. Why not for cats? But its way more mainstream today.
Q. What’s your favorite Sound?
A. Purring, a kitten purring. I just love it.
Q. What’s your least favorite sound?
A. A growl, a hiss. That’s says boy back off will ya. Hate that sound.
Q. If you were not doing what you are doing today, what would it be?
A. I’ve been a musician, I think if I had to do it all over again I’d do it exactly the same – cats and blues!
Q. Before we close, I am just curious. What’s the most compelling case you’ve ever encountered. Is there one in particular that really stands out?
A. I would say the one case that stands out is the English Bulldog story. We had a client that had a bulldog, and every time she left the house the dog was so full of separation anxiety that he literally tore the place apart — door jams, windows, furniture. It was bad. It was the nightmare on elm street. The worst I had ever seen.
What was she to do? The choice was try everything, try anything or put the dog down or give it away. But that would hardly solve the problem, right?
When I went in to consult I discovered that the one source of comfort this dog had was a small pillow. So what we did was sprinkle our separation anxiety flower remedy on a small bone and we placed the bone under the pillow. A miracle. It worked. Slowly overtime we added more remedy to other items, each time placing them near the pillow until we had built up an entire inventory of household items that were spread over the house. Boom. Done.
From that point forward the dog was relaxed and his comfort at being alone in the house was fine. It was a gradual process but it worked.
Jackson, this has been one of those special interviews. Thank you for your time. Namaste – in health, have a great visit with your family. Bye.
Jackson currently lives in Redondo Beach, California with his girlfriend Jill; rescue cats Benny, Caroline, Chips, Velouria and Zek; and dogs Kalee and Rudy. To read more about Jackson, Cat Shrink, Cat Whisperer, Cat Trainer check out his web site at www.jacksongalaxy.com. You can see Jackson on Animal Planet’s new season of Cats 101. Have a PURRfect day!
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