There are so many things I love about this unusual book, I don’t know where to start.
“…You know, we’re OUT now,” Galaxy tells the urban crowd at Books, Inc, “cat lovers are out of the closet.”
Judging by the neck-craning, over-flowing turnout, he must be right. We applaud with our newfound confidence and coolness.
But back to this daring book with its cute, innocent title.
This is a book about triumph over the thing that almost got you.
You cannot help but be uplifted by Galaxy’s story, which hides nothing of his darkest days and, with wicked humor and introspection, describes finding his way out of addiction – and a few other frustrations you may identify with – and into his own place in the world.
Plus, there’s a little cat on a similar journey along with him.
Tattooed musician Galaxy curses plenty, tells you things he’s not proud of, and tells you he didn’t get his degree in animal behavior. The book speaks as he speaks, and he vividly weaves stories I didn’t want to put down – tales of miracles unfolding.
It’s a book about the love and transformation of a cat who starts out with everything working against him.
To avoid revealing too much of the story, I will just say that Benny, the cat the book is about, has a ridiculously unlucky start in life. But he becomes much more lucky when he finds himself in the custody of one Jackson Galaxy, cat behaviorist.
Jackson loves Benny with all his heart, which we know without him saying so. We know it from the moment Jackson describes first peering into Benny’s cat carrier:
“His pain is written all over him, despite his feline stoicism. I notice a gray spot on his nose and it’s so cute I can’t help laughing…
…I put my finger to what I thought of as the cat’s third eye…touch and wait for him to push my finger back to his ears…–and I swear it was the first time I felt a cat sigh.”
You know how a human who suffers from a hypersensitive awareness of everything around him, plus a great deal of pain on the inside, will have an awfully hard time adjusting to change and lack of control?
Benny is the cat equivalent. He’s hypersensitive because, well, he’s a cat who wasn’t introduced to nice humans early enough, plus he suffers daily from physical pain.
So, as you may imagine, there are some litter box issues and obsessive behaviors that challenge even the best of behaviorists.
But rather than blame and hate Benny, Jackson, as he becomes more sober and clear-eyed, keeps peeling back his own layers of trying make Benny think and respond like a human. He strips it down to, “How do I meet this cat where he is? What does his world actual look and feel like right now, as a cat?”
It was a life doctorate program in cat behavior, as taught by professor Benny.
Benny is a cat who had been treated with neglect and disdain before Jackson adopted him, yet greets Jackson when he comes through the door, purrs at Jackson’s touch even in moments of pain, and wants to settle in with Jackson on the bed at night.
It’s one of those bonds, and I know you know what I mean.
This is a book likely to give even long-time cat lovers some new ideas on cat care and behavior.
I will never forget the scene where Jackson finally realizes why Benny is pulling out all his hair and piling it up in front of the air conditioner.
What he discovers is a likely – and readily removed – cause of “behavior problems” in many homes, and yet how many would have dismissed this cat as mentally disturbed or “out to punish me” and even sent him back to a shelter where he’d be likely put down?
There are actually dozens of really good tips in this book, mainly as sidebars outside the story narrative. One of my favorites is Jackson’s “Three-step handshake” for making a positive connection with a cat when you meet them.
It’s a book about what’s possible.
In truth, Jackson’s story, like Benny’s, starts from a place of having a lot working against him, but his story just might leave you thinking, “Perhaps so much more could be possible for me too. Perhaps I, like Jackson, don’t even have to hide my old flaws and bad experiences in order to get to a better place. Perhaps if I stay open to being moved by something that matters to me, and to recognizing what I might have to offer it, I can change my life too.”
By the way...
Catch a whole new season of Jackson’s show on Animal Planet this Saturday, June 30! Check your local listings.