Animal Planet's Jackson Galaxy, the Cat Whisperer, Visits SXSW

And speaks loudly enough to be heard over the ruckus of Fadó

Jackson Galaxy, Cat Whisperer
Jackson Galaxy, Cat Whisperer (by PHOTO BY SHELLEY HIAM)

The name of his show is My Cat From Hell.

You probably knew that, right? And you probably also know that Jackson Galaxy is the knowledgeable, bald-headed star of the show, the aleurophile with the bowling shirts and the distinctive facial hair: the man who knows, almost mystically, what's up with cats.

He's also a man who's spent more than a decade working in an animal shelter. A man who – even before his experience and studies and cat-knowledge workshops led to this sweet gig with the company that also brings us Shark Week – has devoted his life to educating people about their feline friends.

Or, in the context of this show, their unintentional feline enemies.

We sat down with Galaxy at Fadó on Fourth Street on Saturday, during the Cat Whisperer's brief stopover in Austin for SXSW Interactive.

Austin Chronicle: Alright, let's go way, way back: There you are, the young Jackson Galaxy! What got you started on felines? What was your first cat?

Jackson Galaxy: Actually, my family never had cats as pets. I grew up with a dog and goldfish. And it wasn't until after college – I moved to Boulder, Colorado, in '91, and started working at the Humane Society there. And it was like an instantaneous thing with the cats – and they picked me. And I started to bring them into my home. Before, I'd just been working with them.

AC: When you started at the Humane Society, were you looking to do good in general? Or were you particularly interested in working with animals?

JG: Honestly, I was burned out on human beings. And, as a musician trying to work a job, I'd much rather scoop poop and clean up pee all day than deal with humans. But after about two weeks, I was like, "Ohhh, wait a minute, I was led here." Do you know what I mean?

AC: Like it was a calling?

JG: It was a freaking trap! [laughs] And, flash forward, I worked there for over 10 years. And the great thing about it, it's grounded in a rescue mentality, in everything you do for the animals.

AC: And how do you deal, emotionally, with some of the people featured on your show who, I mean, there are some who seem to have no fucking clue at all – and probably shouldn't have a cat in the first place.

JG: Let alone children.

AC: Exactly! So how do you keep your, ah, your "I want to kill you" response locked down?

JG: Because, honestly, it's more about the education. I really believe in education and not judgment. Let's put it this way: Part of my job at the Humane Society was to kill animals – every single day. And when that reality is your world … My only priority is to keep these knuckleheads from turning their cats out onto the street or bringing them to the shelter. You know? I'm doing it for the cats.

AC: Which is why you're the Cat Whisperer.

JG: Well, I love all animals. Every single animal on this planet I love. That said, on the day that I started working with a roomful of cats, it was like, "Oh – we get each other." And that's not a gift horse I'm gonna look in the mouth. So to speak.

AC: OK, you love all animals. Quote-unquote, Jackson Galaxy said that. But what about, say, a Black Emperor scorpion?

JG: I literally have respect for every animal on this planet. Would I want to be in bed next to a scorpion? Hell no. But, at the same time, I find wonder in what they do and how they exist.

AC: What do you think of people who dress their cats up in funny clothes?

JG: I hate 'em. Yeah, no, I'm not a fan of dressing up animals. I just – I'm into animals for the sake of them being animals, and I want to celebrate them for that.

AC: OK, and on the other side of that question: What do you think of people who dress themselves up as cats? Like, when they do it really seriously. I mean Furries, specifically.

JG: I run. [laughs] I run fast and hard. Because they're attracted to me, they think I'm a Furry whisperer. And you know what? I'm not.

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