Jackson Galaxy has been deemed the "cat whisperer" for his talents as a feline behavioralist, taming even the most problematic of cats so that they don't have to be given up for adoption or put to sleep.
But don't compare him to that other "whisperer" of animals, Cesar Milan, the one famous for working with human's other four-legged friends, dogs.
"Me and Cesar are bearded apples and oranges," Galaxy, the star of the Animal Planet's reality TV show, "My Cat From Hell," told Goodmorningamerica.com. "We are completely different beasts."
"We work in the same world, we deal with humans as well as animals but, for the record, I probably outweigh him three-to-one," he said of Milan, also a TV star. "So if nothing else, I can always sit on him!"
That answer is typical of Galaxy, who does not appear, at first glance at least, like your stereotypical cat lover. But Jackson, a 6-foot-2, 275-pound tattooed, guitar-player, is just that, a lover of felines, because his life, he says, was saved by one, a cat named Benny whom he met while working at an animal shelter.
Benny became the then-aspiring songwriter's constant companion for nearly 14 years and pulled Galaxy from drug addict to a clean and sober reality TV star.
"Animals to me became my higher power," he said. "I couldn't conform to a natural description of God, or anything like that, but when I walked into that building full of animals, they needed me, and I needed them back."
Galaxy's time with his cat inspired him to write a book, "Cat Daddy: What the World's Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Life, Love and Coming Clean," available in stores and online now.
"By finding your Benny, finding something outside yourself that makes life worth having, is crucial," Galaxy said of the book's message. "You won't overcome addiction just because you want to be clean. You'll overcome addiction because you have to be clean for something else."
Galaxy's message for everyone, addicts and those who have never struggled with addiction included, is that, when it comes to cats, more is definitely not less.
"I want to tell everybody that if you don't have a cat in your life- get one," he said. "If you've got three, get another one. If you've got 5, get another one."
Read an excerpt of "Cat Daddy" below, and click here to watch Galaxy in action as the "cat whisperer."
I'm a cat behaviorist.
In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, when I say that, whoever I'm talking to says, "You're a what?" "A cat shrink?" I try. Blank looks. "Cat therapist? Cat whisperer?" Nothing. "If your cat were peeing on your bed, I'd come to your house and help him stop."
Recognition. Maybe. And then, inevitably: "Can you really make a living doing that?"
"On a good week."
This was how I answered the reporter who wondered what I said when people asked me what I did for a living. "Well, to be fair," she said once I finished, "you're not exactly what people think of when they imagine the Cat Guy." She was right. I'm not. I'm pretty well covered in tattoos. My head is shaved. There are huge earrings dangling out of both my ears, almost down to where my beard reaches, which is normally just a bit north of my chest.
But it's okay, I told her, because it's all part of my plan. We need to explode the concept of what a cat guy looks like, what a cat girl looks like. We need a country literally full of cat guys and cat girls, bikers, politicians, clergy, and everyone in between, in order to keep millions from dying without homes.
I did this interview about a year before the premiere of my show, My Cat from Hell, on which I help people find ways to strengthen their relationships with their cats, using methods I started developing in the shelter where I worked and in whose trenches I learned how to love, appreciate, and work with cats on a higher level.
Since I began working with cats, I've met tens of thousands of felines, in shelters, in homes. But this book is about the one who taught me the most.
Benny was seven pounds of feline frustration who I loved with all my heart. I do not play favorites, and my house was always full of critters, but Benny demanded more than the others in every way. He was challenged physically and challenging behaviorally. He put me through my Cat Daddy paces for almost fourteen years and kept me humble while the larger world came a-knocking. When I moved from Boulder to California, I left the network of health professionals I had known before, so when Benny's health issues began to dominate the landscape I desperately reached out for new connections, veterinarians who shared my belief in an integrative approach. During Benny's first acupuncture session at a new local vet, I watched the way he almost seemed to melt beneath the well-placed needles. The doctor had a bedside manner, however, only marginally better than that of a potted cactus. I thought of blogging about the experience, but at that moment I realized my journey with Benny encompassed too much for a blog entry: growth, learning, setbacks, lessons in surrender and love. I wanted to write his story. Just like with My Cat from Hell, the idea is for viewers/readers to see the absolute most off-the-charts behavior, know there could be a way to salvage things, and look at their cat with renewed appreciation: "Well, that cat's issues rate a 10, and you're only a 6. I can handle that." I had no problem with the idea of presenting my little companion in that light. I'm sure he did. But then again, he had a problem with just about everything.