Jackson Galaxy is the host of the American television programme “My Cat From Hell”. I’ll be perfectly honest and state right away that I don’t like the name of that television programme. I may be alone on this but the name of the program gives the impression that domestic cat behaviour in the home can be so bad that the cat is considered to be evil. That is an entirely incorrect point of view and a misconception.
I’ll get to the point of this article. On the today.com website there is an article entitled “Could your kitty have a chemical imbalance? ‘Cat From Hell’ star talks pet meds”
In the article, Jackson Galaxy speaks about a kitten whose name is Coco. Jackson says the kitten was “dangerous”. A strong word. Coco is a kitten who appears on his television show. He says:
“She hits a certain age, she snaps, is just something that’s kind of common.”
Jackson carried out some evaluations on Coco and concluded that she, “had a chemical imbalance”.
He decided to introduce some mood-stabilising medication. Coco became much more workable, he states.
Jackson Galaxy support his decision by saying that:
“The thought that we would deny help for the mental health of our animals, when we wouldn’t do the same for ourselves, is a little sadistic in terms of standing on ceremony and saying, “No, we should not drug our pets”.
He believes that the veterinary profession is now at a position where medication can help cats. He believes that psychiatric medication has moved beyond simply tranquillising cats to altering a cat’s mood.
A veterinarian, Dr Sarah Brandon, says that mood enhancing drugs for domestic cats such as Prozac are low cost and easy to give and can greatly improve the quality of life of a cat. She does, however, recognise the fact that some medication can result in negative side-effects. She concedes that the objective is to give the lowest possible dose while controlling the behaviour in question.
Galaxy, himself, does concede that problems of cat behaviour are not always about the cat. Sometimes, he says that the human can be part of the problem. He believes that the causes of cat behaviour problems are split about evenly between cat owners and the cat themselves.
In the case of Coco, he made the observation that Coco’s owner had become terrified of her own cat. This human emotion would feed through to the cat herself exacerbated any perceived behavioural problems in the cat.
Well, that is the story and when I read about it I come to the conclusion that there is an over eagerness to administer psychiatric medication to the domestic cat for perceived behavioural problems. We don’t, incidentally, know what the behavioural problems are. I think that’s important and we should know about them because they impact upon how one deals with them.
My personal method of dealing with so-called “bad cat behaviour” is to first look at the environment in which the cat lives and what the cat’s owner is doing in respect of interactions with her cat. There may also be other people in the home who interact with the cat and they should be observed and interviewed to find out exactly what is going on. Then socialisation should be investigated and also health. All these boxes should be ticked conclusively before consideration is given to administering psychiatric medication. I do not think that this level of completeness has taken place in respect of diagnosing Coco’s behavior problems. I also believe that the causes of cat behavior problems are not split 50/50 between cats and people. I would say it is nearer 90% due to people. Even if the problem is due to socialisation that is, at the end of the day, a human created problem.
Also, I do not think because medication is cheap it should be given to domestic cats without an awful lot of consideration and as a last resort. This is the key observation from this interview with Jackson Galaxy. He does not seem to be treating psychiatric medication as a last resort but something that could be considered at the outset. I disagree with him.
Also, I don’t like what seems to be a rather vague diagnosis of Coco when he states that, ““She hits a certain age, she snaps, is just something that’s kind of common.” – what is that about? That seems a very vague thing to say. It may be a misquote. It seems wrong to me.
Another point is this. If it is decided that a cat is behaving badly despite being well socialised, living in an excellent environment and in good health then a cat behaviourist should ensure that the cat’s owner has correct expectations and a clear understanding concerning cat behaviour. Many people may expect their cat to do certain things and behave in a certain way but the expectations may be wholly unrealistic. If that is the case then the cat’s owner may decide that her cat is behaving badly when in fact he or she is not.
It should be recognised, by the way, that Prozac has been found to be problematic as an antidepressant for people. There was a time when it was considered to be a wonder drug but now it is dawning on people that is far from the truth and one major side-effect is suicidal thoughts. There are other negative side-effects which as far as I’m concerned put its use in doubt.