The Cat Daddy drives a convertible, pastel-pink hot rod in the intro to his Animal Planet reality show, "My Cat From Hell." The bald, bearded, tattooed man behind the wheel is Jackson Galaxy, a drug addict turned cat behaviorist who teaches humans to deal with feline problems.
He wrote the story of Benny, the ailing cat he rescued and got clean for, in his 2012 book, "Cat Daddy: What the World's Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Life, Love, and Coming Clean." Galaxy will appear Friday at Books and Books in Coral Gables to discuss and sign copies of the memoir.
"My Cat From Hell" shows Galaxy taming hissing beasts and training frustrated owners. He learned all he knows about cats through what he hoped would be a mindless job at a Colorado animal shelter, when he was a drug-addled musician.
Benny arrived at the shelter with a broken pelvis after being hit by a car. Galaxy says Benny's owner didn't care enough to invest in treatments. He fostered the cat for six weeks, and realized his addictions to drugs, alcohol and food had numbed his emotions.
"In order to work with animals, you can't be fronting," Galaxy says. "They know when you're not emotionally present."
Feeling as if no one cared about him or Benny, Galaxy pushed himself to confront his vices so he could be there for the cat. Today, Galaxy is a hardcore cat advocate who treats the animals as if they were people.
In a recent phone interview, Galaxy shared some of his Cat Daddy commandments.
Come out of the closet, cat guys
When Galaxy speaks at cat-behavior seminars or workshops, he says roughly 450 of the people in a 500-strong audience are women.
"Guys think, 'If I like cats, I'm less masculine,' " he says. "But you'd be stupid not to want to be [at the talks] if you're a guy."
Galaxy thinks some men believe they should own dogs exclusively, and that only women love cats. He calls himself "strictly bi-pet-sual": He has three cats and one dog at home.
He acknowledges that his rockabilly-inspired clothing, hair and accessories earn him glares in public. "You don't know how many people look at me and think I'm gay or straight or whatever," Galaxy says. But he pushes men to embrace their preference for cats, nonetheless.
"I want cat guys out of the closet," Galaxy says. "Let's go out and — hell, yeah — call ourselves a cat lady. I'll say that about myself: I'm a crazy cat lady!"
Don't kill. Trap and release
Feral-cat colonies form in many South Florida neighborhoods. Galaxy says because it's warm year-round here, the strays always produce new litters of kittens, unlike in areas where cold weather determines "kitten season."
Galaxy says a Smithsonian study blamed cat colonies for mass killings of some bird species across the country, but he doesn't buy the report's science, which he claims promoted killing feral cats. His solution for strays is sterilization.
"It's not our place to play God and decide who suffers more, or who gets to live and who doesn't," he argues. "I'd like to see a no-kill world."
Trappers who want to help control cat populations should monitor areas that house cat colonies, Galaxy says. After trapping, spaying or neutering and releasing, trappers should return to the area to check on the cats' health.
But don't attempt to trap cats alone, he says. Go to TheCatNetwork.org for help.
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