He’s known as the Cat Daddy, an expert in helping “cats find their mojo.” His name is Jackson Galaxy, and he’s the host of Animal Planet’s “My Cat From Hell.”
So, what does this cat whisperer have to do with two shelters in the Baltimore area? Plenty.
Jackson Galaxy and a team of cat behavior experts developed a program called Cat Pawsitive, a positive reinforcement clicker training initiative to help cats in shelters get adopted.
In its first year (2016), Cat Pawsitive worked with nine shelters around the country, including the MD SPCA in Baltimore. And in 2017, the Baltimore County Animal Shelter took part.
The whole idea is to teach shelter cats outgoing and sociable behaviors, making them more likely to be adopted.
After being part of Cat Pawsitive, BCAS Shelter Attendant Anne Thiessen was amazed that you can actually train a cat. “You have to have a tremendous amount of patience…just keep on repeating and repeating and they eventually will get it.”
To understand why Jackson Galaxy embarked on this effort, you need only see how many cats behave in a shelter environment. Fearful over being in such an unfamiliar place, cats often hide, staying as far back in their cages as they possibly can.
That’s not a recipe for adoption. Adopters want kitties that come to the front of their cages, seem friendly and interactive.
So, the Cat Pawsitive program uses positive reinforcement to teach cats to do just that. Shelter workers and volunteers use a clicker and treats to reinforce behaviors they want.
Often, they must start very slowly. A shy cat allows himself to be petted. Click then treat.
The cat comes to the front of its cage. Click then treat.
Over time, kitties can learn to give high fives, sit, jump through a hoop.
I don’t need to tell you the reaction you get when an adopter sees a cat give a high 5. That cat is heading for his forever home.
After participating in Cat Pawsitive, Maegan Campbell of the MD SPCA says, “Using these new skills, we are now able to help more cats find homes than ever before. We still use the Cat Pawsitive program, and we will continue to do so because of the amazing results!”
As Jackson Galaxy’s website will tell you, “Adoptability saves lives.”
To see Cat Pawsitive in action, at BCAS and other shelters, just check out this short video. Prepare to be amazed.
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