Meow Monday: What “My Cat From Hell” Really Means

Since May 2015, I have been a cat foster with Stray Cat Alliance, a no-kill org. Through them, I have helped rescue, reform, love, and adopt out 46 kitty lives and counting. I have two cat-related goals I hope to accomplish in the next two weeks.

To this end, I will be making a post about SCA and Duchess at least once a day every day for the rest of this week. Donating will help me to meet one goal, but sharing my posts will help both goals, so those of you unable to give in other ways have the chance to make a huge impact. In other words, every single share you make of this or any other SCA/Duchess related post goes a long way, so thank you!

Today, I’m going to talk about the marvelous bait-and-switch titling of Jackson Galaxy’s excellent show, My Cat From Hell, and how it helped me reframe my view of cats like our foster, Duchess.

If you haven’t seen it, My Cat From Hell is an Animal Planet show featuring cat reformer Jackson Galaxy. Back before I had my own space in which I could foster kitties, the show was on Netflix, and I eagerly devoured every episode.

The genius of the show is that it plays into the common human insecurity about, resentment of, and even outright hatred towards cats with its title and its title only. Most people chortle when they hear the title and remember that cat they met that they indeed feel was from Hell and might watch it to see what can be done with such a kitty. The show itself, though, is really about modifying human behavior and attitudes, not feline ones. Most people, even seasoned cat guardians, treat cats like children or dogs; Jackson Galaxy shows them how to do better, and despite a little bit of cat woo on his part, is very good at his job.

After watching the show for a while and picking up on its tropes (play with your cat! vertical spaces! side-by-side feedings through a partition!), I realized that the title’s cleverness is not limited to its clickbait aspect. My Cat From Hell, not “My Hellish Cat” or “My Cat is Demon Hellspawn”. My Cat From Hell, not “This Cat is Hellish” or “This Demonic Cat”. “My Cat From Hell”: This cat is yours, and you are creating a hellish environment, and as Satan in this scenario, it’s your duty to reform, not the cat’s.

Duchess was a lot more hunched-over and out-of-shape when she first arrived.

Our long-term adult foster cat, Duchess, is definitely from Hell. By the time she came to us a year ago, she had been there and back. She was surrendered pregnant and zipped up in a black duffel bag in triple-digit heat. Due to the stress, she rejected her babies, leading to her long-term hatred and fear of kittens. After a stint in two other foster homes, she came to us. Despite all that she had been through, from the very first day, it was obvious that all she wanted was to love and be loved. This was not a mean cat, this was a born lap cat whose tender kitty trust had been betrayed by awful people.

Accordingly, we treated her like the survivor she was and sweetheart that we knew she could be.  Thanks to plenty of love, attention, and tenderness, she is now a totally different cat, even physically. I’ve been pointer-and-clicker training her for just two months now to great results: I can direct her to different spots and even get her into a carrier!

As far as a forever home goes, we cannot be the ones to provide one for her. We are always fostering kittens and Duchess deserved a kitten-free home. Her anxiety about other animals and sometimes-overly-defensive actions mean that she needs to go to a pet- and child-free home. This makes her the perfect pet for someone who wants a low-maintenance, gorgeous cat who can be trusted home alone yet will happily and lovingly greet them and hang out with them when they come come.

Meow Monday: What “My Cat From Hell” Really Means

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