Jackson Galaxy on passion, pet food, pet rescue
TV personality and cat behaviorist discusses the grain-free movement, and what shelters and rescue groups should do to be effective
Jackson Galaxy, cat behaviorist and star of Animal Planet’s “My Cat From Hell,” is a big believer in passion when it comes to pets.
“If you are working for animals, you are always connected to passion,” Galaxy said during an interview during Petfood Forum 2015, held in April in Kansas City, Missouri, USA, where he gave a keynote speech that focused on his passion for pets and how that passion led him down the path to where he is today.
“I could never have been that person who just clocks in and clocks out. I have to feel a connection in order to get through this life,” Galaxy said.
Galaxy began working with animals when he took a job at a cat rescue in Boulder, Colorado, USA, more than 20 years ago. There, he developed his connection with cats and eventually became a private consultant who works one-on-one with his clients and their cats in their homes.
He is likely best known for his role on “My Cat From Hell” on Animal Planet. On the show, Galaxy helps cat owners pinpoint the sources of conflicts they are having with their pets and work through the problems.
Support for pet food industry
Galaxy is a proponent of the grain-free movement, particularly for cats. He says he feels the pet food industry is acknowledging cats’ mind-body connection by developing grain-free options.
“It means you’re plugged into the needs of cats and they’re not just an animal that gets feed. They’re an animal that thrives on a bio-appropriate diet,” Galaxy said. “I know that there’s a business side of it, obviously, but you can’t go wrong by investing purely in the needs of the animals. The public will thank you.”
Passion vs. burnout
Galaxy acknowledged that anyone who works with or for animals is likely to hit the point of burnout in their lives and their career.
“It is hard to allow that you can’t do everything. One of the biggest failings in the animal welfare world that I’ve seen is that everyone tries to do everything. I’m a huge proponent of doing one thing and doing it well,” he said.
His tip for finding your best way to help animals is to look for how you can “plug in your passion.”
“My No. 1 piece of advice is to check in with your passion every day,” he said. “This is a quality-of-life world. We serve animals. If you don’t feel like you’re serving them every day, then it’s time to take stock.”
“As long as there is a crossroads of passion and purpose, you are walking the right path in your life,” he said.
Work with shelters and rescue organizations
Galaxy’s true passion is working with pet rescue groups and shelters. The Jackson Galaxy Foundation helps improve the lives of animals in shelters by transforming the places they live and helping their caregivers do their best work. The foundation focuses on innovation and education.
“The Jackson Galaxy Foundation rewards innovation,” he said. “It’s not enough to be an animal lover and put a roof over their head and to adopt them out. That’s not the whole picture.”
“Also, the purpose of my foundation is to raise the consciousness of the people running a shelter. Act like you’re running a business,” he said. “If you run that business well, then we’ll put ourselves out of business. And that’s the goal.”
Kansas City Pet Project’s success
Among the pet rescue and shelter groups that were featured at Petfood Forum 2015 was the Kansas City Pet Project, with whom Galaxy has worked closely. He said KC Pet Project’s innovation and general approach are inspiring.
Kansas City Pet Project operates the animal shelter in Kansas City, Missouri, USA, and is focused on creating a no-kill community in the Kansas City metro area.
“The KC Pet Project story is inspiring because it all revolves around somebody not in the ‘industry’ walking in and saying, ‘Why do we do this?’ And to turn the problem around in the relative heartbeat that these guys have done it for this city is an example for everybody.”
Teresa Johnson, CEO and executive director of KC Pet Project, and Tori Fugate, KC Pet Project’s manager of marketing and development, agreed that innovation is key to the KC Pet Project’s success.
“When you take the idea of euthanasia out of the equation, you have to become very innovative in figuring out new ways to get animals adopted,” Johnson said.
“Every single pet that comes to our shelter has a chance to have a happy and healthy life,” Fugate added.
It’s not only the animals that are important when it comes to running a successful rescue organization, Galaxy said. The human element needs to be involved too.
“It’s really important for animal welfare agencies to realize that it’s not enough for you to provide basic services for the animals in your community,” Galaxy said. “You have to take that step and provide services for the human component of the community and demonstrate that commitment in order for them to invest back into your animals, and KC Pet Project does that brilliantly.”
One of the best innovations KC Pet Project has made, according to Johnson, is talking to people when they’ve decided to surrender their pets. They have a conversation with every pet owner who has decided to surrender his or her pet before the surrender takes place.
“Since we started having conversations with people and having them make appointments, our intake from the public has come down 18%,” Fugate said. “So … we actually help people keep their pets.”