The passion to improve the lives of companion animals is what drives many in the pet food industry. That same passion caused Jackson Galaxy to transform from a part-time musician and animal shelter employee to one of the country’s best known cat behaviorists. Galaxy, the host of “My Cat From Hell” on the Animal Planet network and author of several books on cat behavior, was the keynote speaker at Petfood Forum 2015 in Kansas City April 28.

“My passion for passion for animals is what ties me to you,” he told the audience. “We are all people that are not OK with the status quo. I wasn’t ok with cat euthanasia. I am not ok with the average life span of cat being 14 years. I have a 23-year-old cat at home. Part of the reason that cat is still here is the passion of people like you who were not satisfied with feeding them the same thing.”

Galaxy said he now teaches that one of the basic needs of cats is better nutrition, which allows them to live longer. He thanked the pet food industry for the improvements it’s made in cat food over the past 20 years.

He said food is one of the key drivers in keeping a cat happy. “Cats do one thing really well, and that’s hunting,” he said. “If you can let your cat hunt, eat, groom and sleep, they will be very happy.”

Galaxy was working at an animal shelter in Boulder, Colorado, USA, when he first started studying cat behavior. He saw the connection between training and socializing the cats in the shelter and raising the adoption rate. So he studied more on cat behavior. He says he learned dog training clicker reinforcement dog training tricks and adapted them to cats.

“At that point, my passion for animals took over,” he said. “I took over adoption and then became community outreach manager. Was able to convey passion for animals to other people.”

He was teaching basic cat behavior to people adopting cats, and return rates went down. When someone called to give up a cat, he went and talked to them, and could often solve the problem that was leading to the cat being given up for adoption. Within a short time the shelter was euthanizing fewer cats.

Galaxy says his methods are about teaching people how to empathize with the animal. “We don’t get cats, because they aren’t dogs,” he said. “It’s only a little over a 100 years ago we started bringing cats into the house.”

 Today, Galaxy works with shelters and organizations across the country to improve the lives of animals in shelters and reduce euthanasia rates.