As "My Cat From Hell" returns to "Animal Planet" for a fifth season, HuffPost TV spoke with Jackson Galaxy for a friendly reminder that basically everything we think we know about cats is wrong. Galaxy, the most (/only) famous cat behaviorist in the world, elaborated on the beauty of pet parenthood and all the kitty I-love-you's you've been missing out on.
When cats blink, they're basically saying "I love you" ...
For cats, communicating love is the equivalent of communicating vulnerability. As predators, a long blink is actually a very important feline gesture, because it surrenders the animal to harm and sends up a message of trust. "When a cat shuts their eyes to you for an extended period, it's a grand gesture," Galaxy explained. "It is to say to a potential predator, 'Go ahead, I trust that you won't kill me.'"
... and rolling over on their back doesn't just mean they want a belly rub.
As Galaxy knows all too well, most people think of a cat rolling over as "an invitation to go and pet their tummy," but it goes back to that idea of being vulnerable -- what he considers the "highest compliment" a cat can give you. "What they are showing you, by exposing their midline, is 'This is my most vulnerable spot, if you were a predator, you could eviscerate me right now. Just like the blink is the cat I-love-you, this is the cat version of a hug," said Galaxy.
Cats rarely attempt to make statements (read: peeing outside the litter box does not mean Princess Sparkles "hates" you) ...
In all the time he's spent with cats and their pet parents, Galaxy knows that they can function almost as "four-legged tabula rasa ... just ripe for projection." That idea that all of a cat's behavior can be understood as a "statement" is wrong. The answer usually lies in some issue with their surroundings.
... and when cats are acting out, there is usually a reason.
Cat behavior is not random. Of course, some of any feline's behavior can be attributed to their inherent disposition, but environment is almost always a factor. Galaxy said, "It’s so much easier for us to treat cat behavior in a vacuum, as opposed to treating it as a reflection of our own social dynamic."
All cats have different personalities, and it's silly to assume they all follow the same pattern of behavior.
Understanding your cat's temperament can be crucial to raising a well-behaved animal. To encourage this, Galaxy sometimes has pet parents create a backstory for their cat. Especially when it comes to rescue cats, owners often don't know their story. "I really believe that if you put on those glasses and look at their world with stakes involved, as if it matters, then you will start to solve their problems," he said.
Cats need (and enjoy) our attention ...
One of the most common misconceptions about cats is that they want to be left alone. Galaxy disagrees. "We absolutely need to be interactive with cats, they shouldn't just be on the periphery," he said. "Your job as a pet parent extends beyond cleaning the litter box and putting out food."
... in fact, you should actively be making time to play with them.
Again, because cats are predators, spending time with them is crucial to letting them expend their natural energy. Even if you're hyper busy, Galaxy encourages at least 10 minutes of "brushing or loving." He says that quality time will make a difference, even "if you can just sit next to them or make sure they are happy and stimulated" in your home.
"My Cat From Hell" premieres Saturday, April 26, at 8 p.m. EDT on Animal Planet.