Jackson explains that he didn’t choose the cat life; the cat life most definitely chose him. “I didn’t ask for it,” he says. “I started working at an animal shelter in the early ’90s and within a week, the cats were glued to me. All my coworkers were making fun of me and calling me cat boy.”
Jackson also says that once he realized he could harness his power for the greater good of cats, that’s what he did: “I think the bottom line is that euthanasia is the mother of invention; we were killing a lot of cats. It suddenly became apparent to me that I could do something to help stem the tide. That’s where it all started. Up until then, I had been around cats before, but I never saw it coming.”
In 2002, Jackson cofounded Little Big Cat, Inc. alongside veterinarian Dr. Jean Hofve. The pair began offering private consultations to cat owners who needed help addressing physical and behavioral concerns or issues. Jackson began his own cat consulting business after moving to Los Angeles in 2007, and his reality show My Cat From Hell launched in 2011.
In the show, Jackson visits the homes of cat owners who have appealed for help resolving some kind of problem their cat is causing and/or experiencing. The show has proven to be wildly popular, and this year, Jackson has even started filming episodes remotely. It’s no surprise that Jackson was approached by Christina Ha, the founder of Cat Camp, and asked if he would like to be part of her event. It’s also no surprise that he readily accepted.
Cat Camp was founded in 2017 and is typically attended by anywhere between 2,000 and 3,000 people. Attendees have the opportunity to attend sessions held by “camp counselors,” who are actually experts on a variety of cat-related topics. While this year’s Cat Camp will certainly be different from those that have occurred in the past, a lot of thought has been put into how to make the online event just as special as in-person camps.
Jackson explains that his journey to Cat Camp has been totally organic: “Christina, like me, like a lot of people in the field, didn’t ask for it. She saw a cat in the street, thought, ‘What am I going to do?,’ took the cat home, and from there found out what the need was in New York City for awareness and for advocacy. She started Cat Camp, and I immediately was in.”
And of course, there’s one big reason why Cat Camp is appealing: It’s just really fun.
“There’s that pop-culture part of it, for the cat-curious of the world, and it hit on all fronts. I thought becoming a bigger part of it was the easy choice for me, and it’s been incredibly rewarding since then. We try to communicate that all of the things that you could possibly get from something like this, you do get. Whether that’s having a good time, whether that’s learning something, or whether that’s saying, ‘What can I do in my community to save cats?’”
Cat fans who attend the camp will have the opportunity to learn a whole host of knowledge about how to improve the lives of their cats and the cats who live around them. Caring for cats is particularly important right now, as cats (and pets of all kinds) have also had their routines disrupted by the ongoing health crisis. Just like humans, cats have their good days and bad days, and they need a little extra TLC from time to time.
After all, while we humans have been experiencing a series of ups and downs that have been pretty tumultuous, the pets in our lives have been there for every step of the ride. The sudden shutdown in March definitely had an impact on the lives of our furry (and even scaled) friends. If your cat is still struggling with the fact that everything has changed, you’re not alone. Luckily, helping your cat adjust to change isn’t too hard if you know what you’re doing.
Jackson explains, “Any sort of routine that you can nail down, do it, so that life is predictable for your animals.” After all, he points out, your pets used to have a routine.
“It was predictable before,” he says. “They knew that everybody wakes up in the morning, everybody goes crazy for a while, and then we get the house. And that stopped happening. Cats and dogs are energetic sponges; they pick up on those vibrations of people everywhere.”
On top of schedule changes, most of us have been all over the place emotionally, and our cats are definitely aware of that shift. “Our frustration levels are up,” Jackson explains. “So what do we do? We take walks, we get out of the house for a little bit — cats should have that, too. Playtime should be structured, mealtime should be structured, just like they are — to the best of our ability — with us.”
Spending more time at home has also made a lot of us more aware of the cats who exist in our communities — our neighborhood cats, the ones who live mostly outside all the time. As Jackson points out, if you care about one cat, you should care about all cats.
If you’ve been trying to take care of a neighborhood cat, Jackson has tips that can help. For starters, take it slow.
As Jackson explains it, cats are food-oriented. So if you’re hoping you can encourage a neighborhood cat to visit your home more often, establish a routine. Put out food at the same time every day, and when the cat approaches, sit quietly nearby. Don’t make eye contact; wait for the cat to approach you. Slowly, a friendship will probably start to grow. Of course, no matter what, you’re helping out an animal that probably just needs someone to be a little nice to it from time to time.
Cat Camp attendees will actually have the opportunity to learn about how to take care of neighborhood cats during the camp’s “How TNR (Trap Neuter Return) Serves a Community” session with Will Zweigart of Flatbush Cats and Latonya “Sassee” Walker, star of The Cat Rescuers documentary. This is just one of several sessions that will be available throughout the four-and-a-half-hour event.
Don’t forget: Cat Camp is on September 26, 2020, from 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The event is completely free; you just need to make sure you register so you can attend. And honestly, if you’ve made it this far into a post about taking care of cats … I fully plan to see you at camp this weekend.