Cat behaviorist and musician Jackson Galaxy refers to “Cat Mojo” a lot. Basically it’s having the feline confidence to be a cat in the present moment.
According to J.G. all cats follow pretty much the same daily cycle – whether feral or domestic:
- Wake up
- Hunt for food
- Rinse and Repeat
Now our cherished pets don’t have to actually kill something to eat but the prey drive is there, so it’s best to channel it into some sort of constructive playtime. Our first cat Brio (shown above) liked to chase rolled up balls of paper – or socks. Sammy was a small plastic mouse fanatic, or he liked to “kill” a long furry cord with a Velcro spider on the end. Mr Oates has a stuffed Grumpy Cat toy he likes to wreak havoc with.
When we got Brio (Lord, that was over 33 years ago now) I didn’t know as much about cats as I do today. As a result I played rough with him – sometimes bowled him across the floor. I probably encouraged him to be more aggressive (and got scratched) as a result. Fortunately he had a kind and loving heart so he forgave and forgot. I learned soon enough to treat him like a cat, not a spaniel.
Sammy was big and strong even as a kitten, so I would never have tumbled him around, and I knew better than to try. Cat play is best done at arm’s length if you value your skin. So I toss Grumpy Cat for Mr. Oates to chase, or I use a bamboo pole with a nylon rope on the end to get him jumping and pouncing. I shall have to try a laser pointer if I’m feeling particularly sadistic some day.
Jackson Galaxy deals a lot with troubled cats who are causing problems for the owner. If you watch his show “My Cat from Hell” on YouTube you’ll see what I mean.
Most of the problems boil down to Fear (no Mojo.) The cat just lacks confidence to get out there and be a cat. There can be a number of reasons for this:
- Fear of Change. All cats hate change and depending on the individual this can be devastating to the point it’ll weaken feline confidence for quite a while. Brio came from a multi-cat home to our place when he was only 12 weeks old. He was so freaked out he stopped eating for a week, and only a can of chopped chicken broke the spell for him.
Sammy exuded confidence and it took about two hours for him to take over the place in 1999. However he had big time problems when we boarded him briefly in a kennel environment a few months later.
Mr. Oates has had his world rocked this month – and not in a good way. First he lost his home and family, then he spent some time in a shelter with 50 other cats all competing for food and litter box time. After that he was caged in a carrier, had a noisy car ride and then was let loose in another totally unfamiliar environment with two strangers. He’s done remarkably well in just a couple of days.
- Fear of other animals. Some cats just don’t do well with other cats (not to mention dogs.) Brio hated dogs. Sammy got along well with the big ones, but the sight of a Jack Russell turned him into mush. Mr. Oates did OK other with cats in the shelter but he tended to hang back and be a wallflower.
- Fear of other household members. We are all clueless bumbling giants as far as a cat is concerned, and some people never learn how to communicate. A cat who hides away under the bed and bites or scratches particular people in the house might have a failure to communicate problem. It’s really up to the owner to fix this, not the cat.
- Fear of the environment. A cat coming into any new environment for the first time will likely hide out in one area and slowly emerge as confidence grows that there are no perils lurking round the next corner. We are watching Mr. Oates slowly get his Mojo back but it’s only been a couple of days. He’s still a bit edgy.
I have a lot of hope for Mr. Oates though. He’s young, but he’s been well socialized and he’s got a lot of affection in him. I can speak his language well enough after many years of “catification.” Although we have once more rocked his world, he should soon conclude that it has been in a far more positive and Mojo inducing way.