It was only a matter of time, after years of ever-battier and shriekier dog and toddler-taming television shows, before someone would get around to cats. Cats outnumber small children and dogs. Where was their special whisperer?
The question was, are cats all that problematic? Producers obviously thought not - till Jackson Galaxy came along. A heavily tattooed and pierced musician by day, he happens to have acquired a wealth of common sense advice about cat behaviour, despite having no orthodox qualifications. And he introduces us to cats so scary, the viewer reflexively contemplates diving under the coffee table.
To take it from last night's extraordinary new Animal Planet show, My Cat from Hell, there are legions of people suffering quiet despair at the hands of these homely little quadrupeds.
''Olive is all murder, all the time!'' complains one owner of her psychotic moggy, seen ready to rip the throat out of her feline housemate. The pair are a squall of flying fur and fury, dealt with safely only at the end of a broom. The simple expedient of slowing down the aggressor's feeding, and giving the other cat high places to sit, brought peace to the cat kingdom.
Last night's other case was a beautiful silver bengal, which daily attacked one of his owners like a murderous ninja. ''He circles me like a shark. He crouches down, and then I know I'm in for it,'' she narrated, over horrifying footage of the miniature leopard fastened to her leg, savaging the living daylights out of her.
Bengals' wild cat DNA, according to Galaxy, programmes them to wake up ready to ''hunt, attack, kill, eat''. Watching this cat simply walk across a room was like watching a real leopard stalking on the veldt. This sweet-looking creature is apparently an unfiltered predator, without the comfort/expediency governing rod that keeps your average tabby peaceably attached to the fridge and the fireside.
His owners had to build him an agility course, play cat games with him and walk him round his ''territory'' (the neighbourhood) on a lead every day, so he felt exercised and secure about his realm. To say, ''They might as well have bought a dog and have done with it'' is to risk the wrath of a cat person.
The misery and mystery of a neurotically fearful or territorial spraying cat is no less complex than any dog problem. And it's simply jaw-dropping television. Not for nothing is it said that dogs have owners, but cats have staff.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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