Jenn Brassill of Mt. Ephraim knew pretty early on that her newly adopted cat, Pickles, a/k/a “Bad Kitty” was a real life “Cat From Hell.” She adopted Pickles from the Camden County Animal Shelter when he was about 12 months old and had him for only a few days when the feline began to exhibit aggressive behavior.
A petite and stylish mother of three daughters, Jenn is constantly on the go and has an infectious and contagious laugh with a smile to match.
She explained: “With Pickles, there was zero touching of any kind. You could not walk by him. You could not pass him by in the hallway. He would just lunge and attack and just rip your skin open – and he always growled.”
The attacks were unprovoked, random, spontaneous, and came out of nowhere, she said. “We had to have all of the doors shut at night when we went to bed because Pickles was trying to kill us in our sleep. I had to take him into the bathroom with me to shower because he would’ve attacked my kids.”
Returning him to the shelter was never an option, Jenn said. “I got him from a shelter, I couldn’t give him back.” At the recommendation of her sister, Colleen, Jenn submitted a video to the Animal Planet reality tv show, My Cat from Hell.
The popular show debuted in 2011 and stars cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy. Galaxy is also known as the “cat whisperer.” According to the show’s website, “Jackson always has one goal in mind – to prevent cat guardians from giving up their cats and contributing to already overcrowded shelters”. He has more than 15 years of experience and is known for his signature guitar case filled with cat toys. His mission is to help cat owners find the sources of conflict with their furry friends.
Knowing that Pickles fit the description of a “A Cat From Hell” to a T, Jenn began the submission process, which included an online application and a video submission.
She said: “When I went to do my video submission, I was videoing while Pickles was sleeping. I reached to pet him and when I touched him, he turned around like the Exorcist and attacked me.”
The show got back to her pretty quickly. She submitted her application in July, 2017 and a crew was out filming the following October. Taping was done for 18 hours at a time over the course of several days. Jackson and the film crew were there to tape three times, each visit was spaced out by two weeks.
Jenn was given less than a week’s notice that they’d be coming. “My house was under construction and they only gave me like six days’ notice. My house was a wreck and I had no idea what to expect. They pretty much took my house over and made it a movie set.”
When the time came for Jackson to come to Mt. Ephraim, Jenn was nervous, but “It was awesome.” She added “Jackson was totally cool. He was very interested in the dynamics of our household – where the food was, where Pickles’ kitty litter was. Jackson just needed the whole picture.”
How did Pickles react when he first met Jackson? “Pickles went right up to Jackson and loved him.”
As for Galaxy’s signature guitar case of cat toys, Pickles was unimpressed. Said Jenn: “He didn’t pick anything because he had an attitude.” And it was just a matter of time until Pickles showed his true colors to Galaxy, who wasn’t spared the cat’s wrath.
As for a game plan to help Pickles, Jenn said: “When Jackson first came out, he got the lay of the land. He played with Pickles and watched our behaviors. He gave me a list of homework to do. I did the homework and I had a camera in my living room 24/7 on with sound. At any point in time, if Pickles attacked anybody I would just text a producer and they would be able to pull the footage.”
In between filming, Jenn had her work cut out for her and heeded all of Galaxy’s advice. First and foremost, she had to put Pickles on a completely different schedule.
How exactly do you put a cat on a schedule? Jenn replied: We just did it and it really worked. “Jackson gave me different techniques on how to approach Pickles and he gave me things to move around my house. He gave me some objects and cat trees to put up.”
Different items were sent for Jenn to install to “catify” her house. A “catio” was built in their backyard. The cat tree is a clever addition to the home to try and control some of Pickles’ unnecessary behavior. They can help to relieve stress in your pet and help them to exercise. The different heights of the trees work well for climbing and stretching, which allows your cat to remain active. If you’re experiencing a similar situation to the Brassill family, you could look at getting your own cat tree to see if it helps to change their behavior. You can click here if you want to see some of the best cat trees available. If the problems persist, then it might be worth contacting your vet next.
Initially, Jenn said that Galaxy expressed concerns that Pickles could have underlying medical issues and Galaxy suggested a visit with a veterinarian for blood work. The results came back fine, she said.
One issue that was identified as causing Pickles so much distress was that the house is always so busy. Jenn has three daughters, Alexis, 17, Mindy 16, and Abigail, 6. Pickles felt intimidated and scared and Jackson felt Pickles needs his own place to go.
In addition to Pickles, the family has another cat, Simba, and a mixed breed rescue dog, Shelby. Pickles has zero issues with the dog or other cat.
Jenn said: “Pickles and Shelby [the dog], don’t bother with each other. “It’s like they don’t exist to each other.” And Simba, their other cat, treats Pickles like a big brother or a father.
Jenn added that although it’s against Jackson’s belief for cats to go outside, in Pickles’ case, he made an exception. “Pickles needed some outside time as an escape from us. My house is very small and very busy. With the kids and the other pets, it’s understandable.”
By the time Galaxy came back for the second round of filming and Jenn continued with her homework, there was definite improvement. Together, they reviewed what worked and what didn’t. Slowly but surely, this cat from hell was transformed into an (almost) angel.
Once his routine was changed and rules were established where Pickles was given his own space, he calmed down. “He and I got on a very nice schedule and I did the techniques that worked,” Jenn said. “Pickles is so much better now. He still has his days, but he is not the cat he once was.”
It’s to the point now when I come home from work now, he literally snuggles up against me for at least an hour and then he does his own thing and he follows me everywhere. If I go to the bathroom, he sits outside the door.
Yes, there is an ambush on a rare occasion, but Jenn says it’s mostly because “someone started trouble with him.”
Jenn can’t say enough about Galaxy. “He is absolutely a genius, genuinely nice and kind and funny as he is on screen. He is just a good soul.”
While in South Jersey, he made himself right at home in Jenn’s house. He was so chill, she said. “As little as my house is, he loved it. Every time he stepped foot in my house, he always said: ‘All I want to do is eat when I am here. It smells so good in this house.”
But Jenn didn’t cook anything at all for him. “It was all those fall maple scented wax burners.”
And, he totally loved her couch. He told Jenn: “I literally cannot get enough of this couch. When I come in here, I want to eat, which triggers my mind to think I am full and I sit on your couch and I all I want to do is sleep.”
And they laughed – a lot. “He was so cool. He gets it. He told me: ‘You’re a busy mom. You have three kids You just want your cat to try not to kill you at night.’”
“Lucifer that Cat” airs Saturday, September 15 at 8:00 p.m. on Animal Planet.
Photos and video courtesy of Jenn Brassill:
Video: Watch Pickles before his visit from Jackson: