Season five, episode seven of My Cat from Hell features a now famous 911 call from an Oregon couple who said that their cat Lux was holding their family hostage. The episode ended with 22-pound Himalayan cat named Lux being diagnosed as suffering from feline hyperesthesia syndrome and being committed to the care of pet foster parents Mollie Hunt and her husband. However, the story didn’t end there. Lux’s needs ended up being more complicated and it took a village to figure out how to help him. My interview with Mollie Hunt provides a behind-the-scenes look at the situation and also an update on Lux who is living happily in his forever home.
ALLISON: What captivates you about cats?
MOLLY: My love of cats goes back to my very first memories. As a shy only child of older parents, our cat Two was everything to me—brother, friend, confidant. I planned to marry him someday.
ALLISON: Tell me about your background with cats.
MOLLY: Though I loved cats with a passion, my first experience taking that love a step further came when I began volunteering at the Oregon Humane Society in 2006. Through OHS I was able to attend classes and workshops as well as get hands-on training in cat care, wellness, and behavior. Topics such as litter box habits and what “meow” really means started to creep into my every-day conversations.
Spending time with so many different cats was a revelation. I couldn’t get enough! I joined to a group called Pet Palls for Cats which helped enrich the lives of the shelter cats through one-on-one interaction. I also trained to care for the cats of hospice patients, then went on to certify my own Tinkerbelle as a therapy cat. For several years, we visited assisting living facilities and people in hospice.
Then in 2014 I met Lux, a game changer.
ALLISON: Who have you fostered cats most through?
MOLLY: So far I’ve only fostered for the Oregon Humane Society. They keep me busy.
ALLISON: When did you start fostering cats?
MOLLY: Soon after I began volunteering at OHS, I thought I’d give fostering a try since there was a great need. I remember Lance, the first kitty I fostered for a kitty cold. I had such a hard time taking him back! It felt like I was giving away one of my own, abandoning him back into a world of confusion.
It wasn’t easy to come to terms with that ultimate separation, but I know OHS does such a wonderful job of finding good homes that I don’t worry anymore. And I have been known to adopt a few fosters myself. Some people call it foster failure, but I think of it as foster success!
ALLISON: Why did you start fostering cats?
MOLLY: It needs to be done and I had the ability to do it.
ALLISON: How did you first find out about Lux?
MOLLY: I’d already fostered around forty cats for OHS when they sent out a notice they were looking to place a very special foster. The notice was sent by the media department instead of the foster department, and I had a feeling I knew why. Everyone in Portland had heard the Lux story, which went viral after Lux’s family called 911 on the big cat. Rumors were flying that Jackson Galaxy was coming onto the case.
ALLISON: What was your reaction when you were asked to foster Lux?
MOLLY: I was totally excited. Like many others, I felt the blame for Lux’s outburst was the fault of the owners. Hadn’t the man kicked the cat? Hadn’t they presented Lux with a whole new situation that included a baby and a dog? Besides, how bad could Lux’s outburst have been? The family described it as a full-on violent attack, but I figured it was more likely a hissy fit that had been blown all out of proportion. I was certain I could prove that with the proper care and attention, Lux was no more dangerous than any other feline.
ALLISON: When did you foster Lux?
MOLLY: It was the spring of 2014.
ALLISON: Why did you agree to foster Lux?
MOLLY: There is usually only one outcome for a violently aggressive cat: euthanasia. No one wanted that to happen to this sad, beautiful boy.
As I wrote in my Lux blogpost series, I Just Wanted to Pet the Tiger:
“When I was a child, I thought I could run with the tigers. I had no fear; I knew they would not harm me. Then I grew up. My conviction faltered, and like the fairies in Peter Pan, without belief, it faded into the dullness of adulthood. Still, when I saw the big, dangerous cats in all their feline glory, I couldn’t help wanting to touch them, pet them, feel their fur like cloud made manifest under my touch. I wanted to hug them, hold them, bury my face in their solace of stripes.
I felt the same thing the first time I saw Lux. The photo of him in the MCAS cattery girl’s arms—I wanted to be that girl, to hold that big kitty in my own arms. The fact he was considered dangerous just made me want to hold him all the more. After all, he didn’t look dangerous; he looked like a poor, sad kitty who needed my love.”
ALLISON: What was it like to meet Jackson Galaxy?
MOLLY: Jackson was wonderful. He was like a big teddy bear guy-next-door who was totally stoked about cats. He was interested in everything about cats and encouraged me to tell him about cats in Portland and OHS. He even listened!
There was none of that celebrity arrogance about Jackson. He cared about what he was doing with all his heart, and he wanted the best outcome for Lux. He, too, believed that in a quiet home with people knowledgeable about felines, Lux would be calm. I don’t think Jackson ever expected that three years later, he would still be involved with Lux, calling him his most difficult case.
ALLISON: Share a happy moment from fostering Lux.
MOLLY: From the first moment on, I knew this was to be a journey. Here is what I wrote about our first meeting.
“A nose, a whisker, a big round eyeball was my first glimpse of the Cat from Hell. I peered inside the huge carrier, past the blue baby blanket under which he was hiding and called his name. A little part of me feared he would charge, claws bared, fangs dripping blood, but the frightened figure just hunched farther into his concealment.
Lux is a cat. A housecat. Felis catus.
Not wild; not even feral.
—From my blogpost, 7: LUX – COMING HOME
There were so many amazing times, especially in those first days after he came to our house. It seemed like every day he would make new strides. He became more secure. He began to play. He enjoyed pets and brushing. He interacted with my other cats.
ALLISON: Why did you stop fostering Lux?
MOLLY: On May 2, 2014, I was getting Lux ready for an interview with the media consultant from OHS. I was brushing him as I had done every day since he’d arrived. Nothing was different, nothing was new…
“Suddenly and without warning, he began to hiss, and not the cute little breathy hisses I’d seen previously. His ears flattened to his head; his eyes dilated until there was nothing but black; the hair on his back stood up straight, making him look more like a wolverine than a cat. The hiss became a moan and then a yowl, banshee-like and eerie. I dropped the brush, not believing what I saw. I tried petting his sideburns which he usually loves, but he just got louder. He was possessed, not a Lux I had ever seen before. This was Lux, the 911 cat.”
—From my blogpost, #16: LUX – THE CAT FROM HELL, MAY 1, 2014
I ended up in ER with a torn and bleeding cat bite on my ankle, crying on the phone to Jackson. It was hard to go home and face the big cat after that. Lux’s aggression remained, transforming him into a Lux I’d never known, a Lux I’d only read about on the tabloid internet.
Jackson enlisted the help of Cat Hospital of Portland. We tried medication and got him in for a complete physical with extensive labs and imaging on the My Cat From Hell dime. Though the tests were inconclusive, his doctor came up with a tentative diagnosis of Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome, something that could be managed with environment, routine, and meds.
Lux seemed to be responding, so when MCFH filmed, I announced my plan to adopt the big boy. Then he attacked again. There wasn’t time to change the ending of the show, but I knew I couldn’t live in fear. Even Jackson concluded he was not and might never be a “candidate for adoption.”
Lux then went into a boarding situation until he finally found a home at the wonderful Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.
ALLISON: Why did you follow his journey?
MOLLY: He was my cat. Though I hadn’t been capable of dealing with his special needs, I’d bonded intensely with him. It’s hard to explain how exceptional he is. Dear Lux was a tragic victim of himself, and like many sad cases, needed love and understanding.
ALLISON: What have you learned from the experience?
MOLLY: Oh, goodness! That is a long list. Firstly, I learned to beware of my own arrogance. I was so sure I could magically fix Lux, and when I was so dramatically proven wrong, I had to rethink the part my ego played in his story.
I learned how important it is to look beyond the surface, and to continue looking until an answer is found. We need to employ educated guesswork, following the clues until we discover what lies beneath. This is something I apply to all cats, since they are very bad at telling us humans what’s wrong.
Most of all, I learned the meaning of “it takes a village.” The community of humans who set out to help this one cat was huge. Besides the obvious—Jackson and his team—there were shelter staff and volunteers, veterinarians and the medical community, and many, many others sending love and care.
ALLISON: How is Lux today?
MOLLY: He is well! In February of 2019, he was adopted by a member of his wonderful Best Friends care team. He has lived basically incident-free for the last two years, enjoying his home with other cats, dogs, and people. I’m so happy to be in touch with his cohabitors who consistently let me know what a joy he has come to be.
About Mollie Hunt: Native Oregonian Mollie Hunt has always had an affinity for cats, so it was a short step for her to become a cat writer. Mollie Hunt writes the award-winning Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery series featuring Lynley Cannon, a sixty-something cat shelter volunteer who finds more trouble than a cat in catnip, and the Cat Seasons sci-fantasy tetralogy where cats save the world. She also pens a bit of cat poetry.
Mollie is a member of the Oregon Writers’ Colony, Sisters in Crime, the Cat Writers’ Association, and Northwest Independent Writers Association (NIWA). She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and a varying number of cats. Like Lynley, she is a grateful shelter volunteer.
You can find Mollie Hunt, Cat Writer on her blogsite: www.lecatts.wordpress.com
Amazon Page: www.amazon.com/author/molliehunt
Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/MollieHuntCatWriter/
Sign up for Mollie’s Extremely Informal Newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/c0fOTn