One night in early March, Theresa Barker and Lee Palmer of Portland, Oregon, called 9-1-1 to report they’d been attacked and had shut themselves in the bedroom of their home to escape one of their pets — a furious feline, Lux, who was angered when the family’s 7-month-old son pulled the cat’s tail. Lux fought back, drawing blood, scratching the baby’s forehead. The family ran and sought refuge as Lux advanced on them.
“Yeah, hi, I have a kind of a particular emergency here,” Lux’s owner’s boyfriend told the 9-1-1 dispatcher, according to KOMONews.com. “Um, my cat attacked my seven-month-old child…and we’re trapped in our bedroom. He won’t let us out of our door.”
The dispatcher listened in disbelief as a very angry Lux could be heard yowling and screaming in the background. Police officers had to use a snare to catch Lux and place him in a crate.
When story broke of the cat who held his family hostage, Lux became a worldwide sensation. This wasn’t Lux’s first outburst, and it wouldn’t be his last.
On March 17, Barker and Palmer contacted the Multnomah County Animal Services Shelter when Lux again went postal, prompting the couple to question whether or not it was safe for them or beneficial for Lux to even keep their cat, who Barker has raised since he was a kitten. Whatever Lux’s problem, it became clear almost immediately that he was in need of some serious help.
But when the opportunity arose to work with a true feline whisperer, the couple decided to give it their all to see if Lux truly could be rehabilitated.
Cat expert and Animal Planet star Jackson Galaxy, a cat behaviorist featured on the network’s show My Cat From Hell, used his 15 years of experience as a cat behaviorist to work with the infamous Lux. Lux’s story was featured in Saturday night’s episode of the popular Animal Planet series.
“I thought it was going to be a quick fix. This was a simple case of child pulls cat’s tail, cat freaks out, dad freaks out, everything goes downhill,” Galaxy tells the New York Daily News.
But simple it was not, and Lux soon tested every bit of Galaxy’s knowledge.
In the episode, The Oregonian reports, Galaxy consults the Oregon Humane Society, who places Lux in a stress-free foster home to see whether or not being in a calmer environment could help tame the testy kitty. But when Lux attacks his foster mom’s leg without provocation, Galaxy takes Lux to Dr. Amelie Hatfield, a veterinarian at the Cat Hospital of Portland, to get to the root of Lux’s anger issues.
What Dr. Hatfield discovered seems to explain just why Lux had been so reactive: the crabby cat had been living with a curious condition called hyperesthesia disorder, which is known to cause aggression in felines. Dr. Hatfield recommends Lux receive medication to help manage his condition, but says there is no cure.
Galaxy tells the TODAY Show that of all the cats he’s rehabilitated over the years, Lux provided a particularly rough challenge because of the unpredictability of the cat’s aggression.
“He was, like, the most loving, wonderful cat. But he’s also not,” Galaxy admits. “And when the ‘not’ part emerges, it’s a shock.”
Lux proved to be the “most frustrating” cat client Galaxy has encountered in his career.
Because he could not guarantee the safety of Barker’s and Palmer’s infant son around Lux, Galaxy had to make the tough call to rehome Lux.
“I know that things haven’t turned out in a storybook way,” Galaxy says in Lux’s episode, “that life is messy, and there are no easy answers to something like this.”
Lux has now found a permanent home with his foster mom and dad and seems to be responding well to his new medication.