Cat Behavior 101,  Cats

The Truth About Lux The Attack Cat

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This photo provided by Lee Palmer shows Lux, a 22-pound part-Himalayan cat that attacked a seven-month old baby.

Photo of Lux by Lee Palmer.

Something stinks like a dirty litter box and it’s not Lux the cat’s. You may have read about Lux the 22 lb cat in Portland, Oregon who allegedly forced a couple to barricade themselves in the bedroom after the cat attacked their baby two weeks ago. The story went viral and each account sounded more lurid and sensational than the next. After poring through dozens of articles, I realized somewhere in the madness lies the truth. The public and cat experts chimed in loudly with polar opposite views from blaming the cat to blaming the parents, a young unmarried couple, Lee Palmer and Teresa Barker. This ongoing saga is a perfect example why we shouldn’t believe everything we read.

'Lux,' the cat, is now in a shelter, after a long saga that started when he attacked his family. (KOIN) Lux the cat

The cat-loving public is hungry for the next crazy cat meme or celebrity cat. Lux already has parody Twitter account. Can fame and fortune be far behind? Well, Lux will be appearing on an episode of My Cat From Hell on Animal Planet. But what about Lux? Is he really a cat from hell or simply being exploited? Here are the facts. You decide what’s really going on.

At 8:22 pm on Sunday, March 9, 2014 a calm-sounding Lee Palmer calls 911 claiming his cat attacked Jesse their 8-month-old son. The child had pulled the cat’s tail. Palmer kicked the cat and the cat is said to have gone ballistic. There is no evidence in the environment of an attack. Palmer unlocks the door to their apartment and then corrals his girlfriend Theresa Barker a student at the Portland Community College, their baby and dog into the bedroom and calls 911. Palmer is asked whether the child needs medical attention. He replies, no. He claims it’s just a scratch on the forehead. Later he says there are gashes. There is no photographic evidence of any scratches or gashes except a tiny pinprick spot on the child’s forehead. Children have delicate skin which easily show scratches. To see photos of Lux and listen the the 911 call click here.

In the 911 call we can hear one brief, wailing sound of Lux. There is no proof where the sound is coming from. In this era of Instagram and iPhones, there is no photo or video proof of Lux going “berserk”. In fact, every photo of him online is either calm, timid or fearful.

Palmer and Barker tell the press Lux is a Himalayan which is widely reported. Lux is is a long-haired black and white cat and not a Himalayan. It also turns out Lux does not weigh 22 lbs as Palmer reported but a less monstrous 13 lbs.

Palmer claims Lux has history of aggression. When asked by the police how often has he attacked before he replies, once.

The police arrive, a fearful Lux is on top of the fridge. Fearful cats, forced into a corner without escape can be aggressive. They capture Lux with a snare and take him to the Multnomah County Animal Services shelter for an evaluation. It’s unclear at this point whether the Barker and Palmer want to surrender him permanently. No evidence of abuse is found.

On March 11, Mieshelle Nagelschneider, a Portland-based cat behaviorist goes on the local KATU news station suggesting clues to Lux’s behavior and offers his owners free consulting. The offer is turned down. Both she and Dr. Jim Shultz, the veterinarian she works offered to rehome Lux at any point in the future to avoid Lux being returned to a shelter. All offers are rebuffed.

There is extensive world-wide news coverage of Lux the “bad” cat but no mention of when the four-year-old cat was last seen by a vet or why he may be overweight. In several news stories, a bag of Temptations cat treats are prominently displayed as often seen in TV shows as product placement.

On March 13, 2014, Barker and Palmer pick up Lux from the shelter with plans to keep him. They are differing news reports dating to March 18 saying Lux in still in the shelter and his fate is up in the air. There are differing news reports about him going back and forth to the shelter twice. A shelter environment is stressful for any cat.

On March 19, producers from Animal Planet announced cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy will travel from Los Angeles to Portland towards to end of the month and meet Lux and work with him. That means camera crews arriving to film Lux for My Cat From Hell. It’s unclear how much time will be spent helping Lux. I’ve seen no mention of Galaxy consulting with Lux’s owners in the interim.The new season of My Cat From Hell airs on April 26th. It’s likely Barker and Palmer are being paid to appear on the show.

All the press from March 19th on is largely focused on Lux being on TV and no mention of his current state, or life back from the shelter. Google ” Lux Cat” and see for yourself. I spoke at length with Mieshelle Nagelschneider and she said, “As a consultant I work with people all over the world and I have to respect the work of my colleagues and their commitment to animal welfare. We are all working toward the same goal and it is important that we communicate as professionals and put forth a united front when dealing with high profile public cases. From what we know Lux has had no behavior help for 16 days since the first aggressive scenario even when it was offered for free by Dr. Shultz and me at The Cat Behavior Clinic”.

Dr. Jordan Carlton Schaul, biologist and writer for Nat Geo said in regard to this case, “Animal welfare is of utmost concern and is obviously a sensitive topic from the standpoint of public perception and media attention. Hence, in order for us to trust professional animal welfarists and other animal care professionals working with companion animals or wildlife, we must be completely transparent. We put great trust in the people who interface directly with companion animals, in particular, as do these voiceless creatures that are often so dependent on us for their survival and well being. It is imperative that we work with integrity and compassion for people and animals.”

It’s hard to say how this story will play out but I know if Lux was my cat I’d have gotten help two weeks ago and not waited for the chance to be on TV. It’s not about who is a better cat behaviorist but what is best for this cat. What would you have done?


  • Doug Scott

    Saw the episode on My Cat from Hell and instantly it took me back to my first cat as an adult(me, not the cat). A guy I worked with had this 3 month old cat that was beating the crap out of his kids(his words). I lived alone, no kids, so I took the kitten from him. The 3 month old kitten was about twice the size of any 3 month old kitten I ever saw. Took him to vet same day, asked how long till he can be fixed, vet said he can be done now. I asked him about the kitten only being 3 months old, he looked in the kittens mouth and said there were no adult teeth yet, so, yes he is likely only 3 months old, but, he was big enough for the sedative. He was fixed and declawed (don’t bother with the cruel crap). He grew fast, and played hard. Cat never went outside, I refuse to ever let a cat go outside. By the time he was a year old, he was near 20 pounds, and not fat. He was a normal orange and white tabby cat, just big. He could stand on his back legs, and put his front paws in my belly button that was 4 feet off the ground. He could stretch out farther than 4 feet long, not counting tail. With me he played hard, and played to kill. He would stop instantly if I put my finger between his eyes. When I was standing still, I had to watch, because he would come sit beside me, and stare at the top of my foot, that had no shoe or sock on it. He would then dive at my foot, wrapping his front legs around my lower leg, clamp down on the top of my foot, and roll over. Net effect was it would unlock my knee, and if there was nothing to grab onto, down I would go. I was over 6 feet tall, and about 250 pounds. That was him having fun.
    He would not bother anyone that came in. But, if they hurt him by stepping on his tail, pulling his tail hard, or in the case of the idiot that came to fix the air conditioning, use his cart to push the cat away, then using his foot to push the cat hard, he would attack. The repair guy got 4 holes in his calf(I was not home, superintendent of building let him in, saw the whole thing, and put the cat in the bathroom after that). My nephew got 4 holes in his left butt cheek after standing on the cats tail not accidentally, but if you did not hurt him, he was fine. Even after biting the repair guy, the super had no problem putting him in the bathroom. If she had not been there, the repair guy would likely have complained enough to have the cat put down for attacking.
    My point in all this? Think of it from the cats point of view. Some cats run when they get hurt, some don’t. Seems that fight or flight applies to cats as well.
    My cat only lived 8 years. He started getting those stones in his bladder, even on the special food that is supposed to prevent them(prescription blend), and after having the stones surgically removed, only to have them return 10 months later was just not fair to him. The stones would make him pee blood every time they rubbed the wrong way, then they would plug his bladder completely. This was 20 years ago. For me, he was the best cat ever. I was given a kitten that was born in a barn and was likely taken too soon from his mother, the orange cat raised that kitten. The kitten tried to feed off of him, he let the kitten try. The orange cat would pull the kitten off of a chair, hold him down, and wash him. The vet said she had never seen kitten ears so clean. If I did not have two cats now, I would gladly take this one. He just needs to be treated as he is, not as how you want him to be.

  • kitty

    Really, has any of you watched this cat on My Cat from Hell tv show? Are you aware that he was rehomed twice since then and also put on meds? That an \ very cat-experienced couple (who had in the past fostered 40+ cats, they were recommended by the Humane Society) adopted him at the end of the show and they couldn’t handle him. He’d be fine for a week, friendly, not at all fearful and then attack. He’s been at vet clinic after it where they observed him and adjusted his meds and now he is with another family. Google “Lux 911 update”.

    I used to think exactly the way you do, but after watching the show I realized that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions about people we don’t know.

  • Pattie

    I do have faith in Jackson Galaxy and know that his main focus is what’s best for the cat. He’s a good man with a lot of knowledge in the field and I’d love to meet him some day. Now, had it been me who was Lux’s guardian, I probably would have tried to contact Galaxy directly and paid his fee myself instead of putting everything on hold in case the show contacted me. In the meantime, I would have already taken him to the vet to make sure there’s nothing going on causing Lux pain, another reason a cat might lash out “out of nowhere”. Having watched the MCFH episode this past weekend, Lee Palmer states that he barely touched Lux with his shoe and didn’t kick him. I don’t know if I believe that, but I suppose we’ll never know. There was just something odd about the entire situation. In the end, Lux was re-homed to a couple who will have his welfare, health and happiness as their #1 interest and he was not euthanized for no reason. So many animals, cats and dogs are murdered in this country for the crime of being either in pain or being afraid. He’s still a very young animal and I hope that he lives a long and happy life. Blessed Be…

    • Pattie

      P.S. I forgot to add that even though I would try and contact Jackson, I’d really have no interest in being on the show. I’d just want him to help my cat….


    For starters you don’t leave a seven baby and an animal unsupervised. For both their sakes. You never kick an animal. These “adults” need to do what is best for their child and for their pet. If that means Lux gets a new home with more mature caretakers go for it.

  • Darlene Arden, C.A.B.C.

    Excellent post and excellent points, Layla. As a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, I would have recommended a Certified behaviorist or, preferably, Veterinary Behaviorist in their area immediately. All of this smells to high heaven. Why would he kick the cat? Certainly, if that’s true, the cat was being defensive. And why was the baby NOT supervised? No tail pulling should EVER be allowed. Babies and small children need to be taught “gentle.’ And supervision around any pet is required full-time. What sort of pressure is this television visit going to put on Lux? Plenty. Lights, cameras, etc. in his environment is far from ideal. Will he be instigated into showing aggressive behavior on camera? I have too many questions and no answers. Thank you for bringing this issue to the forefront.

  • Natasha

    I’d have Mieshelle help my cat any day over being on TV. If the TV help came first well I’d do whatever is best for the cat… However I doubt any cat in my care would be this stressed.

  • Elizabeth H

    One can only respond to the information given. However my consistent opinions in this were that the parents should not have left the baby alone with the cat. If the cat was kicked, it is understand able in a situation like that where a inexperienced (or even an experienced but panicable) parent would do something stupid like that. That does not excuse any further behavior however.

  • Sue Brandes

    First thing is I can’t believe they called 911. Second why was the cat with the baby alone? Even I know you need to watch both. Babies grab and hold on tight from my experience with my own kids and grand kids. I really just feel sorry for this kitty. It just sounds like a bad situation all around. Hard to know since you are not actually there and watching. The whole story just irritates me. I just want what is best for the kitty. That is just my own personal opinion.

    • Pattie

      I totally agree with you. A child that age shouldn’t be left out of your sight for a minute, cat or no cat. Had it not have been Lux’s tail that he pulled, it could have been a power cord and then all of a sudden he pulled Daddy’s laptop on it’s head. They do seem to love their son, but it seems that neither have the maturity it takes to handle a lifestyle with both a baby and pets.

  • Skeeter and Izzy

    Stupidity breeds stupidity and fosters ignorance and fear.
    Greed and violence drive the world.
    Poor Lux is the one that needs help and rescue. I wish someone would kidnap him and place him in a wonderful loving home never to be in the “news” again!
    We send out our purrs and prayers for him and for the child. At what point in time will this child possibly get kicked for misbehavior?
    Sad ,so very gut wrenching sad even if none of the story actually happened at all other than a swat and a phone call,the damage is done on soooooooo many levels. God protect and help Lux.

    Skeeter and Izzy and the Feral Gang + Twig and Peanut and Romeo >^..^<

    • Layla Morgan Wilde (Cat Wisdom 101)

      One small thing can escalate so quickly. Thanks so much for your kind words, purrs and prayers. It takes more than a cat whisperer to change a leopard’s spots. There is statistically a direct trickle down link of abuse from humans to the smaller and less powerful from spouses, children down to animals.

  • Elizablest

    I’m just so fed up with news trying to make cats look evil. Lux needs a new loving home! I can’t imagine what stress he would be in when the camera crew show up. It breaks my heart!

  • catherine turley

    I’m a long time rescuer and have a cat named pounce that is the most violent cat I’ve ever known or known of. his territorial aggression has an obsessive compulsive element to it. I’ve been seriously injured a few times. this last bite was so deep that it severed nerves. I never once thought about turning him into a public persona. frankly, I’ve been too consumed with finding a solution and protecting the other cats. I have always used positive reinforcement and have tried all of the otc remedies including Jackson galaxy without success. he was on Prozac but, unfortunately, was among the small percentage of cats which experiences increased violence. he’s now trying amitriptyline. I have a feeling dealing with lux would be a cake walk for me compared to dealing with pounce.

  • Cathy Keisha

    Without reading all the prior comments, let me answer your question. I would not have left Lux alone with the baby; I would not have kicked Lux. That said, since there’s questions whether this scenerio transpired, I’m fearing that it may have been set up by Animal Planet to call attention to the new season of My Cat From Hell. Believe me, I AM a cat from hell and I’ve terrorized TW in bed but I’ve never caused them to call 911. If I attack one human, I come to the other quiet and contrite. TV stations will do anything to improve ratings.

  • Cheysuli

    We’ve done our best to avoid this story and are sorry it got such attention. We’ve had mixed feelings about Jackson Galaxy getting involved and we have to wonder how much that was pressure from the network for him to do that work–after all that drives advertisers doesn’t it?

    If he does show up on television we can only hope that he treat this issue with sensitivity and the realization that Lux may be far better off in a different home.

  • Selina

    Obviously the kitty’s interests should come FIRST and FOREMOST. At this point, we don’t know WHAT to believe but, again, it’s another object lesson of don’t believe all that you read on the ‘Net. A ton of healthy skepticism is never amiss.

    But we REALLY just want to see Lux happy with a family that CARES for him like they should – and that don’t “kick” him as a solution to a problem.

    Obviously these two folks have a LOT to learn about cat behavior. Personally? We think he needs a new and BETTER home.

    Selina & MomKatt

  • jansfunnyfarm

    We feel sorry for Lux in all of this, not the humans. This story has stunk since it first appeared in the “news.” Glad to know Lux is still alive, but he deserves a happy home, not one where he is afraid and from what has been going on, not really wanted except for the limelight value.

  • Savannah's Paw Tracks

    First, as always, great post and much needed. I will share on both FB pages. From the first sensationalized reporting I saw on Good Morning Weekend show, I have chosen to not read nor watch anything about Lux. It breaks my heart. Humans are accountable, period. Baby left alone with any companion animal, even a goldfish, turtle, whatever…already a set up for problems. Child not supervised to learn how to properly and lovingly treat Lux, bad, bad. And Lux gets kicked? Seriously and he is returned back to them? Really? WTH??? I will never watch Galaxy again , even tho’ I hardly watch him now…once or twice tops…nor will I ever purchase any product he sells or markets IF he takes this cat on his show and doesn’t call for Lux to be rehomed immediately. Period, ’nuff said! I refuse to read anything about this going forward, but am grateful for you having posted this so I know that hopefully, Lux is still at least alive. Paws crossed he has a loving home in his near future.

    • Layla Morgan Wilde

      Thank-you for sharing your views. It’s up to the cat lovers to take a stand like you have but Galaxy has enormous klout. He has over 500,000 Facebook fans to my 10,000. So who will win? My only hope is enough people share, protest and demand Lux to be rehomed without appearing on TV.

  • Nerissa's Life

    Poor, poor Lux… caught up in the middle of all this mess.

    You’re so right when you say somethin’ stinks. And you’re even more right when you write about gettin’ help. Had my peeps needed help with me, they would have gotten that help, ASAP. That would have been the reasonable and logical thing to do… especially when help was bein’ offered.

    None of this makes any sense and you know what Judge Jude (Not a typo. I like to call her that.) says. When somethin’ doesn’t make sense, that somethin’ usually isn’t true. MO– — — USES!


  • Random Felines

    this got so overblown and it makes us nuts. First – the kid should have been supervised. Second, the cat shouldn’t have been kicked. Third – really 911???

    We say, let the shelter or the vet rehome the cat and move on. Lux doesn’t care about “fame” and his previous owner’s don’t deserve it.

  • maggie

    It bothers me that this is getting so much publicity and fanning the flames of cat haters. The parents should have supervised their child and taught him how to interact with the cat. Some one who would kick a cat should not have a cat in their home.

  • Angel AbbyGrace

    Just understanding how the “media” works and the way this “story” was presented. I knew that the truth was mixed in there but wasn’t being accurately depicted. We still don’t know and perhaps we never will. Assuredly I doubt the cat’s owner thought this would go viral and turn into the parody it has but he is the one who needs help in learning how to deal with the cat. There is also a huge difference between 22 lbs and 13! I hate that this gets so sensationalized! I saw Bill O’Reilly had a feature on Lux and he said if the cat had attacked him he would have blown it away and that made me so angry. I don’t know why people would continue to put out misinformation. Well, yes I do. They want to hype “their” story, and make the facts fit whatever narrative they want to tell. I just wish more people were aware of how little truth there is in reporting the “news”. (sorry this is one of MY pet peeves)

  • Tamago

    Thank you for detailed information about Lux. I’ve been worried about what’s gonna happen to him. He sure looks scared and must be very stressed with all the media people and changes around him. I understand you can’t always control children, but if the instinctive reaction to protect the child was to kick Lux, I doubt he was treated well as family. I hope he finds a new home with peaceful environment.

    • Layla Morgan Wilde

      Lux has been through so much already. We all know how cats hate changes in the home and he’s had policemen, using a snare on him, shuttling in and out of a shelter and now camera crew and who knows what else.

  • Viki Worden

    When I first heard about it I thought, “Wow”, that cat is like mine, lol. I didn’t know all the details that you mentioned here. Most cats would retaliate and lunge or scratch if you pulled their tail. It doesn’t mean he is ferocious. That is rediculous! I believe it is all about the money. I believe it is totally phoney. A lot of things don’t add up, like the boy getting treatment and the couple wanting the cat back. I think the cat looks like a Maine Coon, not a Himalayan. He is certainly beautiful. Also, anyone that has a cat for a pet should take the time to find out what their dislikes and likes are. Some cats who don’t like to be pet or have their feet touched, etc. are not mean. They are no different than people not wanting certain things done or touched. If they want to see a vicious cat they can meet my Meeko. He has a social deficit, which I determined by doing some searching on overly aggressive cats. It is caused by a malfunction in their hypothalmus. I have had him since he was 7 weeks old. He started attacking us since he was a year old. He would be standing near you and all of a sudden just lunge at you. I would have scratches and bite marks all over my face and arms. People kept telling me to get rid of him but I wouldn’t. I said he was a challenge. He even gave me cellulitis once. He attacked the vet and put 4 puncture wounds in his hand. So I don’t take him in unless it is an emergency. I have worked with him over the years and now he is a lot better. He is almost 11 years old (next month). I watch him with other people too. He is a lot less aggressive but he still has a tendency to attack if you aren’t paying attention. Lux is by no means aggressive by my standards.

    • Layla Morgan Wilde

      Viki, the whole story just doesn’t add up and there’s more I didn’t include. I didn’t want this to a be a witchhunt. I agree Lux like he’s part Maine Coon. I’d love to hear more about your cat Meeko and his condition. Email me?

  • Sometimes, Cats Herd You

    Good point. This would not be the first time someone went onto Galaxy’s TV show for the money and attention (in the previous known instance, the 19-year-old cat was rehomed anyhow, and the owners admitted that had been their intent all along). Nothing about the story about Lux has felt right from the beginning… from how he was described by the family (breed, size, disposition), onward. Sadly, cats are property, and there’s not much we can do but watch this play out — or not watch, if you don’t care to give Galaxy extra ratings for it. The cat’s welfare isn’t getting top priority, which is saddest of all.

    If this turns out to be an attention-grab, getting that to the media outlets who have breathlessly reported it so far would be kind of nice. Even if Lux is labeled a “cat balloon boy,” it would take back some of the current additional ammunition this story has given to the cat-haters who walk among us.

  • Crepes

    I can’t even believe these people got a chance to take him back! Rubbish. If the father had admitted to kicking the baby, DCFS would have been all over him. So why does this cat have to suffer? Nonsense.

  • Deb N Cats

    I was suspicious from the start. Who knows how many times that child has pulled Lux’s tail. He probably got fed up and lashed out. I’ve had it happen to me. We lash out as humans and then we seem surprised when our animal companions do it. This smells of a huge set up. I think Jackson does a lot of good for cats but I won’t respect him wading into this mess unless he’s going to tell these selfish people to relinquish Lux and never get another pet. Animal welfare doesn’t often make for perfect TV.

  • da tabbies o trout towne

    lux…dood…ya knead ta ask to bee re located ta a UNDISCLOSED foster///for evers home faster than aye ess aye pea…. N get bak ta doin what EWE wanna due…be it sleepin, nappin, chillaxin, watchin vishusz squirrels out de window, eatin… ore just bein loved…

  • Connie Marie

    Sounds like the poor cat is being sacrificed for the people to be abled to be on TV. He looks scared!! Poor guy.
    Free help was offered and the couple should have jumped at the chance. You don’t let a baby pull his tail, then kick the cat! I’ve watched Jackson go at cats wrong to make them seem mean, then later approach correctly and SURPRIZE, the cat reacts accordingly. My opinion, it’s all about fame snd money for him. The poor cat needs someone to help it with their only interest being the welfare of the cat. He needs to be placed in a new home.

  • Kathie Bass

    Thank you for telling the story of Lux, I have been in cat rescue for years. In all the photos of Lux I see no evidence in his eyes of a cat who is uncontrollable. He actually looks frightened. The best thing for this cat would be to re-home him. The child had a pinprick on his forehead? If this cat wanted to do damage to an 8 month old he could have. Why was the child permitted to pull his tail?The authorities who know this father kicked Lux and have allowed them to keep him in their home should find another job. They apparently have no interest in what is best for the animal. Poor Lux, I feel so sorry for him. He is such a beautiful cat.

  • Kathryn

    I think the boyfriend has told a lot of lies, but one thing is certain. Don’t leave a cat with a 9 month old. I also think that the boyfriend and maybe the girlfriend have been mean to the cat in the past, if the cat actually went ballistic toward the boy. Most cats would yelp, cry and probably hiss and slash if an almost toddler or child pulls their tail. That is not ‘going ballistic.’ That’s normal for a cat whose instincts tell him he was just affronted.

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