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
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?