.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Cat Defender

Exposing the Lies and Crimes of Bird Advocates, Wildlife Biologists, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, Exterminators, Vivisectors, the Scientific Community, Fur Traffickers, Cloners, Breeders, Designer Pet Purveyors, Hoarders, Motorists, the United States Military, and Other Ailurophobes

Friday, April 06, 2007

Avaricious Philadelphia Music Teacher Plies Her Cat, Nora, with Food in Order to Get Her to Play the Piano

"The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans anymore than black people were made for white, or women created for men."
-- Alice Walker

A controversial video that shows a Philadelphia feline named Nora playing the piano has raised serious concerns about the feline's well-being following its debut on YouTube back on January 28th. (See photo above.)

The video, which has been seen by about two and one-half million people around the world, has beguiled some viewers and incensed others. Nora's owner, Betsy Alexander, has been inundated with e-mail and forced to defend herself against charges of staging a cheap publicity stunt in order to line her pockets at her cat's expense.

"I didn't teach her how to do it," Alexander (See mug shot below on the right) declared to the Philadelphia Inquirer on February 20th. (See "Piano-Playing Cat Is YouTube Star.") "She's just imitating and she actually plays when we're not here."

According to Alexander, "When she first started, she played two notes at a time and then learned how to play one note at a time. She sometimes reaches up to the black notes. She has a little bit of rhythm but I don't know if in her mind if that's a song or not."

Barbara Eberlein, one of Alexander's students, backs up her teacher by insisting that Nora's musical aptitude is not a hoax. (See mug shot below on the left.) "Long before Betsy had the idea to videotape her, she should play. Some of her (other) cats would inadvertently walk on keys but this cat just sat down with perfect posture and sometimes even played the same key. If I hit one key over and over that's what she'll do. If I play something with two hands she will use two paws," she related.

Nora is a gray-colored three-year-old former stray that Alexander adopted from PetSmart to go along with her other cats, Miro, Rennie, Max, Clara, and Gabby. She started tickling the ivories at age one and has been playing on a daily basis ever since.

Actually, she is not a true pianist in that she only plays notes as opposed to songs. Moreover, not much is known about her musical likes and dislikes although Eberlein insists that she comes running every time she hears Bach's "Minuet in G." That however could be more indicative of her limited exposure to music rather than a reflection upon her personal tastes.

In any case, Bach is certainly not a bad place to start but if Nora ever expects to play Carnegie Hall she is going to have to expand her repertoire a bit.

Nonetheless, whatever she may lack in musical aptitude Nora more than makes up for in attitude. "She really has the personality of a great composer," Alexander told the Inquirer. "Maybe she's Beethoven. She puts her ear toward the piano, doesn't get along with the other cats, and definitely likes to be in the spotlight."

Almost as soon as the video appeared Alexander was accused of spreading catnip over the keys as an inducement in order to get Nora to play. Although she has vociferously denied this charge, she does admit to rewarding her with treats for playing.

This admission raises the disturbing question of whether Nora has taken up the piano as an act of her own free will or just to procure treats. If the latter is the case, then Alexander is guilty of not only exploiting her for cheap commercial gain but of endangering her welfare as well.

Although there is not any evidence to indicate that she starves Nora in order to get her to play, she does admit that her cat is fat. All of these added treats can lead to obesity and a host of other problems that are caused by overeating.

Although Dog and Cat Radio and Cat Galaxy both offer musical formats tailored to cats, not much is known about their musical tastes. Because of their acute hearing and proclivity toward napping, cats tend to prefer peace and quiet more than anything else and these petits faits call into question the legitimacy of Nora's alleged fondness for the ivories. It certainly looks as if she is just banging away in order to be fed.

Perhaps even more telling is the fact that the video was shot and posted on YouTube with an eye toward fattening Alexander's wallet. This is perfectly obvious by a visit to a web site maintained by Alexander and her spouse, Burnell Yow. At ravenswingstudio.com, the duo are peddling for a pretty penny, inter alia, posters, tote and messenger bags, t-shirts, mugs, postcards, buttons, refrigerator door magnets, mouse pads, pillows, tile boxes, and coasters bearing Nora's image.

The widely accepted notion that domestic cats are sticks-in-the-mud and therefore cannot be trained to perform tricks is erroneous. For instance, the Moscow Cats Theatre, Cole Bros. Circus, Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus, and the Catman of Key West all feature domestic cats in their acts that leap from high platforms, scale poles, jump through hoops, and even push trolleys.

Although the methods used to train domestic cats are a closely guarded corporate secret, it is believed that they are starved into doing tricks. Physical abuse and even drugs may also be used.

It is a dead giveaway that an animal is being mistreated whenever it is forced to behave in an unnatural manner. A performance of the Moscow Cats Theatre in New York City left critic Michael Dale repulsed at the dangerous feats (See photo above) that the cats were forced to perform. (See Broadway World, October 11, 2005, "Moscow Cats Theatre: But Can They Sing 'Memory'?")

The long and the short of the matter is that all animals are sentient beings that have an absolute right to be left alone and to be respected for what they are. Alice Walker put it best when she said, "The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans anymore than black people were made for white, or women created for men."

They therefore should not be abused, starved, or forced to perform stupid tricks just so that their owners can make a financial killing. More to the point, cats are neither pianists nor circus performers by nature and to force them into becoming such is cruel and inhumane.

If animal welfare groups in the City of Brotherly Love were doing their jobs they would insist that a veterinarian be called in to examine Nora and the five other cats living at Alexander's Center City residence. If it should be determined that she is endangering Nora's health by plying her with treats in order to get her to play the piano, the cat should be taken away from her and placed in foster care until a good home can be found for her.

Photos: Eric Mencher of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Nora), Ravens Wing Studio (Alexander and Eberlein), and Broadway World (cat scaling pole).