It’s been years since I watched Disney’s The Aristocats. I enjoyed it as a young girl, but found it annoying as a young adult in its polarization of the aristocracy (Madame and her Aristocats) and the working class (the Alley cats and Edgar, the butler). Society, human or feline, is far more complex than such a simplistic dichotomy portrays.
However, recent events encouraged me to reconsider the story line.
Last month, our very own, Carrot, made his theatrical debut! Carrot is neither an Aristocat nor an Alley Cat. He is a very special Tabby’s Place cat. Carrot is an “Aged to Purrfection” cat.
In 2018, Tabby’s Place launched a new community outreach program called “Aged to Purrfection.” Once a week, on a rotating basis, one or two of our Aged to Purrfection felines make a merry visit to an assisted living facility for a social hour. They are escorted by several trained Tabby’s Place volunteers.
Aged to Purrfection cats are exceptional kitties, selected for the program on the basis of their gentleness with people, their confidence, and their knack for delivering joy. Each of our Aged to Purrfection felines is a certified therapy animal. Currently we have eight cats in the program: Carrot, Rose, Anka, Stafford, Denni, Sherbet, Pepita, and Tux. Each of these cats is a special needs kitty, and most are available to sponsor.
Our special kitties bring great joy to the residents of these facilities. Resident Helen LOVES the cats and frequently shares stories of her youth on a farm, where people used to drop off their unwanted cats. Resident Dorothy is usually sitting, unsmiling, until Carrot or Rose arrive—then she brightens while petting them. Resident Gloria has never met a cat she doesn’t like, but she particularly enjoys petting lap cats. Then there is Resident Ken, who has told our volunteers that he doesn’t like cats and always refused to engage with them, until Stafford hopped up on his lap one afternoon and stayed there for an extended period, while Ken indulged him with pets. During a recent visit, both Stafford and Tux leaped from their strollers to cuddle up on either side of a man who was bedridden and non-verbal. I’m told the man evidently delighted in the cats’ comfort and empathy.
There is no doubt that all our Aged to Purrfection felines are fabulous, but how exactly did Carrot’s reputation earn him a ticket to the big time? Well, cats and kittens, you need connections and luck.
Carrot has both.
Carrot knows people. Some of those people know other people. Some of those other people happen to be the founders of a local non-profit theater.
Carrot is lucky. After all, he found his way to Tabby’s Place at a very young age. But in this particular case, his lucky break was Music Mountain Theatre’s production of Disney’s The Aristocats Kids.
Was Tabby’s Place interested in doing an adoption event at the theater to coincide with the performance of The Aristocats? Since our cats do not travel to meet adopters, I suggested that we have one of our therapy cats visit the theater for a meet and greet. Families that came to watch the show could then learn about Tabby’s Place, our mission, and our community outreach programs such as “Aged to Purrfection” and “Paws To Read.” They could pet a cat and learn about adoption and volunteering.
Carrot’s resume made him the obvious choice for this special engagement. His enthusiastic exploration of the theater, earned him a ticket on to the stage!
With his carrier parked in the coat room and his official therapy bandanna, harness, and leash fitted, Carrot was off to explore the lobby, the box office, the snack bar, and then the theater itself. Ginny Brennan, co-founder of Music Mountain Theatre, was so amazed by his confidence that she asked if he would join her on stage to introduce the show.
Carrot was escorted through the adoring cast of children waiting backstage and emerged in front of the curtain to a theater full of people. After introductions were made, Carrot’s role as a therapy cat was explained to the children in the audience. Carrot lived at a very special place, called Tabby’s Place (which was just down the road), and traveled around to different venues to make people happy! The kids could visit with Carrot at Tabby’s Place and read to him or maybe even volunteer there with their parents. Carrot clearly wanted to demonstrate his acting abilities, so Ginny put him down on the stage, he took a sniff and a few steps, then sat and faced the audience. Carrot, the star, is born!
After two shows, a lunch and potty break, and a great deal of meeting, greeting, and exploring, Carrot was ready to retire to the coat room at the theater. Carrot learned that a room full of adoring seniors is far less intense than a theater full of young families and performers. Performing is exhausting work!
The Aristocats Kids ends with “Madame” opening her heart and home to all the animals of Paris. Tabby’s Place opens its heart and home to hopeless kitties, whether aristocat or alley cat, every day. Now, kitties like Carrot are heading out into our community to spread joy, educate, and entertain those they meet.