My cats, they dominate my life,
They see me through my sorrow and strife.Whether I'm happy or whether I'm blue,
My cats are there to see me through.
No one ever accused George Ney of being one of the world's great poets. But wherever Ney travels, those who meet him learn quickly that the guy really loves cats.
He's got seven of them, four of which perform tricks and trade off in accompanying him on his cross-country tours. The other three are retired.
All of Ney's cats have something in common.
They're the same breed.
You won't find Ney's breed of felines in any of the lists sanctioned by purebred cat organizations. Ney calls his cats "Purralleys." They do purr a lot and, for the most part, they're pure alley cats.
But whether they were strays he happened to stumble onto or cats retrieved from an animal shelter or a hand-me-down from his daughter, Ney, with his unique sense of what makes a feline tick, certainly has a way with animals.
Two of Ney's beloved "Purralleys" - SCUPA and NFL - came through Utah several weeks ago for an appearance with the Promontory Point Cat Show at the Salt Palace.
While "SCUPA" sounds like something you clean up after a cat with, it's really an acronym for Self-Contained Uninhibited Purring Apparatus.
NFL is easier. That's short for Neat Furry Legs.
Ney acquired SCUPA from his daughter. NFL came from an animal shelter.
Which leads us to the point of this article: June is "Adopt-a-Cat" Month.
Many adopted cats fall into the less-than-purebred Purralley category.
While Ney's cats are well-traveled and enjoy performing for crowds, they aren't as celebrated as the official spokescat for Adopt-a-Cat Month - the feline who's puss is featured on everything from cat-food commercials to magazine covers: "Morris, the 9-Lives Cat."
Ney has written a book about training household cats, "The Educated Cat," published by E.F. Dutton, and Morris (or his ghost writer) has co-authored a 16-page booklet with his partner, Bob Martwick, called "The Morris Method," which gives insightful tips on cat care.
As part of Adopt-a-Cat Month, participating animal shelters, including several in Utah, are distributing special packets to all adopting families during the month of June including copies of the booklet, complimentary can of 9-Lives cat food and a supply of money-saving coupons. (Details in related story on this page.)
Ney and his cats travel nearly 40,000 miles a year for visits to cat shows, shelters, schools, hospitals and senior citizens centers.
SCUPA has performed in "Garfield" commercials, in a children's Nyquil ad, in series of industrial videos for Pittsburgh Plate Glass, in promotions for Ch. 6 in Milwaukee, and in exhibits for IAMS cat food.
Both SCUPA and NFL co-starred in a video for the American Veterinarian Medical Association that was filmed as a promotion for National Pet Week in May.
`Training cats is not like training dogs," says Ney. "With cats you must be loving and gentle. You can't be harsh or raise your voice. If you do, you will lose it as a performer."
When he's not traveling with his tabbies, Ney keeps tabs on a business he founded several years ago: Cat House Originals, Wauconda, Ill. The firm manufactures custom-designed furniture - elaborate scratching posts with platforms and tunnels created from tree limbs.
Purr-fect companion waits at shelter for a loving home
You don't need to consult the "purr-sonal" ads in the newspaper to find that purr-fect companion.
More than 1,000 animal shelters across the country, including five in Utah, are among the co-sponsors of the 16th annual Adopt-a-Cat Month program, which helps abandoned cats and kittens find new homes.
And, once again, the most famous cat in the country (Garfield doesn't count - he's not a fur-and-blood feline), is serving as spokescat for the public service campaign.
Morris the 9-Lives Cat, himself a refugee from an animal shelter, knows firsthand about how it is to live from paw-to-mouth, end up caged in a shelter, then find a kind, loving home.
Morris represents a glimmer of hope for the millions of shelter cats facing slim chances of survival.
"It's not a coincidence that June is Adopt-a-Cat Month," says Katharine Brant, director of development for the Humane Society of Utah shelter and clinic in West Valley City.
There's something about the way a feline's reproductive society runs, but a heavier-than-usual influx of kittens always starts showing up in June.
"On any given day during the month, we'll have at least 50 or more cats and kittens in our kennels," she said.
Unlike some city and county-operated pounds, the humane society's clinic is capable of providing a special one-fee adoption package that includes sterilization and the first set of shots along with the adoption for a total price of $25 for males, $30 for females.
And, during June, in observance of the Adopt-a-Cat Month program, all of those adopting new cats or kittens will get some free gifts, including "The Morris Method" cat care book, a can of 9-Lives cat food, coupons and other goodies.
"Adopt-a-Cat Month also gives us an opportunity to emphasize the importance of spaying and neutering in order to cut down on the number of kittens being born," Brant added.
In "The Morris Method," animal talent scout Bob Martwick, Morris' handler, partner and friend, said: "Cats are clean, self-sufficient and reliable - just a few of the reasons they're such popular pets. But much more than that, they're beautiful and enjoyable.
"If you are considering adding a feline to your realm, I hope you also will consider him a partner under binding contract. Ask yourself, `Am I willing to accept the financial responsibility and take the time for veterinary care and healthful meals? For the duties of regular feeding, grooming and affection? And will I really change his litter box regularly?' "
"And consider it a privilege?" interjected Morris.
"The Morris Method" gives advice on feeding and caring for a newly acquired cat, including neutering and spaying (Morris claims his lady friends prefer convalescing at Palm Springs), and The Finicky One himself provides the following list of preferred human traits:
CHECKLIST FOR SELECTING A HUMAN
-Good with can opener
-Prompt with din din
According to Dennis White, director of animal protection for the American Humane Association, "Of the millions of healthy cats that will pass through animal shelters this year, only about 28 percent will be placed in homes or reclaimed by their owners. Due to shelter overcrowding, the rest must be humanely euthanized.
"Adopt-a-Cat Month helps call attention to the feline overpopulation problem by encouraging adoptions and promoting responsible pet care, particularly neutering and spaying of cats."
For information regarding the adoption of cats from the Humane Society of Utah, call the shelter at 968-3548. For the society's clinic, which provides low-cost spaying and neutering, call 968-3540. The shelter/clinic is located at 4613 S. 4000 West.
Also participating as co-sponsors of Adopt-a-Cat Month in Utah are the Salt Lake City animal shelter, Sandy City Animal Services; Utah County animal shelter, Provo, and Ogden City Animal Services.
-Ivan M. Lincoln