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Kate Coleman: This cat really does dance

October 31, 2009|By KATE COLEMAN

Actor Burt Reynolds starred in a 1973 Western titled "The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing."

I can't remember if I ever saw the film, but that title has stuck in my mind for years.

I misinterpreted though, thinking it was about some sort of boogieing feline - not an American Indian character named Cat Dancing.

I am vindicated. I have a cat that dances.

Annie arrived about eight years ago, delivered to me from Frostburg, Md., by my friend and former Herald-Mail editor Liz Douglas Medcalf. We'd exchanged e-mails, and I'd mentioned that my beloved, unflappable bobtail cat, Pretzel, had died. "P.S.," I added, "If you see a stray manx cat up there, grab it for me."

Liz quickly responded that she knew of a bobtail kitten that needed a home. The soon-to-arrive photos showed a beautiful little cat. She came with the bonus of extra toes on each white-socked foot.

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I named her Annie. (My son called her "the Mutant.")

Annie settled in, and we adjusted to her quirks. They are many.

And ever since it's been the two of us - just Annie and me - I often fear that I am fast becoming a crazy cat lady. You know the stereotype: a mature, single woman whose life revolves around her pampered kitty.

Annie certainly is not the center of my life, but I do spend quite a bit of time accommodating her.

For example, she's very shy. Some friends who have visited several times never have seen her.

I can pet her and she'll lean into a good neck massage now and then, but only on her terms. She never has sat on my lap.

She likes her water - not in the cute, ceramic, cat bowl I bought - but in a tall, plastic cup. Served upstairs, thank you very much.

Annie scratches furniture. She prefers the legs of an antique oak side chair and the arms of my denim sofas to store-bought scratching posts.

Her blue-gray coat is lush. The fine, thick, soft fur is prone to mat. Annie is too squirrelly for me to catch and groom, so for the last several months she's sported dreadlocks from shoulder to stump. Think stegosaurus. Rasta cat.

Her do seemed to bother her as much as it did me. She recently got serious about the hideous tangles, working at them until only a four-inch clump was left hanging by what appeared to be just a little connection.

Hidden behind a doorway, I reached around the corner and grabbed it - thinking it would easily pull off. It wasn't. For a second or two, Annie was swinging by the mat.

She finally relieved herself of the nasty appendage. Her self-esteem seems to have improved quite a bit.

And the dancing?

I'm not totally crazy. I found scientific validation.

Kay Redfield Jamison, professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, published the wonderful "Exuberance: The Passion for Life" in 2004.

In it she presents several real-life exuberant figures - President Theodore Roosevelt and physicist Richard Feynman among them. Snoopy, Peter Pan and Mary Poppins are fictional examples. Jamison cites animal studies, one of which particularly excited me.

She wrote about a rescued baby porcupine, observed to be "inordinately fond of solitary dancing alternately raising and stamping with the hind feet, like a marcher marking time."

Annie might be a bit prickly, and she's no porcupine, but she dances in just that way. And, she's invented a couple of her own steps.

She's exuberant, for goodness sake!

Burt Reynolds, eat your heart out.

I am the woman who loves cat dancing.

Kate Coleman covers The Maryland Symphony and writes a monthly column for The Herald-Mail.

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