I always knew Remy was destined to be a star. I know other tuxedo cat owners think this, too, as impressive as our elegant black-and-white-suited felines are — but I knew it.
In 2006, when we brought Remy and his sister, Sage, home from a shelter and let them loose in our apartment, I turned to my then-husband Adam and said, "It’s not whether we can quit our jobs and let Remy’s modeling career support us, it’s when." We turned to watch the bolder of our new kittens execute a four-foot vertical jump toward a light switch. The room went dark. I clapped. Adam gasped. Sage remained hidden beneath our bed. And then Remy conveyed his opinion of my plan in no uncertain terms via his new litter box. Still, I believed.
I just didn’t know it would take six years for Remy to get his first big break. It came, at last, when a Bay Area television reporter friend sought an outdoor-cat owner to feature in a story about a scintillating new study of feline behavior. A few hours later the news truck pulled up to the curb in front of my house.
Remy had no idea what he was in for.
The segment was shot at night. If Remy wasn’t truly an outdoor cat, he wasn’t even close to being an outdoor-at-night cat.
The storyline was this: Much to the shock of the American public, cats kill billions of birds and other small animals a year. Billions! Researchers had shown just how vicious they are by strapping tiny video cameras to their collars and filming them as they disemboweled frogs and licked clean the bones of sparrows. After they murdered, they’d return to their owners’ laps espousing the same sweet kitty-talk as always.
Remy’s first TV role was simple: run from house to backyard and do whatever aggressive things his kind ordinarily do. The cameraman set up outside. I gave Remy a push through the door. Unfortunately, he didn’t run. Instead he shot me a long backward glance, as if waiting for me to whisk him back inside as I usually do during his daily escape attempts. Then he took a few steps and sniffed the hardwood deck. Yawned. Sniffed. Sat down.
"Can we get him in the yard?" the cameraman called out. "Why don’t you just carry him out?"
Take two! I strolled down the deck stairs with Remy in my arms and launched him into the grass. This time he went with the forward momentum and padded quickly toward some bushes. Where he proceeded to eat grass.
“He’s going to throw up if he keeps at it,” I said. “Can you promise you won’t put that on TV?"
Upon hearing the word "TV," Remy paused to stare right into the blindingly bright camera for several beats — the perfect shot. I held my breath. This was it. How beautiful he was, how majestic, how his coat glimmered in the moonlight! Then, bored, he took a few steps and resumed inhaling grass, his plump rump to the camera. The cameraman sighed.
"Can you get him to, uh, do something?"
I could try.
My roommate, cast in the role of production assistant, ran off to get a cat toy — because clearly I couldn’t leave the scene (moments later I could have been mistaken for a Toddlers & Tiaras stage mom). But no matter what I did off camera — spun his favorite belled feather wand around in the air, made the strange pfweeeeping sounds that usually perks him up, waved my arms around — Remy ignored me. Evidently, the grass was his crack.
"I guess this is the best we’re going to get," said the cameraman, who by now had at least 20 minutes of “Remy Preparing to Puke” footage.
And then it was my turn for the limelight, to represent the Average Cat Owner and discuss on-camera how I felt about letting Remy outside and about cats’ propensity for killing small creatures. The clip of me would likely be five seconds at most. No problem. But there was a problem — they wanted Remy on my lap. And Remy wasn’t about to abandon his first nighttime freedom fest.
Remy is usually such a docile cat ÔÇô- he merrily lets me hold him beneath his armpits to show off his impressively long and lanky form and soft white belly to visitors. Not this time. My roommate and I chased him in the dark for 20 minutes.
It was suggested we do the interview sans Remy, but to give up another chance for him to be on TV before an adoring public, to be spotted by animal talent agents — how could I pass that up? We’d nailed the “Remy in the Wild” shot, now we needed the “Remy as Cute Placid Pet” shot. With help I finally managed to drag him out behind a bush and onto my lap, but as soon as the camera’s lights shone in his fuzzy face, he flew off again, leaving me with raw scratches on my arms, leaf-scraps in my hair, and thorns digging into my thighs.
I stayed up late that night to watch the 11 o’clock news, Remy snoring at my feet. When the teaser began for Remy’s segment I grabbed my iPhone to snap a photo. "Coming up next," said the anchor, "they may seem cuddly and sweet, but a new study shows that in reality cats are vicious killers!" The screen flashed to a still of Remy in the grass, his masked face staring clear into the camera, as handsome as I’ve ever seen him. And across the bottom of the screen in bold blue letters: "Killer Kitties."
I hooted so loud I feared I’d wake my roommate, who was fast sleep after having spent an hour with me coaxing Remy out from under the deck after the news van sped off. Remy yawned and rolled over.
I waited with bated breath for the segment. It featured the shot of me gently plopping Remy outside, followed by a shot of Remy chomping grass, a quick clip of my interview, and interviews with experts. I posted the video on Facebook and soon Remy fans came out of the woodwork. "Sure hope the cops don’t come knocking!" joked one. "Can I have his pawtograph?" several requested. Another commented that Remy was obviously a killer vegetarian.
And yet, I am still waiting for that call from Hollywood. I hope the reason my phone is silent isn’t because pet agents have concluded Remy is dangerous. Has he been blacklisted? Alas, I can only wait and see. In the meantime, we’re practicing that pawtograph.
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