Ever since 1994 when Lisa Loeb broke through with her No. 1 hit, "Stay (I Missed You)," the singer-songwriter has been most recognizable to her fans through her trademark glasses.
Since then, she has managed to stay in the public with hits like "I Do" and "Do You Sleep"; TV shows like No. 1 Single, a reality show about trying to find a husband; Dweezil and Lisa, a Food Network cooking show with former flame Dweezil Zappa; and, in 2010, a very popular eyewear line.
Behind the scenes, she has been as devoted to cats as she is to glasses or guitars. "Cats make me happy when I see them," she admits. "I want to pet cats I see on the street, even if I shouldn’t."
Currently, two felines are the objects of her feline affections: Chinchy Morty, a "mutt" she says looks like a Russian Blue, and Sweetie McGee, who she describes as a tortie similar to a calico but with every color.
Loeb says she has always been a cat person. When she was growing up in Dallas, her family had two cats for 18 years, a tabby and a black-and-white short-haired cat, who died while she was in college. Then, in 1994, when "Stay (I Missed You)" became a hit after being featured in the Ben Stiller-directed comedy Reality Bites, she chose not to have pets because she didn’t want to put a feline through the pressures of touring.
Still, her love of the feline species did leave its mark. For instance, her acclaimed video for "Stay," filmed in actor Ethan Hawke’s New York City apartment, featured his cat, Mardoe, in a crucial role, albeit with some challenges. "It was all filmed in one take, and it’s hard to keep a cat in a video," she laughs. "My friend Amy was in charge of the cat and had to throw her — gently — into the video a couple times."
Loeb’s cat connection continued with her 1995 major label debut, Tails, which had a drawing of a cat on the cover. In addition, the painting on the cover of her 1997 album, Firecracker, is called Kitten, even though there’s no cat. However, she made up for that by putting Hello Kitty on the cover of her 2002 release, "Hello Lisa."
Loeb got back on the cat bandwagon in August, 2001, when she adopted Chinchy Morty from her pal Allee Willis, a songwriter best known for hits like "I’ll Be There for You" and "What Have I Done to Deserve This."
"She had a cat in her backyard who had a litter," Loeb says. "I was touring so much, I didn’t know if I could have one, but I was dating a guy who didn’t like to go on the road, so we adopted the cat for the night and went to Petco to buy items for him." That was Chinchy Morty. A few weeks later, she adopted Sweetie McGee.
"Chinchy was biting my ankles and attacking me in bed and friends told me that another cat would calm them down, so we went to a vet who does adoptions and got Sweetie," she says.
As cats go, Loeb says they’re pretty typical. "If you know them, they’re great, but they have their moods. Sweetie McGee was cuddly the first day, but was hiding when we took her home," she says.
Loeb had to go on tour before she could fully bond with Sweetie, but says her housesitter helped the kitty get over her skittish ways. "She started cuddling under the sitter’s arms when he slept and, to this day, Sweetie does that with me," Loeb says.
Loeb’s cats had the run of the house for nearly eight years until January 2009, when she married Roey Herskovitz, the music production supervisor for Conan. Still, she made it clear to him how important her cats were. Luckily, he was a cat lover, too. "My husband is pretty understanding about the cats. He feeds them and even scoops their litter when I’m on tour," she says. "He gets along with them, although they don’t sleep under his arm … yet."
Loeb’s cathouse got bigger in November 2009 when her daughter, Lyla Rose, was born, followed by a son, Emet, in 2012. Still, the cats have handled the new additions as well as expected. "My son loves the cats," she says. "He has to kiss them and say hello to them each morning and they’re very patient — even Chinchy. He’s 19 pounds and can be scary. He will grab you."
Loeb loves her children, but the cats are top dog in her house. "The cats get fed first thing in the morning — before any people," she says. "Then Chinchy has to be pet a certain way." Sweetie also demands a certain amount of bonding with Loeb. "She flosses with me. I will take a big piece of floss and give some of it to her," she says, adding that she believes her feline flossing partner has helped improve her dental health.
Although Loeb’s cats mean the world to her, they have never actually inspired any songs, "but I think of them when I’m singing love songs," she says. They’ve inspired her in other ways, though. "I have my own eyewear line and there are some cat-eye styles," she laughs.
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About the author: Patrick Henderson is a San Diego-based freelance writer specializing in entertainment and lifestyle stories. He has two cats, Mr. Boots and Buster, who tolerate him as long as he brings home the kibble.