Notes from Sarah Donner: Cats, You Are Stifling My Art!


Its the tail end of kitten season, which, in my life, means its time to record another album!

My studio is in the basement, where the grown-up cats have been residing since the foster kittens took over the upstairs. Its not that the grown-up cats arent allowed upstairs; they just prefer not being prodded for a nipple whenever they lie down.

Last night, I started tracking (which is a fancy word for recording) a tune called All My Guns.” Im leaning toward unrequited love songs these days. I cant write lyrics about wet food and laser pointers all the time. It was relatively quiet because my neighbors were out, so I took the opportunity to lay down the main guitar part. Often I wait until later at night to work, but I didnt want to miss this rare silence.

Unfortunately, the cats were all riled up as soon as I walked through the door. As soon as I set up the microphone, I hear, scratch, scratch, scratch … scratch scratch. Well, the litter box is on the floor above me. So I wait a minute and start again. Thrump, thrump, thrump, thrump from left to right. Thrump, thrump, thrump, thrump from right to left. Cmon, cats!

Let me add that I enjoy music production that reflects the environment of the artist. I dont strive for a super-shiny, sterile sound (believe me, there is nothing sterile in my house). In fact, I have left a meow or two in my past recordings, but this was ridiculous.

I went upstairs and put out some tuna to distract kittens Crumpet, Omlette, and Oatmeal. Then I nestled back into my chair, put on the guitar, wrapped the headphones around my ears, and started recording. Mreeeeow, mreeeeow. Rory Cat started crying at the closed door to the upstairs. Usually its left open, but Oatmeal was still working on her social skills at the time and couldn’t be trusted not to hide in closets or under futons.

Of course, we all know that an open door will paralyze a cat with indecision. I have been known to persuade a cat or two with my foot. The Great Decision must be like choosing between apple crisp and carrot cake, The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, Zappos or Facebook. The feline panic attack only leads to sadness and a tail caught in the door.

Eventually and expectantly all settled in for sleep, and I was able to get an instrumental track down. In the silence I noticed the gurgle of the fishtank, so I unplugged the pump. I have a hard time remembering to plug it back in, and there have been casualties to my creative process over the years. Now I leave large objects out as trip hazards as a reminder. After Im done working, Ill dash up the stairs and be stopped by a lawn chair or a cat carrier.

The cats can be obnoxious, but I wouldnt have it any other way. They keep me engaged and inspired to care for something besides myself. Perhaps if the fish take a lesson from them, they will have a better chance of survival this time around.

About the Author: Sarah Donner is a singer, songwriter, and cat gal from New Jersey. She answers Catster readers’ questions in song every Friday in her Ask a Cat Lady video column.

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