Monday, June 14, 2010

Interview: Carrie Ann Inaba Wants You to Call Her a "Crazy Cat Lady"

Animal Planet's Housecat Housecall, presented by Purina Cat Chow, kicked off its third season this month, with one of America's most loved judges being "judged" herself. Dancing with the Stars judge Carrie Ann Inaba, a lifelong cat lover, will appear in the June 19 episode of hit reality show. Carrie Ann enlisted the help of Dr. Katrina to help integrate her three cats with her boyfriend's two cats to create a happy five-cat household. Carrie Ann was only too happy to share her experience with cats and with Housecat Housecall with me when we spoke the other day.

Celebrity Extra: How long have you been a cat lover?

Carrie Ann Inaba: Oh my whole life. I grew up with cats. In Hawaii when I was growing up, we had two cats and two dogs. When I moved to Japan and I was living alone, I got myself a cat. And then Shadow moved in with me (click here to see Carrie Ann with Shadow for a feature in People Pets). One day I opened my front door, and this beautiful black  Sylvester-looking cat with white whiskers and little dot and white feet walked in, and he never left. He’s my oldest cat right now. He’s 19 years old. He’s my guy. 

Then I have a little girl cat, Squeeker, who’s also a rescue. Then I had another cat that I got, Taz, was also a rescue. He was actually on a street corner under the wheels of this car. Me and this bike rider jumped in the middle of the street and got Taz. I had always believed that two cats is more than enough. If you have two arms you can only have two cats. So, I was hesitant, but once I saw him up close I was like, oh forget it, I’m hooked. And my boyfriend has two cats, Zeus and Mia. So now we have five cats.

CE: What kind of help did you need from Dr. Katrina? Were you concerned about all the cats adjusting to each other?

CAI: I was a little concerned — the transition went pretty smoothly moving in the new cats but, Jesse’s cat Zeus is an Alpha male in his household and Shadow is my Alpha male. So we were a little concerned because late at night they would play, and Zeus is 19 pounds and very excitable. Definitely acts kittycat-like. My cats think they are human, so they're like, "Pass me the remote," and Zeus is more like, "Hey, let’s play!" But Shadow is 19, weighs about 6 pounds and is a little frail, and so I was a little concerned because they would keep me up at night by playing, and I was just worried that Shadow was going to get hurt. 

So, Dr. Katrina came in and she taught us a little bit about how the cycle of cats work and what their natural cycles are so we could work with them so that we could get them to all go to sleep at about the same time. Basically she taught us that we have to feed them at night and put them through the cycle, which is let them out at night for a little bit, play with them, let them do their little business and let them groom themselves and then they’ll just fall asleep. Now they sleep through the night like we do. I have to tell you that is a huge blessing, because I was getting sleep-deprived and with my schedule, I can’t be sleep-deprived.

CE: Was it a little difficult to take another person's advice about your cats? I know it would be hard for me, because I want to do the best for my pets and would never want to feel like, "Oh no, does this make me a bad mother?"

CAI: Yes! You hit the nail on the head. I’m like, What do you mean? I’m the expert on cats. I have five of them. I love them. I don’t want to be portrayed as somebody who’s crazy and doesn’t know how to take care of their cats. So, actually, I did have trepidations. Once I met Katrina, she’s really wonderful and the tools that she did give me were wonderful and really simple. She just taught me a little bit more about cat’s behaviors and how they work and how their natural cycle is so I could make better decisions. I do consider myself quite savvy about how to take care of cats. I’m the person that all my friends come to take care of cats. I didn’t have anybody to go to and ask these simple questions of. Even though my questions aren’t as powerful, my storyline isn’t as powerful and poignant as some of the other beautiful storylines that they have had throughout the series with other people, it was very helpful to me. I’m really grateful I have to say.

CE: How did this come about? Did you contact Animal Planet, or did they reach out to you?

CAI: They actually reached out to me. They knew, because I’m always talking about my cats in interviews and I’m always doing anything I can to help animals through various charities and organizations. They were just so lovely that it was just a really good experience. I’m happy we did it. You are also letting them come into your home. So, I let the show come into my home and I keep my home pretty hidden from most people. It’s very private. But I wanted to do it, because I thought that if I can help bring awareness to the show and help other people who are cat lovers like myself have access to this resource, I have to do it. It’s kind of my responsibility. I have to do whatever I can to help other people.

CE: What kind of cat awareness do you hope to spread by appearing on the show?

CAI: I think basically spreading the word that June is Adopt a Cat Month. What we are looking for is to help people find forever homes. Because more than just adopting a cat, some people adopt cats and they have major problems or whatever and they think they are disposable. They’re like, “Ah, I don’t want the cat anymore.” What this show really does help with is if you do get a cat and you find that you have some problems with it, maybe you just need to be a little bit more educated about how to take care of them. There are some easy fixes and very friendly tips that Dr. Katrina gives, and you can find these tips on the website That’s why I wanted to be a part of the show, because I think that’s very important is to help people have these tools so that they don’t get rid of their cats.

It’s a living being that you agreed to take care of for the rest of its life. People tell me, "Hey, I’m going to get a cat." And I tell them that’s great, but you’re going to have to save some money because you’re going to have to pay vet expenses. You have to make sure that you give them the proper nutrition and you’re able to take care of their nutritional needs. You need to make sure that you can give them the right amount of love and do what is necessary to make them have a comfortable life as well. Don’t just do it because it’s cute. Once it’s no longer as cute — although cats are always cute, they’re not as cute as they were when they were kittens — the interest goes away, and you just can’t do that.
CE: And some people don't realize the average lifespan of a cat is slightly longer than a dog; it can be a 20-year commitment.

CA: I know! I hate seeing older cats in the shelter. It just kills me to think that they lived in a home for like 7 years and then they got a new girlfriend and the girlfriend didn’t like the cat and that is why the cat found the shelter. You’re like, “What?” I’m sorry, my priority is, I have to say, Shadow was here first before Jesse. This is my boyfriend. He knows that too. He’s like, “I know.” But he treats Shadow with respect and he’s a cat lover too. I’m so grateful. I’m a cat lover girl who found a cat lover boy. It’s pretty awesome.

CE: Shifting gears a bit here, when it comes to Dancing With the Stars (picture above courtesy ABC), could you have ever imagined in a million years what a HUGE hit it would end up being?

CAI: No. You know, you never know. I’ve been doing television for 20 years and working in it, and reality television especially for awhile now. You never know which show is going to stick and which show is going to actually get into the hearts and souls of people. But I have worked on American Idol, and I knew why that show was successful, and the reason why is it was one concept executed really, really well. That is what Dancing With the Stars is. When they offered me to be on the show, I actually thought it could do well, but you never know. It was one idea executed to its fullest potential. It’s celebrities in a ballroom dance competition. It’s the most bizarre concept in the world, but what we found — and this is something that makes me so happy to be a part of the dance community my whole life and being a dance educator — is that your body doesn’t lie. And when you dance, when you tap into your body knowledge, it’s a beautiful thing. When you learn to be in tune with your body and other people’s bodies, it’s something that I’ve always wanted to share with people. Now I get to be a part of that. On Dancing With the Stars, what we are watching are people getting in tune with their bodies. We are watching them struggle with themselves through dance. We are watching great dance. It’s a dream job.

CE: Plus it just make you feel good that the art form you are most passionate about has been given a whole new life because of the show, with millions of people developing an interest in dancing, taking dance classes and just loving the show!

CAI: Definitely. Dance class enrollment is way up, and I am very grateful for that. What’s wonderful is all of my friends are working. Some of my friends, who we were dancers our whole lives together, they are all household names now. It’s really exciting to see the world get to know the community that I have always loved and grown up in. It’s an art form. It’s such a great art form. It’s such a wonderful tool for young kids to express themselves. It’s such a wonderful tool for older couples to socialize and keep themselves healthy. It’s also a great way to exercise your brain, because when you learn choreography, they say it helps with Alzheimer’s and sending off signs of Alzheimer’s. It keeps you fit. You’ve seen all the transformations of the bodies that have been on our show. It’s so nice and I’m really happy.

CE: Do you have any "wish list" celebrities that you'd love to have the show?

CAI: I would love to see Lindsay Lohan come on our show. I think it would be a really great opportunity for her to turn her life around. She’s been going through some hard times. I know that she is a talented young actress and she’s a very sexy girl, and I’m very curious to see, I think she would do very well on our show. 

I would also like to see somebody like Craig Ferguson. I’m a huge fan of his. He’s sort of tall and debonair and dashing and funny and self-deprecating, and I think that he could do very well on our show. We’ve had a lot of comedians on our show like Cloris Leachman, as I'm sure you recall. She made the show so much fun. 

I would also love someone like Roger Federer. He’d be wonderful. Somebody like that. But I don’t know. It’s dangerous, so I don’t want to see any professional athletes come on our show and get hurt and ruin their other career. I worry about that. Those are just a few of the people that I’d love to see on our show.

Don't miss Carrie Ann on Housecat Housecall on Animal Planet this Saturday at 10:30 a.m. (and rerunning throughout the month).

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