Friday, March 5, 2010
By Julia Williams
Nearly everyone with internet access and a pulse has heard of Nora, the piano playing cat who took YouTube by storm in 2007. Considering that the video has been viewed almost 17 million times to date, I’m guessing most of you have seen it at least once. But did you also know that the piano cat has gone on to become quite the celebrity kitty? It’s true – and Nora’s popularity and busy schedule could rival that of most A-list human stars!
The talented piano cat has come a long way since being rescued from the street and adopted from a shelter by a piano teacher named Betsy Alexander, and her fame is well deserved. If you’ve watched any of the videos of Nora playing the piano (currently, there are four) you have to agree that this cat’s ability to tickle the ivories is impressive. Oh sure, any kitty can walk on a piano and plink out a few notes. Nora, however, sits primly on the piano bench and uses both paws to play. There’s a subtlety to her movements and she appears to be pressing the different keys with total deliberation. The piano cat also does this head roll thing which is remarkably similar to what humans do with their hands to create rolling chords.
In the three years since her YouTube debut, the self-proclaimed “musical diva” has become an internationally known pianist and bona fide media darling. She’s been featured on numerous television shows, including CNN, The Today Show, Animal Planet, Martha Stewart, ABC Early Show, Inside Edition, Jon Stewart, VH1, ABC and NBC News, Conan and Ellen. She’s also been featured on radio shows, online pet magazines and in print (People, Tails Pet Magazine, England’s Pianist magazine). Nora also received a signed photo from Billy Joel inscribed “To the piano cat from the piano man” and a bust of Bach from Martha Stewart.
Not content to rest on her laurels (or I should say, her paws), Nora the piano cat has been busy writing books and creating numerous merchandising opportunities too. Her literary works include a children’s book called My Story: A Picture Book, and Nora The Piano Cat's Guide To Becoming A Good Musician. There is a DVD titled Nora The Piano Cat: Now with CATcerto for 2010, and a calendar, Nora The Piano Cat With Sound 2010 Wall Calendar. All of these are available on Amazon, and Nora fans can even download an mp3 album with 11 songs, from Litterbox Boogie to All About Me-ow. She also recently finished writing another book that is awaiting publication, titled Nora's Guide to a Happy Life…or How to Make Every Day a Catnip Day.
The piano cat has her own blog, “Nora’s Mews,” her own website, and she has over 1500 followers on Twitter. There is a neat new IPhone App that provides a direct link to Nora’s blog, her YouTube videos and her Tweets, all from your iPhone or iPod Touch devices. Now you can keep up with all the latest Nora happenings no matter where you are (and I just know you want to, right?). For extreme piano cat fans, there are t-shirts, hoodies, tote bag, mugs, posters, journals, cards, mousepads and more, all featuring adorable images of Nora.
As if the piano cat’s resume wasn’t already longer than most professional musicians twice her age, last year Nora received two prestigious awards. In October, the piano playing tabby received the ASPCA Cat of the Year Award, and in November she received the Westchester Cat Shows Cat of the Year award. She also appeared via a live video feed at “Shelter Aid,” a fundraising event for shelters and rescue groups.
The piano cat has really improved over the years from that first original video, “Nora: Practice Makes Purr-fect” to her most recent performance, “CATcerto - Composed & Conducted by Mindaugas Piecaitis.” Watching this latest video gave me goose bumps, because it certainly sounded like all of Nora’s notes harmonized with the orchestra. It must be all that practicing the piano cat does. In a recent email to me, her caretaker Betsy wrote “Nora continues to play the piano quite a bit. When I was teaching on Saturday, she was with me playing on and off from 10:30 AM until 4:00 PM without any naps.”
It seems, however, that Nora the piano cat may have developed a wee bit of celebrity “catitude” along with her fame. Betsy said “Nora has gotten more possessive of ‘her’ piano and bit me rather hard when I picked her up and moved her from the bench so I could teach an adult student on that piano. Then she sat at the other piano glaring at my student for her entire lesson.”
Nora darling, I think you are a most sublime feline. Perhaps you could come by sometime and teach my three cats how to do something (anything!) besides sleep all day?
Read more articles by Julia Williams