Caption info: Nora the cat photo courtesy of Burnell Yow! By Arden Moore As a reporter covering Palm Beach County for the Sun-Sentinel years ago, I quickly learned to expect the unexpected. I reported on lottery winners who died penniless and hospice patients who delivered messages of hope for the living. I also discovered surprising skills in headline-makers — like a former university president who was a whiz at fixing up vintage trucks. So, why am I “me-wowed” by a cat who plays the piano? On a recent trip to New York City, I attended the annual ASPCA ceremony that honored top people and pets in 2009. Cat of the Year honors went to a former shelter cat named Nora, who is drawn to the piano keyboard like most cats are to organic catnip. Five years ago, when Betsy Alexander and Burnell Yow spotted this cute gray tabby at an animal shelter, they were startled by the one-word declaration posted on the kitten’s cage. “Most of the info about adoptable cats says things like, ‘Good with other cats,’ or ‘likes to cuddle,’ but Nora’s chart had only one word: ‘Bossy,’” says Alexander, a music teacher from Philadelphia. “Apparently, Nora would attack her other siblings when placed in the same cage. Even today with our other five adult cats, she prefers to keep to herself or hang around us.” Or play the piano. Today, Nora answers to a new nickname: Piano Cat. Her keyboard pawing of chords has turned her into a YouTube sensation as more than 17 million people — and counting — have clicked on her various online postings to see and hear her musical talents. Her live appearances on such shows as NBC’s The Today Show proved her music-playing abilities are real. Her rescue-to-celebrity story has been captured in books and on CDs and dozens of television appearances. Why, Billy Joel sent her a package containing his latest CD, a letter declaring he was a fan and a signed photo of himself at the keyboard with the words, “To the Piano Cat from the Piano Man.” “When we adopted Nora, we knew she was feisty, but we had no idea she loved to play music,” says Alexander. “It makes you wonder how many shelter cats and dogs are out there who never get the chance to express themselves, to showcase their special talents.” Good point. When I rescued Cleo, my 12-pound poodle-terrier mix, from the streets, she did a lot of cowering and shaking. I made it my mission to make her feel safe. I slowly built up her confidence, doling out praise and treats for mastering simple doggy commands like sit, stay and leave it. Once our bond was solidified, we enrolled in a dog-people workout class together called Leash Your Fitness. Little Cleo leaps over hurdles, pops into a sit on cue and joins me in yoga stretches; her favorite is, naturally, downward facing dog. But Cleo truly wowed me recently during a surfing lesson. Turns out, Cleo is a natural at catching waves. Wearing a yellow safety vest and under the supervision of a surf instructor, Cleo spilled off the board a few times, but managed to ride three waves all the way to shore by standing confidently on all four paws. Hang 20, Cleo!

Nora, the former shelter cat, and Cleo, the former stray, are just two examples of companion animals possessing talents just waiting to be unleashed. What surprising skills does your dog or cat sport? I’ve loved to know and share with our Coastal Star readers. Zip off emails to arden@ardenmoore.com. Who knows? Your pet may become even more famous than Nora. Arden Moore, an animal behavior consultant, editor, author and professional speaker, happily shares her home with two dogs, a cat and one overworked vacuum cleaner. Tune in to her Oh Behave! show on Pet Life Radio.com and contact her at arden@ardenmoore.com. Learn More About Piano Cat Watch Nora on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZ860P4iTaM Visit Nora’s official Web site: http://www.ravenswingstudio.com/NoraWeb/docs/theVideos.html Listen to Nora and her proud owners on Arden’s Oh Behave! show by clicking here: http://www.markiac.addr.com/PET_LIFE_RADIO/behave.html. Nora is Episode No. 91.
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