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6 Cats Who Made a Mark on the Silver Screen

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Before YouTube made cute cat videos all the more accessible, these felines dominated the big screen—and made names for themselves alongside Hollywood’s biggest stars.

1. Pyewacket

Filmmakers launched a nationwide search to find the perfect feline to star alongside Kim Novak and James Stewart in 1958's Bell, Book, and Candle, which was based on a play of the same name"We want a cat with an Ava Gardner personality," producer Julian Blaustein told the Deseret News in 1957. "We interviewed some alley cats, er, short-haired domestics. But we decided to go for Siamese. The cat has to have an air of mystery." The producers eventually settled on a Siamese owned by Hollywood animal trainer Frank Inn to play Pyewacket, a magical feline belonging to witch Gillian Holroyd (Novak). While there is some debate about how many cats were actually used in the film—some say as many as nine—at least one of them was named Pyewacket after the feline character, and Novak may have taken that cat home after filming. The cat (or cats) won the Humane Society's PATSY (Picture Animal Top Star of the Year) Award in 1958.

2. Orangey

In 1961, when animal trainer Frank Inn auditioned cats to play Holly Golightly’s "poor slob without a name" in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, he picked Orangey, who belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Albert Murphy of Hollis, Queens, out of 25 camera-ready felines. The male marmalade cat already had lots of experience: He'd made his debut playing the titular character in 1951's Rhubarb. According to Sam Wasson, author of 5th Avenue, 5AM: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman, Inn said Orangey was "a real New York type cat, just what we want. In no time at all I'm going to make a method, or Lee Strasberg type, cat out of him." Though Orangey could sit still for hours during filming, he would often flee afterward, scratching and spitting at his human co-stars. One movie executive called Orangey "the world's meanest cat." The diva behavoir paid off, though; Orangey was the only cat to win two PATSY awards.

3. Syn Cat

This Siamese cat made his mark by getting up to some serious shenanigans. Starring as the Darn Cat in 1965's That Darn Cat and Tao in 1963's The Incredible Journey, Syn performed stunts himself prompted by bells and treats. He was trained by Bill Koehler, who got the cat for $5 at a shelter when Syn was just two; he had been left there by owners who were put off by the cat's standoffishness.

4. Morris

Before Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub, there was Morris. Animal trainer Bob Martwick found the orange tabby at the Humane Society in Hinsdale, Ill., in 1968. Just one year later, Morris booked the job of spokescat for 9Lives cat food. At the audition, Martwick said in 1995, “He jumped on the table … and he walked right up to the art director, the big cheese, and bumped him in the head. And then Morris just sat back. The art director said, ‘This is the Clark Gable of cats.’” Morris appeared in 58 9Lives commercials, won a PATSY Award for the 1973 Burt Reynolds film Shamus, and "wrote" three books. With his cynical-yet-charismatic personality, some believe Morris was the original inspiration for the perma-grumpy cartoon cat Garfield. Morris became an iconic figure—9Lives still uses his image in their promotional material today, and Morris’s Million Cat Rescue campaign inspires others to adopt shelter cats just like him.

5. Tiki

Trainer Tammy Maples rescued this Himalayan cat, then 9, from a kitty mill. "When Tiki had a reproductive problem, [the breeder] didn't want her any more," Maples told the Los Angeles Times in 1997. Tiki made her film debut in 1993's Homeward Bound, a remake of 1963's The Incredible Journey. With her calm personality and her ability to perform tricks on cue and sit still for up to 45 minutes at a time, Tiki earned a reputation as one of the best cat actors around. After a run on the big screen, the fluffy feline took to TV, appearing in the '90s comedy series Caroline in the City as a charismatic cat named Salty. "She is more professional than most actors," Amy Pietz, who starred on Caroline, said of Tiki. "Tiki is a hard worker. ... She is definitely a more experienced actress than I am in front of the cameras."

6. Ted Nudegent

Riffing on Blofeld’s fluffy white cat in the James Bond films, 1997’s Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery's Dr. Evil appeared with a hairless Sphynx on his lap, played by a bald feline named Ted Nudegent. For his first film role, Ted had to be trained on-set by Maples, and while the role didn't require the cat to do any major tricks, he had to learn how to remain calm during star Mike Myers’s antics. That means sitting still for at least 45 minutes at a time—a challenge for any actor, cat or otherwise. "It helped that he had been a show cat and was used to having lots of people around," Maples told the Philadelphia Daily News. "And also that he just loved Mike Myers. Mike always took time to talk to Ted. It wasn't just 'sit down, roll cameras.'"

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Martin Wittfooth
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Art
The Cat Art Show Is Coming Back to Los Angeles in June
Martin Wittfooth
Martin Wittfooth

After dazzling cat and art lovers alike in 2014 and again in 2016, the Cat Art Show is ready to land in Los Angeles for a third time. The June exhibition, dubbed Cat Art Show 3: The Sequel Returns Again, will feature feline-centric works from such artists as Mark Ryden, Ellen von Unwerth, and Marion Peck.

Like past shows, this one will explore cats through a variety of themes and media. “The enigmatic feline has been a source of artistic inspiration for thousands of years,” the show's creator and curator Susan Michals said in a press release. “One moment they can be a best friend, the next, an antagonist. They are the perfect subject matter, and works of art, all by themselves.”

While some artists have chosen straightforward interpretations of the starring subject, others are using cats as a springboard into topics like gender, politics, and social media. The sculpture, paintings, and photographs on display will be available to purchase, with prices ranging from $300 to $150,000.

Over 9000 visitors are expected to stop into the Think Tank Gallery in Los Angeles during the show's run from June 14 to June 24. Tickets to the show normally cost $5, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting a cat charity, and admission will be free for everyone on Wednesday, June 20. Check out a few of the works below.

Man in Garfield mask holding cat.
Tiffany Sage

Painting of kitten.
Brandi Milne

Art work of cat in tree.
Kathy Taselitz

Painting of white cat.
Rose Freymuth-Frazier

A cat with no eyes.
Rich Hardcastle

Painting of a cat on a stool.
Vanessa Stockard

Sculpture of pink cat.
Scott Hove

Painting of cat.
Yael Hoenig
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Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images
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Animals
How a Pregnant Rhino Named Victoria Could Save an Entire Subspecies
Sudan, the last male member of the northern white rhino subspecies, while being shipped to Kenya in 2009
Sudan, the last male member of the northern white rhino subspecies, while being shipped to Kenya in 2009
Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images

The last male northern white rhino died at a conservancy in Kenya earlier this year, prompting fears that the subspecies was finally done for after decades of heavy poaching. Scientists say there's still hope, though, and they're banking on a pregnant rhino named Victoria at the San Diego Zoo, according to the Associated Press.

Victoria is actually a southern white rhino, but the two subspecies are related. Only two northern white rhinos survive, but neither of the females in Kenya are able to reproduce. Victoria was successfully impregnated through artificial insemination, and if she successfully carries her calf to term in 16 to 18 months, scientists say she might be able to serve as a surrogate mother and propagate the northern white rhino species.

But how would that work if no male northern rhinos survive? As the AP explains, scientists are working to recreate northern white rhino embryos using genetic technology. The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research has the frozen cell lines of 12 different northern white rhinos, which can be transformed into stem cells—and ultimately, sperm and eggs. The sperm of the last northern white male rhino, Sudan, was also saved before he died.

Scientists have been monitoring six female southern white rhinos at the San Diego Zoo to see if any emerge as likely candidates for surrogacy. However, it's not easy to artificially inseminate a rhino, and there have been few successful births in the past. There's still a fighting chance, though, and scientists ultimately hope they'll be able to build up a herd of five to 15 northern white rhinos over the next few decades.

[h/t Time Magazine]

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