I spent last weekend with more than 350 cat lovers at the first Alley Cat Allies National Conference in Crystal City, VA. I’ve attended many pet conferences over the past few years, but the level of caring and dedication to improving cats’ lives among those who attended this one exceeded anything I had ever experienced. This conference was all about soaking up information on how to make lives better for cats, and networking with others with the same goal.
But just because conference attendees came to learn doesn’t mean that they didn’t know how to have fun. And noone contributed more to the fun at this conference than special guest John Fulton, host of Animal Planet’s Must Love Cats. John performed his signature cat songs at the Saturday night banquet and entertained the audience with his quirky humor. The songs performed ranged from “Klepto Cat,” complete with excerpts from the episode of the cat who stole more than 500 items from neighboring homes, to the show’s theme song, Must Love Cats, which the audience happily sang along with. John graciously took the time to meet and greet attendees and pose for photographs long after his performance ended.
I had a chance to spend some time with John Sunday morning, and learned a little more about this thoroughly charming, extremely personable actor and entertainer. “Let’s go take a walk,” said John when he met me in the hotel lobby, so we walked to the nearest Starbucks. John’s easy going, friendly manner made our conversation feel more like having a chat with a new friend than a celebrity interview.
The story of how he got the hosting job on Must Love Cats is a classic Hollywood fairy tale. “A friend of mine had sent in an audition reel,” says John, “and somehow, I wound up in the background of the tape.” One of the producers took notice, and asked John to audition. The rest is, as they say, history. And in case you were wondering, this fortuitous twist of fate did not ruin the friendship.
John feels very lucky to have been able to do this show. “I loved the travel, and meeting all these people. That really was the best part.” When asked about favorite episodes, he immediately said “Japan. It’s such a fascinating country.” Other favorites include the episode featuring Greg Krueger, who transformed his Midwestern home into a cat paradise, and the British cat who went on pub crawls every day.
John, who acts in commercials, says hosting was a very different experience from acting. “Acting is so much harder,” he says. “As a host, I could just be myself. When I act, I have to put everything into it – facial expression, body language, emotions.” John actually missed out on an audition so he could be at the Alley Cat Allies conference, but he has no regrets. “A chance to sing a whole concert of cat songs?” laughs John, “when else am I ever going to get that opportunity again!”
Unfortunately, John’s songs are not available on cd or iTunes. The songs are short, often only 30 or 45 seconds, and “it just didn’t feel right to sell them for $1 a song when you can buy fully produced music for that amount,” says John. Some of the cat songs, as well as some of John’s other musical work, can be found on John’s YouTube channel.
I asked him about his own experience with cats. “We had cats when I was growing up,” he says. He currently shares his life with three-year-old Betty and Billie, who he adopted as kittens from Kitty Bungalow in Los Angeles. “Some cats find people,” he says, “but that’s not how it was with Betty. I saw her and that was it.” Betty and Billie are named after jazz musicians Betty Davis and Billie Holiday. “They don’t like me,” jokes John. “They’re kind of shy with me, but they’re great with my girlfriend.” When another cat recently started showing up outside of John’s apartment, Betty and Billie were not too happy, but John was too worried about the outside cat, who he named Roadie (because he was found on the road), so Roadie is now a member of the family.
I asked him whether there was ever a sense of competition with Jackson Galaxy, host of Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell, since both shows started right around the same time. “Never,” says John. “What we do is so different.” He doesn’t harbor any ill feelings about Must Love Cats not being renewed. “I was disappointed for the time it took me to walk home when I got the call from my agent,” says John, “but I always understood why it couldn’t continue indefinitely. We really covered everything there was to cover.”
Like me, John was thoroughly impressed with how professional and dedicated attendees at the conference were. There were virtually no cat ears or crazy cat costumes in the crowd. “It makes me not want to talk to people when I see that kind of thing,” says John, “because how can you take that seriously?” I couldn’t agree more. I’m all for celebrating our love of cats, but we’re doing cats a huge disservice by perpetuating the crazy cat lady stereotype.
As we were making our way back to the hotel, I asked John what’s next for him. “I was going to go to New York for a few days. I love Broadway, and love going to shows, but November and December are important months for an actor to be in Los Angeles.” A lot of companies are holding auditions at that time of the year, and John didn’t want to miss out on any opportunities.
I’m sure I’m not the only cat lover who hopes that some of his future projects will include cats again.
Photo from Alley Cat Allies Conference program.
Mews and Nips will return next week.