Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Cats Put on a Show for Nursing Home Residents

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Cats Put on a Show for Nursing Home Residents

Article excerpt

Front paws planted firmly on the steering wheel, the black-and- white cat drove his purple car across the room, coming to a stop in front of a woman who appeared to be somewhat startled.

"Do you work here?" the cat asked.

"Yes I do," the woman said, as she gasped and then giggled.

Cats can't drive cars, of course, and they can't talk, but this one appeared to do both during a performance at Concordia at Rebecca Residence in West Deer. The 35 residents, along with visiting family and friends, assembled in the chapel of the senior care facility for Kitty Kat Theatre.

Waffle, a male "tuxedo" cat, came with Gregg and Karen McCandless of Butler and his female litter-mate, Princess Tirzah, a calico. For three years, they have been appearing at cat shows, auto shows and vacation Bible schools. In recent months, they have performed at three nursing homes. They'd love to add appearances with school- age children.

"Waffle and Tirzah are professional smile instigators," Mrs. McCandless said during the performance. The residents smiled and nodded in agreement.

Tirzah, wearing a big bow around her neck and a rhinestone tiara on her head, rides in a cart that is pulled behind Waffle's car, which is a replica of a 1938 Model-A. It was a pedal-powered children's car that Mr. McCandless, a mechanic, converted to run on batteries.

Although Waffle sits in the driver's seat, Mr. McCandless hides out of sight, operating the car with a remote control device. The very young and the very old very often buy into the magical fantasy that Waffle is driving the car.

Waffle also "talks," keeping up a steady patter with his audience. That's Mr. McCandless talking, with a voice box installed in the car.

"Hey, I like your red nail polish," Waffle told one resident, much to her delight. "Can I have red polish?" the cat asked Mrs. McCandless.

Therapy dogs frequently visit the residence, but it's unusual to find cats that will happily travel in cars to unfamiliar locations to meet and greet strangers. …

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