He calls cats purr-fect companions

The license plate on his car reads “BigCats.”

But, when it comes to cats, Denny Mitchell doesn’t care whether they’re big, small or medium. He loves them all.

And, he wants to persuade others that they should love the furry felines, too.

Denny Mitchell is a devoted cat aficionado who sings the praises of cats – literally – at his musical tribute show, “All About Cats.” (Kathy Steele/Staff Photos)

Denny Mitchell is a devoted cat aficionado who sings the praises of cats – literally – at his musical tribute show, “All About Cats.”
(Kathy Steele/Staff Photos)

While dogs may be a man’s best friend, the way Mitchell sees it: “Cats are our best companions.”

Two years ago, Mitchell took his passion for cats on the road.

He educates and entertains audiences, generally from age 8 and older, at libraries, senior centers and civic groups with his musical tribute “All About Cats.”

On Feb. 27 at 2 p.m., he will bring his musical show to the Lutz Branch Library, at 101 W. Lutz Lake Fern Road in Lutz.

The Friends of the Lutz Branch Library is sponsoring the event, which has free admission.

Mitchell, owner of Meowser Productions, spent more than a year composing music and lyrics, and crafting a slide and video show to cover the history and habits of cats.

He brings his keyboard and sound system. A robotic, white-furred cat, named Tallulah, also accompanies him – arriving in a pink cat carrier.

Tallulah rests regally atop a purple pillow, where she purrs, meows and washes her face with slow paw swipes.

“She sets the mood,” Mitchell explained.

He sprinkles his performance with humor and original songs — though sometimes he also sings “Memory,” the show-stopping tune from the musical “Cats.”

Mitchell researches his facts.

Among his nuggets are:

  • Cats date back 35 million years.
  • The Egyptian word for cat is mao, meaning “to see.” In ancient Egypt people were fascinated by a cat’s eyes.
  • Cats, per pound, are 12 times stronger than humans.
  • Adult cats have 244 bones; humans, 206.
  • A cat’s field of vision is about 200 degrees.

Mitchell, who grew up on Long Island, New York, shared his mother’s love for cats.

Tallulah is a robotic cat that purrs and meows as it rests on a purple pillow, when Denny Mitchell begins his musical tribute to cats, “All About Cats.”

Tallulah is a robotic cat that purrs and meows as it rests on a purple pillow, when Denny Mitchell begins his musical tribute to cats, “All About Cats.”

On Christmas Eve, when he was 5, the family heard a plaintive meowing.

“We opened the front door, and there was the tiniest little black kitten all by himself,” Mitchell said.

Clancy, as he was named, had found a home.

It’s a cliché story, he said, but it’s true.

Cats have freedom of choice, he said. “They pick us. We don’t pick them.”

Mitchell is a self-described ailurophile, that is, cat lover.

He is passionate about helping nonprofits that find homes for abandoned cats and that help feral cats living on the streets.

He volunteers as a tour guide at Big Cat Rescue, an animal sanctuary in Citrus Park, near Tampa. The organization rescues and houses exotic cats, including lions, tigers, bobcats and cougars.

A foster program at Big Cat Rescue temporarily houses kittens until they are ready for adoption. The program is in partnership with Humane Society Tampa Bay.

Mitchell became a volunteer at Big Cat Rescue after taking a tour there about 15 years ago.

A few years ago, while he was giving a tour, a promoter on the tour commented on Mitchell’s wit and humor. The promoter suggested that Mitchell put together a show.

So, Mitchell did.

“The mission is to inform, raise money for nonprofits and hopefully pay my expenses — though that is secondary,” Mitchell said.

Kittens can be viewed on live cam as they play at the Kitten Cabana at Big Cat Rescue. (Courtesy of Denny Mitchell)

Kittens can be viewed on live cam as they play at the Kitten Cabana at Big Cat Rescue.
(Courtesy of Denny Mitchell)

While it wasn’t his college major, music has been one of Mitchell’s chief interests for years.

He has written lyrics and performed music, and for more than three decades, he has played piano and sang at church, often as a soloist.

He’s constantly doing volunteer work with cats.

Mitchell has given donations to that group and others, including Humane Society Tampa Bay and Humane Society of Pinellas. Both agencies have trap, neuter, vaccinate and return programs for feral cats, as well as offering foster care and adoptions for domesticated cats.

“This is how you break the breeding cycle,” said Mitchell. “It’s a harsh life (for feral cats).”

Mitchell lives in Seffner with his wife, who also volunteered for 13 years at Big Cat Rescue. She now spends most of her time operating a boarding stable for horses.

“We are very much animal people,” Mitchell said.

And, of course, they have cats.

“I told my wife I thought we should have two. So, we have five,” he said.

Want to know more?
You can see live cams of Big Cat Rescue’s kitten rescue operation by going to Explore.org/bigcatrescue.
You can also visit Denny Mitchell’s website, MeowserProductions.com, to find links to area nonprofits and about adoption events.

Published February 10, 2016

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