LoveToKnow Cats was fortunate enough to interview with Megan Blake of Animal Attractions TV. Megan's love of animals and passion for helping them shines through.
A Little About Megan Blake
LoveToKnow (LTK): You're the host and pet expert on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) show Animal Attractions TV. Can you tell our readers a little bit about how you first became interested in pets?
Megan Blake (MB): First, I love hosting and being the Pet Expert on Animal Attractions TV on PBS! Our goal is to help everyone have the best relationship with their pets, and that goes right along with my personal mission of helping people integrate pets into their lifestyles and showing pets as the wonderful healers and teachers they are. I have had a deep bond with pets for as long as I can remember. I was just born that way. I felt I could feel their feelings. They are relaxing, grounding, healthy, entertaining and connecting. They show us how to connect on a deep level and so remind us to connect with ourselves. My first memories are of pointing out of the car window to horses and cows and wanting one. I asked for a cat every second until my parents finally gave in and allowed me into the world of pet stewardship. My cat, Kitty Boo Boo, was my first friend and one of the most meaningful companions of my life.
Interview with Megan Blake of Animal Attractions TV
LTK: You've starred in a number of films and television series and some with animals. What do you think animals add to a film?
MB: Animals are spontaneous and honest. W.C. Fields said he would never work with babies or animals because they steal the focus. They do so because, as viewers, we are drawn to this instinctive, honest energy. Animals in film add a deep emotional quality that is unchecked and gives the audience a more thrilling ride, whether the ride be comedic or dramatic. As opposed to Mr. Fields, I love working with animals. This spontaneous energy is what I thrive on. It connects us to truth and keeps us real. It is a more thrilling ride with animals!
LTK: Tell us a little about your pets.
MB: Now I have five pets: Two dogs, two horses and a cat, Tout Suite The Travel Kitty, who has traveled over 110,000 miles with me and helps me host Animal Attractions TV. All of them are rescues.
LTK: Do you ever take your animals on set with you just for companionship?
MB: I am an actress as well as on camera for pets. So much focus is required on the film set that it wouldn't be fair to pets to take them to the set just for companionship. However, if I can get them into the film, that is another story! I did a film (The Puzzle in the Air) with David Carradine in which he played my father, and Spirit (My lab mix who passed away from cancer two years ago) played my dog in the film. Everyone loved her! She had eight consecutive actions and, of course, performed them perfectly for all the takes! Spirit was also in a fun mockumentary about a ballet company in which she graced the stage with members of the New York City Ballet with only three legs! Tout Suite, of course, goes with me to Animal Attractions shootings, and he has traveled with me to keep me company in my hotel during shootings and events like the shooting of Eyeborgs (A soon-to-be-released sci-fi film), the week-long Miss America Preliminary and the Miss Georgia Pageant, at which I was a judge as a Former Miss Georgia.
Tout Suite the Travel Kitty
LTK: Tell us about Tout Suite and what it takes to travel with a cat.
MB: Tout Suite was abandoned as a kitten. He was a wild little thing and still behaves as a feral to people other than his close family. however, he is comfortable on set and traveling as long as he is close to me in a secure position. We have traveled over 110,000 miles together, and what that takes is a detailed knowledge of the ins and outs of travel with your pet. For example, your pet comes out of its travel bag at security in the airport! And having the right travel bag that complies with FCC regulations is a must! Tout love the Sherpa bags!
LTK: I understand that Tout even has his own blog. What does a kitty blog about besides his love of potato chips?
MB: Tout's blog is at www.MeganHeartsPets.com. We just started a new social network for pets, and although we do have travel tips and Tout's travel video from Animal Attractions TV at www.MeganBlake.com, his personal blog comments are on the Petwork. Tout blogs about his travels and gives his philosophy on his observations about life.
Working with Animal Shelters
LTK: On top of your many other talents, you're also a writer, poet and artist. Tell us a little about your work with the Humane Society and raising money for animal shelters.
MB: I love to write. I am a columnist for Dog's Life Magazine and write articles and poetry to help benefit animals and their people. The Humane Society of the United States has an Animals in Religion division, and they asked me to write an essay about our spiritual connection to animals. I love sharing how animals uplift our spirits and help make us better people. I have used my poetry at events I was hosting by offering autographed and pawtographed copies for a donation, and donating all the proceeds to the sponsoring organization, like the local ASPCA. HSUS sponsored Prop 2 in California , the anti-cruelty bill protecting farm animals, and I hosted the Malibu Prop 2 fund-raising party at my house with all my animals in attendance. Mini Ha Ha wore a Prop 2 sticker for her media shot!
Tips on Cat Training
LTK: I get a lot of questions from readers about cats jumping on counters. How would you go about breaking a stubborn cat from this habit?
MB: If your cat is not allowed on your counters, tape tin foil where he likes to jump. Cats don't like the feel or sound when they land there. Also, it is natural for cats to gravitate to the counters because cats like to be up high and look out windows. So to be fair to your cat, give him a big cat tree and, if possible, place it near a window. If it can't be placed near a window, be sure to keep it in the room where the people hang out and also get him a window perch. It is not fair to try to keep him off counters without giving him a better alternative.
LTK: Tout was a feral kitty, but you managed to tame him. Any tips for others who might want to tame a feral kitten or cat?
MB: Feral cats often retain much of their wildness, so know that going in. However, getting them to trust you is simple and just requires patience and consistency, just as with an abused horse or dog. Take the cues from him. Be relaxed and confident in your movements, and offer treats and good food. Get closer and closer over a period of time, and when you begin touching him give him deep massages on the back of the neck and shoulders. He will associate you with good feelings, and that is the goal. Don't rush him. He will dictate the timing, but always remember safety first. Cat scratches are not good, and cat bites become infected very easily and can be quite serious.
LTK: What about that special bond that owners want to form with their cats? What is the best way to develop that close, comfortable relationship with a feline?
MB: Cats love massages. Tout gets massages constantly. Rub the back of his neck by lightly squeezing just below his head. Massage his chest by having him sit on your lap facing out. Lightly pull the loose skin on the right of his chest with your right hand to lightly tighten the skin across his chest and scratch his chest with your left hand. Now reverse hands. Tout loves that! Gently massage one ear at a time by lightly "pinching" it between your thumb and forefinger and moving it in little circles. While he is sitting on your lap facing outwards, use your thumbs in an upward motion to massage between his shoulder blades. Your cat will love you! And you can play chase by allowing him to follow you as you run through the house with a string. Tout likes to play fetch like a dog - but with a string. A nylon chord with a knot in it to give it a little weight is his favorite. And, of course, talk with your cat and see what he tells you too! The biggest thing with animals is energy exchange. Most of their communication is done through energy exchange and body language. Be aware of your cat on a subtle level, and learn to read his energies and to communicate with your energy.
Thank you to Megan Blake for sharing her wonderful expertise about cats and her deep love for our animal friends. You can view her show, Animal Attractions TV, on your local PBS station.