National Geographic : 1997 Jun
understanding of the biology of wild cats." Domestic cats harbor their own mysteries, of course, but sometimes the enigma lies more within owner than pet. Hadn't Mark Twain observed that if a man could be crossed with a cat, it would improve the man but deterio rate the cat? "Come with me to the cat show at Madi son Square Garden," I ask Richard Tedford, the Museum of Natural History's curator of vertebrate paleontology. He customarily spends his time with cats in fossil form, but he politely indulges me. We arrive at a press preview, where a dozen owners cluck over a like number of extravagantly pampered cats, as flashes pop and cameras whir. There are dainty Abyssinians, a big lunker of a Maine coon with a feather-duster tail, and several bored-looking Persians, among others. Amid the flurry of fur the breeders share beauty tips: "I give mine bean sprouts," says one. "Eyedrops to make their eyes sparkle." "Three to five baths, then white grooming powder." A snow-white Persian, its coat trimmed in a poodle cut, lounges on a miniature fainting couch upholstered in oyster white silk. "Not a poodle cut, a coupe de lion," cor rects owner Lise Girard, who, in contrast to her white cat, looks shrink-wrapped in black toreador pants, a black long-sleeve shirt with gold sequins, and needle-sharp black heels. "It's the cut for the cat with the busy life style," she explains. What does it cost to keep her nine Persians, who live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in the busy lifestyle to which they've become accustomed? "A Mercedes payment. My boyfriend says I am their slave. He's right. I cannot live without their love." Meanwhile, owners coo to their cats and size up the competition like stage mothers at a talent show. "Land like a pussycat," directed choreographer George Balanchine. Wrapped in creamy satin or Russianblue fur, dancer and kitten exemplify grace. Ballerinascoat their toe shoes with rosin to avoid onstage slips. A cat's paw pads provide similar tractionandmuffle each footfall.