Los Angeles pet lovers.
By Lori Golden
Actually, the two go hand in hand, for Ian Anderson has just released Rupi’s Dance, his fourth solo album named for a tiny kitten he rescued. Of all the titles he could have chosen, I was curious why he named it Rupi’s Dance?
“When I was halfway through recording the album I began to toy with the songs I had available that might give the album its name,” Ian explains. “I started thinking about what sort of graphic representation I’d put on the album. What would make a nice album cover? I thought, well, I’m going to try to depict me, because I’m selling an album by me. And I should perhaps adopt a flute-playing pose that will tie in with instant recognition from Jethro Tull fans. I thought it was kind of fun too, to be serenading the little dancing cat who in her own way was sort of seducing me. It made for a nice simple graphic image.”
Indeed, the simple album cover shot by Ian himself, depicts the musician in a whimsical pose, flute to mouth, serenading the tiny black kitten as she reaches up to her human rescuer. In his liner notes he explains that Rupi was about 14 weeks old when he wrote her title song, was “a bit wobbly on her tiny feet and with not much of a tail yet to balance the bodily gyrations.”
Early on during our conversation when I mentioned how The Pet Press promotes spaying and neutering, Ian interrupted me. “You just reminded me that I have to take away little Rupi’s food in an hour’s time because she is going off to be spayed tomorrow, so she will be not be a happy pussy cat for the next two or three days. It’s spookily coincidental, isn’t it?”
Rupi is one of three cats that currently reside at the Anderson country estate. “We try not to have too many cats because they’re somewhat territorial and jealous of each other. One of our Bengals had to go away to my wife’s sister’s home to take up residence there because she did not get on with our other Bengal cat. They absolutely hated each other. So we only have 3 cats currently. Rupi, a Bengal called Bhagee and a black farm cat called TJ.”
“We also have a couple of Belgian Shepherds that we’ve had since we’ve been married. They’re quite old. They’re good family dogs, but they’re fairly big and have a strong presence in terms of guarding the household. They like people a lot. My experience with the Belgian Shepherds is that they’re really a good breed. Much more family orientated and much safer with children and other animals than German Shepherds. I would strongly recommend them to anyone looking for a generous sized but affectionate and responsible dog.”
“The cats all take a pop at them from time to time. It’s always territorial really. No one has the run of our house, including me. I don’t think my wife would approve of that at all. We all have our little areas that we’re allowed to go in. And my wife does let me into the bedroom sometimes if I’m being good.
“Outside my wife is a keeper of poultry,” Ian continues. “She usually has about 20 chickens of one exotic sort or another which we don't eat. We just have them for their eggs and because she likes poultry. And we usually have a few sheep to keep the grass down in the horse paddocks. We also have a couple of horses that are old folk that have been with us for a while.”
Curious as to what Rupi is like now, Ian reported that “she’s a very sweet little female kitten. She’s the epitome of being very feminine. That’s what was quite evident when she was tiny. She was cute and could play and flirt and her femininity is an interesting aspect of not just cats but other animals too. I’m interested in the sexuality of different animals, both in real terms and in the way in which they’re often depicted in mythology and in folklore.”
“Lions are the epitome of the male, Leo, that big sort of fierce… it’s an absolute caricature of all things male. The maned male lion. Even male cats are incredibly feline in terms of their gait, their gestures, their swishing tail, the way in which they hold their heads. The way their eyes are. In some ways they’re very feminine animals and yet they also have very masculine macho characteristics as well in terms of their meat eating hunting prowess. They’re an enigma, cats. They contain so many epitomes of maleness and femaleness all wrapped up in the one little furry bundle. They’re kind of interesting to me from that point of view.”
“Other animals, too,” continues Ian, “exhibit certain characteristics that we people tend to associate with something that has sexuality. As opposed to being sexual. Don’t get the idea I’m about to get locked up for visiting the wrong websites or something. I have a healthy interest. An artistic interest in the subtle characteristics of animals and in the way in which we endow animals. We personify them with human attributes. We think of animals as being sometimes like people and people sometimes being like animals. That’s kind of an interesting thing because, of course, we’re all part of the same big, convoluted ecology on our little planet here. We are part of the animal kingdom, like it or not. To muse on its variety and sometimes contradictions is a part of the fun of life.”
Ian Anderson’s love of cats eventually extended to his wanting to save wild exotic cats. “I grew up with cats around the house and a fondness for cats. It’s a natural development from that to learn and understand something about the wild species of cats. But I have to confess that I’m not very interested in the big cats such as lions and tigers and snow leopards, because these guys would take my leg off if they had the chance. I’m rather more interested in the unsung heroes of the cat world. Those little guys, the 26 or thereabouts species of small wild cats. The Calico and Servil, on down to the tiny Sand Cats and very unusual and strange little breeds of cat that very often are not terribly attractive and sometimes look almost boringly like your domestic cat.”
Ian doesn’t just study these cats. He also tries to raise awareness and money that helps continue the scientific work going on in the conservation of wild cats and the funding of, for instance, field expeditions to Mongolia or the high Andes. “I try to involve myself a little bit with some of that fundraising work for diligent scientific work on conservation.”
He’s also very creative in some of his fundraising activities. For instance, if you order Rupi’s Dance from a link on the Jethro Tull website to Amazon.com, Ian will donate the commission to Wild About Cats, “a charitable organization that homes unwanted cats from the illegal pet trade, fur trade and unwanted zoo animals. Wild cats. Not domestic cats.”
“I also help with some conservation work in Belize via an English lady who’s been responsible for work with Ocelots and particularly Margays. She’s recently set up a Wildlife Park in Belize which is for the homing and repatriation of wild cats from the illegal pet trade and fur trade in South and Central America.”
Our discussion of wild cats led to the subject of feral. “Feral cats are part of the English countryside. Farmers allow cats to live in their barns because cats will keep down the mice, the birds and other animals that will eat the grain that’s being stored and worse and of course pollute it with their feces. Cats are quite encouraged to live wild around farmyards all over the country. If indeed you can spay and neuter them you should. But there’s a natural attrition rate that means the population won’t get out of hand. That’s in a rural context.”
“In the town it’s different because there the cats become scavengers, and of course people will understandably feed them and give them scraps from the table or from restaurants. Tthe cats are sometimes seen to be having a positive value because they’re going to keep down the rodent population and scare away pigeons. Some people see them as being a part of their society. But of course it’s heartbreaking, particularly in poorer parts of Europe to see cat populations in the city that are diseased and bedraggled and clinging to life. It’s terribly sad. Of course in many of those cities the population of feral cats and dogs are far too large and they really need to be reduced. I’d much rather see them reduced by having females caught up and being spayed and neutered which is a process that in many cities and countries people are actively doing. Whether or not they are really making much of a dent in the population is difficult to say. It’s unlikely given the huge reproductive power of, particularly, cats anyway. You do what you can. You offer advice to people that they should have their pets neutered and one hopes that they will take that responsible view and neuter their pets when they’re a few months of age.”
Ian is currently performing in small venues around the United States in what he calls his Rubbing Elbows Tour, an innovative concert that blends unique live music performances with a talk show format. In some cities he is hosting private dinners and get togethers which are all to raise money for his various charities.
New to Ian is his involvement with Best Friends Animal Society. People on the East Coast can win two tickets to his New York City Rubbing Elbows performance on November 17th, an autographed flute, and a special meeting with Ian Anderson himself! Billed as a dream fan package, it will go to the highest bidder on the e-bay® auction website, with all proceeds being donated to Best Friends Animal Society.
Ian Anderson is truly one of the most fascinating men I’ve had the pleasure to speak with. He is sincere in his devotion to cats, and to creating awareness that you should treat your animals... “like any other member of your family. They depend on you, but on the other hand, you depend on them. They’re a notable source of solace, of compassion, of cheering you up when you’re down. When we share our homes and our lives with animals it’s a commitment for life. Animals on the whole don’t enjoy the kind of lifespan that we folks do, but I think you have to treat that commitment in the same way you would treat other family members. Pets are for life. It’s the same as children. You have a responsibility that goes on. And hopefully they’re going to treat you right, too.”
“Something that’s been demonstrably proven in recent years is that old folk who have access to companionship to an animal have a much happier and enjoyable and longer lifespan when they share their old age with a pet. Depending on the pet, of course. I’m not suggesting that the average orangutan or monitor lizard might be the best thing to prolong your life span if you’re a little old lady. You might get your leg chewed off. But a manageable dog or cat or maybe even a rabbit or some fish… all of these things are, on the whole, very beneficial to human health and happiness.”
(For those fortunate to get tickets, Ian Anderson’s Rubbing Elbows Tour will be in LA on September 29th at the John Anson Ford Theater. He’s in El Cajon on September 30th, and then moves on to Arizona and Colorado. In addition to Rupi’s Dance, the Jethro Tull Christmas Album is due out in October, and their first DVD, Living with the Past and a new live album are now available. There is a wealth of information about Ian Anderson, his work with cats, and all things Tull related on their website: www.jethrotull.com which is one of the most comprehensive, most updated websites I’ve ever visited.)
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