Los Angeles pet lovers.
By Lori Golden
Kathy has people come up to her all the time who are not sure how they know her. “My all time funniest was when I was in Wisconsin visiting my mother. A woman came up to me in a crafts store and just froze in front of me. She asked, ‘are you related to Mimi?’ I had to stop and think about it. I’m not related to her. I play her. Maybe that means I’m related to her. I finally just said, ‘yes,’ because I couldn’t figure out what the real answer was.”
Wisconsin is where Kathy Kinney was born and raised, ironically, with an allergy to dairy products. Good thing she wasn’t one of those kids allergic to EVERYTHING, because at an early age she fell in love with cats.
“My first pet was a cat,” Kathy remembers. “I was six years old, in the first grade, and I was going to get a kitten after school. I came home from lunch and I was so excited I went running across the linoleum kitchen floor, slipped, fell down, and knocked myself out. I was just so excited I was gonna get that kitten. And then my mother, for some reason, sent me back to school after lunch, after I came to. But I was still so excited that I ran across the playground, fell down, scraped my knee, and as my first grade teacher was bandaging me all I could say was, ‘I’m getting a kitten tonight. I’m getting a kitten.’”
“That first kitten was named, of course, Felix, the cat. He was just a tabby my parents had found somewhere. But I LOVED that cat and had him for years.”
There were more cats that passed through Kathy’s life, as well as a black Labrador her family had during one “catless” period. After she moved to New York she received a kitten as a Christmas present that she named Bombay. “I had him for years until I moved to California. On the day he passed away, my friends brought a young cat over to keep me company. I had stayed with them and had helped them raise this kitten, so they let me have her. Her name was Helen and she was like one of the Bronte sisters. She was so shy, I always imagined her off writing poetry somewhere. Most people knew I had a cat but had never seen her. I had her for 15 years until she passed away two years ago. At that time I was doing so much travelling I decided to wait to get another cat.”
Kathy Kinney never set out to be an actress. “I grew up in Wisconsin and moved to New York just to seek my adventure, more than anything. But I had a friend who DID want to be an actress; she just didn’t like to do things by herself. So every time she did something she’d invite me to participate. One time she had to take an improvisation class, so I decided to take it with her. It cost $50.00. The next thing I knew they asked me to perform with them. I had no idea I was funny or that anyone else thought I was funny. So I started performing with this group, then went to another group, and another group, and made absolutely no money at improvisation. But it was a great skill.”
Kathy eventually came out to Los Angeles and started getting small roles and guest appearances on various shows. She played the town librarian on Newhart, and was on the very first episode of The Larry Sanders Show, playing a dog walker. Then came The Drew Carey Show and Mimi Bobeck.
“Mimi was just supposed to be a one shot deal,” she explains. “She was supposed to be this person who was applying for a job in cosmetics who was visually wrong for the job. Because my face holds so much makeup, Bruce Helford (the executive producer) kept saying, ‘more blue, more blue, more blue’ until, finally, they had it literally up above my eyebrows, and then they would draw new eyebrows on above that. In the beginning Mimi was extremely hard with blue and black and red. And then she got, not so much softer, but in my mind I patterned her after Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra and I made her a little flashier. That was my contribution. But the idea of all that make-up was the creation of Bruce Helford and Drew Carey.”
“I think before I did Mimi, if I was going out at night, I’d put makeup on and be more careful. But since having to wear all that makeup it now has to be an extremely special occasion for me to even bother to put a little lip gloss on. I’d just rather be bare-faced.”
One thing Kathy would rather NOT be without is her beloved kittens. “After nine years The Drew Carey Show was over. Once I knew I didn’t have to go out on the road for a while I knew it was time to get some kittens. First we went to a couple of pet stores that had kitten adoptions, (all of Kathy’s kittens have been rescues) but you just know when you see them when it’s the right one. And then a friend who had just rescued a little dog told us about a great website calledwww.petfinder.com.”
“It was sooo easy,” Kathy continues. “We put it in our zip code and started to look through a lot of pictures. There was so much to choose from which was really a wonderful thing. We were looking for kittens… for babies. And then we came to the pictures of Buttons and Bow, who were brother and sister. He was kind of a Russian Blue and she was black and white. So we called the phone number around six o’clock in the evening and Pat Winters from Purr-fect Solutions Feline Rescue answered and invited us to come the next day.”
“We walked in the door and saw Buttons and Bow right off the bat. I picked up Buttons and my boyfriend picked up Bow and that was it. I could tell they had chosen us. You could feel it. I saw the eye contact that Bow had with my boyfriend. We stayed there for a long time because it was so much fun. There were so many kittens to look at and hold and play with, but in the end, the ones we saw on Petfinder.com were the ones we took.”
Purr-fect Solutions Feline Rescue was the first rescue Kathy had been to other than the adoptions that take place at stores. “It was the height of kitten season and the dining room was filled with kittens. Everything was so clean and the kittens all seemed so friendly and happy. While we were kind of waiting and I was pretending that I was making the decision, (we had already decided on Buttons and Bow,) Pat took us around and showed us her cattery. All the cats just looked so happy and well cared for. It was a pleasure. Both Pat and her partner Lori were extremely helpful. I felt confident adopting from her.”
“We ended up renaming the cats because they looked like little Russian kitties to us. I had a Russian landlady a few years ago whose name was Bella, and I thought that was a perfect name for the little girl because she’s so beautiful. But her husband’s name was Marat, which just didn’t seem like a good name for a kitten. So my boyfriend, who seems to have some special bond with the little boy kitten, came up with Otto. I always like to call him Ahh-do, ‘cause he’s so cute.”
“We knew we wanted a pair of kittens this time,” Kathy continues. “Having two is the smartest thing we did. They keep each other company. It’s not any more work and it’s so much fun to watch them. And there’s no guilt in leaving them alone for a while. We adore them and they are so spoiled.”
“Having a kitten is like having a new baby. It requires a lot of time and patience. I knew that going into it, but I was still surprised. With two kittens it takes much less time because they care for each other. But you have to be willing to go to any lengths to take care of them. And you need to allow in your budget to pay for things that might come up. No matter where you adopt a kitten from, I think you should always take it to a vet right away to have it checked. Kittens are perfection! And you’re responsible for them forever. If you have the time and the patience, kittens are certainly worth it because you get to watch them grow and enjoy them. If you don’t have as much patience but still want companionship, there are so many older cats that are already social. One or two of those, or three or four might be a good idea. They add a dimension of love to a home that you can’t even begin to understand until you have them.”
“In the end, I think what everybody wants is to be loved. We spend our whole lives looking for total unconditional love from each other. As human beings it’s hard to give that to each other to the full extent we would all like. We’re human and that involves some judgement. But pets do not judge. They give you that full, complete 100% unconditional love I think we’re all born needing. I learn to love from my pets. I get to practice that unconditional love with them every day and I think that makes me a better person. If you’ve got the time, it really requires so little money to be a guardian of a cat or a dog… so why not do it if what you’re going to get is this pure unconditional love? That’s my theory. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the increased quality of your life just from having a pet.”
(Kathy Kinney can still be seen on The Drew Carey Show, now seen in syndication. Her next project is Drew Carey’s Green Screen on the WB, premiering Sept.16th at 8:30pm. Featuring Drew Carey and most of the guys from Whose Line Is It Anyway?, “we do improvisation in front of a live audience with a green screen behind us that is turned over to animators. What you’ll see is the marriage of these two amazing mediums- animation and improvisation. Not much makes me laugh anymore, but this is really going to be brilliant!”)
First published in August of 1999, The Pet Press has become THE only local resource for
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