Catdance Film Festival is one of the coolest feline-focused events of the year. Sponsored by Fresh Step Litter, Catdance puts a spotlight on cat-centric cinema (you can watch the top five films and vote for your favorite here), and it’s for a great cause. All proceeds from their t-shirt sales benefit the ASPCA. And on top of all that, there’s one other reason we think Catdance is, well, the cat’s pajamas: it’s hosted by Gilles Marini. One of our favorite cat lovers, Gilles is known for his work on 2 Broke Girls and Switched at Birth, and he was recently featured in People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” issue. We caught up with Gilles to talk family, felines, and face-licks in an exclusive ASPCA interview:
ASPCA: Where and when did you get your cats?
Gilles Marini: We got our cat, Penelope, on Mother's Day last year as a present for my daughter Juliana. She’s wanted a kitty for as long as I can remember, and we thought it was the perfect day to make her a pet parent. So far, it has worked out well because she is very good at taking care of Penelope.
ASPCA: What role have pets played in your life?
GM: For as long as I can remember, I have been surrounded by pets, including cats, dogs, chickens, birds, and lizards. I grew up with a mom that loved animals and always taught us to care for them. They are so amazing and give us so much all the time. My family loves having pets and we will never change that. If you can care for an animal properly, that tells me that you are a good person.
ASPCA: Do your children enjoy interacting with your cats?
GM: My gosh, for sure! Just a few minutes ago my son asked me where Penelope is, and I believe it’s because he wants to take her into the bedroom to cuddle, not to make sure she’s inside. There is not one day that goes by without me seeing my kids playing, caring for, or interacting with Penelope. She is very, very luck for sure.
ASPCA: What have you taught your children so far about being a pet parent and cat lover?
GM: If a child knows how to care for, love, and play with their cat or pet, it shows the kind of adult he or she will be. I’ve seen it happen over and over. I teach my kids to love all living things. We are only in this world for a fraction of a second, so let’s make it count with pure love, compassion, and kindness. It’s what I believe in.
ASPCA: What is your favorite part about being a cat owner?
GM: My favorite part is playing with Penelope! She is great at hide-and-seek, and she is full of love (yes, she also sleeps quite a bit during the day). She licks my face at night when I sleep, but what can you say to that little ball of fur? She does it with love!
Did you adopt an ASPCA plush rescue dog or cat? Congratulations! You can make your adoption official here by registering your pet’s name and gender. You’ll also receive a special registration number to add to your adoption certificate. Have your parent or guardian help you fill out the form below:
At ASPCA Parents, our goal is to help families raise the next generation of animal lovers. So when we heard about the Benedetto family, who spent Christmas assisting in the aftermath of a massive tri-state dog fighting ring, we couldn’t wait to share their story. We tracked down this inspiring family to find out just what motivated them to spend their holidays with the ASPCA.
Elizabeth and Juan Carlos Benedetto live in Seattle, Washington with their two children, Gabriel and Tatiana. Elizabeth and Juan run two adult living facilities, and both kids are in medical school. Despite their busy lives, they’ve always made it a priority to do good, and to do it together. When they heard about an opportunity to help dog fighting victims, they all agreed to head to our temporary shelter right away.
“We have a love of animals deep in our heart,” says Elizabeth. “It’s really important for us to help out animals in need, but also to stick together as a family.”
The Benedettos are trained in Search & Rescue. In the last year alone, they deployed four times through WASART (Washington State Animal Response Team) to rescue dogs and horses. Though she says she hasn’t had a real vacation in more than 20 years, Elizabeth considers this time with her family to be the greatest reward of all.
“We want to show the kids how important it is to be a part of the need that’s out there and to be a part of the community,” she says. “If your kids are old enough to do these things, they should do them. The more you expose your kids to good, the better our world will be.”
Guest blog by Mary Dell Harrington, co-founder of the parenting blogGrown and Flown
It’s the beginning of 2014, which is a customary time to think about the brand new year and finalize a list of resolutions. Each year, by the time January 1 arrives, I have scribbled down a list of “be better-do-better” goals that, unfortunately, fade from memory as my attention turns to the next holiday on the calendar. This year my strategy is going to be different. I am making five resolutions with my two Labrador retrievers, Gus and Moose, as partners in hopes that they will be daily reminders to help keep me on track.
1. Increase my exercise. Every morning, regardless of the weather, I take Gus and Moose on a leash walk lasting no longer than 15 minutes. This year, I resolve to walk further, giving each of us a better daily workout.
2. Practice preventative health care. I wouldn’t dream of neglecting my dogs’ annual vaccinations. Now, as I make their vet appointments, I will also schedule my yearly doctors’ visits and not let my preventative health care lapse, either.
3. Cut back on snacks. Dropping a few pounds has made every one of my annual lists with paltry results to show. Reducing the human food we give our dogs as snacks while cutting back on my own grazing is a way I can be mindful of the harm overeating does to both canines and humans.
4. Help others. Moose and I are a certified Pet Partners animal therapy team and we visit patients at New York-Presbyterian Hospital weekly. I see the joy he brings with each session and resolve to do more to help others.
5. Express gratitude. Whenever they wag their tails, our two happy dogs elevate my mood, too. They inspire me and, though I lack a tail to wag, I have countless ways to express my appreciation for all the joy in my life, including the happiness brought to me through pet ownership.
Thanks, Gus and Moose, for the daily reminders of my 2014 resolutions. With you as my partners, I hope to be more successful in focusing on my goals all year long.