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Catwalk on Magazine Street

By Gary Michael Smith

Judge me not, except if I'm a cat. This was the order of the chilly Saturday of January 29 when the New Orleans Mardi Gras Krewe of Endymeow rolled "or walked as it were" at Magazine and Camp streets in the parking lot of The Cat Practice veterinary clinic. Endymeow was started in 1999 as a play on the 39-year-old Krewe of Endymion, and to confirm that the Krewe of Barkus (a play on the 38-year-old "Krewe of Bacchus") isn't the only animal Mardi Gras Krewe. This cat krewe "acknowledges natural feline vanity and competitiveness with prizes for best costume and best float" and was judged on this particular misty morning by our own CBS-affiliate newsman Eric Paulsen. The theme of this year's event was the "Whiskers of Oz -- There's No Place Like Home," in commemoration of The Cat Practice being fully operational at its original location after the devastating fire of 2002.


Mardi Gras Cat Float

While the two-legged krewes of Pontchartrain and Shangri-La lined up on Napoleon Avenue a few blocks away ready to roll Uptown on this first weekend of Mardi Gras, observers at the furry coronation wondered whether it was the humans or the felines who were competing in this cats-only celebration. While owners adorned themselves with capes, tiaras, feather wings, and furry cat purses, their arm candy masqueraded in everything from satin and sequins to feathers and felt. Hippie Cat with the flower necklace vied for attention against the quaffed Whisker Twister. But pomp and circumstance took second fiddle as clowns and jesters accompanied wizards, sultans, and queens. And more than one of obvious royal bloodline claimed the crown of Rex early -- some with paper headdresses and others with jeweled coronets.


Mardi Gras Cat

There was Mardi Gras Cat and Witch Cat and Cheerleader Cat and Raggedy Ann Cat. There was even the Flying Monkey Cat and Tin Man Cat from Oz. And since everyone knows how cats hate shoes, Dorothy was adorned in a red sequined cape instead of slippers. The Wicked Witch of the West Cat lurked near but kept her distance. And like any New Orleanian reveler, there were a couple traditional feathered Mardi Gras masks in miniature, and plenty of small-scale capes as well as gowns with trains.


Cheerleader Cat

Being a city with a high contingent of those with a joie de vivre, cat escorts complemented their costumes with wagons, strollers, and ornate carriers made into elaborate floats comparable to any human version but on a feline scale. Specially ordained collars and leashes guided the royalty to the judging table for the official cat pageant competition. While the observers dined on King Cake -- with one holding her "baby" in a chest-mounted carrier -- pageant registrants patiently awaited Mr. Paulsen's obviously tough decisions. Those already judged slept in mothers' arms while others took leisurely, albeit crouched, walks.

While catfights were minimal, most participants maintained the dignity and guarded revelry commensurate with their breed. (There were no Siamese.) Most were amazingly pensive, others even slept. A Burmese played while a domestic longhair sniffed. A Maine Coon glared a certain intimidation while an Abyssinian zoned out on a shoulder. A few were testy toward the end; indeed, the tension was high.


Tin Man Cat

With the results in, tears were minimal as the winners were announced: Cheerleader and Mardi Gras Cat were runners up with Tin Man Cat and Mardi Gras Cat Float receiving honorable mention. Breaths were held and traffic seemed to stop as it was revealed that Dorothy Cat would claim the title for Best Costume this Mardi Gras 2005.


Dorothy Cat

Gary Michael Smith is a writer and cat lover in New Orleans. He can be reached at www.ChatgrisPress.com, a URL that translates into Cajun French as "gray cat."