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August 25, 2009

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Cat's entertainment: Meet Nora, the pianist puss

NORA the piano-playing cat is living the Hollywood life in the US state of Philadelphia.

Fresh from a Lithuanian concerto written just for her, the YouTube sensation gets fan mail by the bushel, has her own groupies and could be an addict if her owners ever forget to put the catnip away.

The five-year-old tabby's latest cyber splash was Lithuanian conductor Mindaugas Piecaitis' first composition, featuring Nora's solo video performance in what he called his CATcerto.

The performance with the Klaipeda Chamber Orchestra on June 5 has become a Web sensation at, with hits closing in on a million.

Nearly 20 million people have watched Nora play. She has made the television talk show circuit and has videos, two books, her own Website, a blog, three calendars, mugs, greeting cards, T-shirts and posters under her belt.

Nora is owned by piano teacher Betsy Alexander, 53, and her artist-photographer husband Burnell Yow. They live in a house splashed with floor-to-ceiling color with five other cats.

Alexander said Nora, a photogenic green-eyed shelter cat, had been a diva as long as she'd known her. In fact, the day they found each other, at a Cherry Hill, New Jersey, shelter, there was a sign on Nora's cage that said "bossy."

Nora has an agent, her own photographer and an entourage. But she isn't into collars and she doesn't like riding in a car - even a limo - or a plane.

Nora doesn't play just any piano, she plays a Yamaha C5 Disklavier - a Lamborghini of a piano, Alexander calls it.

Most of her performances come when someone else is playing the turn-of-the-century, ivory-keyed and restored Briggs piano next to the Yamaha.

"She plays in rhythm and on key," said Alexander, who has been teaching piano for years.

"She plays in the same area of the keyboard as the person on the other piano and when the student stops, she stops."


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