Spot emailed StarTrek.com this morning and wanted us to tell Star Trek fans across the galaxy that today is Hug Your Cat Day. We tried to get back to Data’s true and valued friend for a bit more conversation, but she was apparently busy reading “Ode to Spot” for the 10,000th time. So, we did the next best thing and chatted with Jenny Parks, the talented artist behind Star Trek Cats and Star Trek: The Next Generation Cats, and many other inventive, entertaining books that depict beloved pop-culture figures as cats.
Why do you love cats so much?
’m pretty sure I can attribute my love for cats to my mom. We always had cats when I was growing up, so now I don’t feel like my life is complete without them. Though, really, what’s not to love? Cats manage to be cute, soft and silly, while still being small, aloof, regal predators.
When and how did the notion of creating art that paired cats and pop culture/entertainment click for you?
This actually started when I was pretty young, maybe around 12 years old, when on a whim I drew the main cast of the musical Phantom of the Opera, all as cats. I can’t really explain why, just that I loved cats and I loved Phantom of the Opera. Not too long after that I drew my first renditions of all of the Doctors from the BBC sci-fi show Doctor Who as cats. At that point it was just for fun, and I never imagined it would go anywhere beyond that. Fast-forward many years to when I graduated from art college. This is when I did a whole new version of the Doctor Who cats, now with more artistic skill under my belt. From there, it was my brother who first encouraged me to try selling prints of my cat art at Comic-Con, and it was the response I got from that experience that started to solidify the notion that this could really be something.
Were you/are you a Star Trek fan?
Oh yeah, definitely. I think more so now than when I was younger, since Netflix has every single Star Trek series available and I was able to re-watch all of these shows that I don’t think I quite understood as much when I was a kid. Especially Deep Space Nine, which I found kind of boring when I was younger, but now I get what was going on, like the politics and the relationships between the different species and seeing the darker side of the Federation. The Next Generation has always been my favorite of the series, since that is the one I grew up with the most, but DS9 is pretty neck and neck at this point.
How did the opportunity to do Star Trek Cats first come about, and how much fun did you have giving Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, etc., cat identities?
I was first approached by Chronicle Books, who had seen my work at San Diego Comic-Con and were interested in doing some kind of cat book. Star Trek ended up being the perfect fit, since I was a fan of the show, and Chronicle already had a relationship with CBS. And I had a lot of fun turning the Enterprise crews into cats. I think I’m most proud of Scotty as the Scottish Fold.
How pleased were you by the reaction to Star Trek Cats?
Star Trek Cats was my first published book, so I was super nervous and excited to see how people reacted to it. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and I couldn’t be happier. It has been an amazing experience connecting with fans who love both Star Trek and cats.
Your most-recent Trek book was Star Trek: The Next Generation Cats. How different a challenge was that from Star Trek Cats?
Honestly, the biggest difference is that I know TNG so much better than The Original Series, so I felt like I was able to insert more little in-jokes and things that hard core-fans would get. It was also more difficult because there were so many more seasons of TNG, and so I had a hard time picking which scenes to use. There were so many more episodes I wish I could have included, but we just didn’t have enough pages.
Take us through how you chose the cats representing the likes of Picard and Dr. Crusher and Data.
Some characters were easy picks. Picard as a hairless Sphynx just made sense considering he’s bald, and I knew Data would have to be a white cat because of his unnaturally pale skin color in the show. For some of the others, I either went off of the character’s hair color, such as Dr. Crusher, who I made into a Somali because of their long, reddish coats, or personality, like how Worf is a Persian, because I always feel like they have a naturally disgruntled look to them.
How hopeful are you that you'll get to do more Trek Cat books? And what other characters from the franchise would you like to match with a cat?
I would absolutely love to do more Star Trek Cats books if that ends up being a possible thing in the future. I’d love to see what I can do with Seven of Nine and Janeway from Voyager, or Quark and Dax from Deep Space Nine. Though, can you imagine Morn as a cat? I’d be up for the challenge.
In the meantime, what else are you working on?
There are discussions with my editor at Chronicle Books about doing a new book, though nothing has been finalized, so I can’t say much about what it might be. In the meantime, I am working on an exciting card game project that will be released on Kickstarter in 2019 called CATastrophe: A Game of 9 Lives. I got to play a prototype version recently, and its super-fun and I think people are going to love it.
Lastly, how will you be celebrating National Hug a Cat Day?
I have two cats, so I think it’s safe to say that both will be getting lots of hugs and cuddles throughout the day. Not that this will be too much different than normal.
Go to Amazon.com to purchase Star Trek Cats and Star Trek: The Next Generation Cats.