Cat Scratch Fever has its roots in an intimate relationship I once shared with my (now deceased) feline friend, Wobeel.

Just like the ginger cat in the video, Wobeel tried to mind her manners and be a civilised and loving playmate, but every so often her instincts kicked in, and she answered the call of the wild. It’s easy to forget that furry, purry felines are carnivorous hunters, and sometimes cat biscuits and a warm spot by the heater just can’t compete with tooth and claw.

The song Cat Scratch Fever appeared on fleaBITE’s very first album IN YOUR EAR (2011). I was surprised when this somewhat dark story seemed to be the one people liked, but thought it would work well as an animated music clip. At the time I was living in Wellington (with Wobeel), and flatmate Stuart, an arty type. I had seen paintings and small animations made by Stuart’s (then) girlfriend Philippa McDermott and really liked her aesthetic…a mix of beauty and eccentricity and humour. Plus I also liked her (a prerequisite for creative collaborations).

Stuart bought a wooden church and manse in the sleepy Waikato town of Te Aroha, which he hoped to turn into a folk art museum. And it was here that Philippa set up a studio, and began work on the storyboard for Cat Scratch Fever. I popped down from my new home in Auckland for the odd weekend to soak up art and friendship, climb bush tracks on Mt Te Aroha, and soak in the famed Te Aroha hot springs. Phillipa showed me some initial drawings and we made a plan.

Philippa is primarily an artist/illustrator, and she likes low tech animation (Southpark, Bob’s Burgers, Wallace and Grommit, Ren & Stimpy), so after some experimentation we opted for a simple 2D approach, composited in Photoshop.

Over the next three years Cat Scratch Fever moved with Philippa from Te Aroha to various locations around Hamilton as she studied to become an occupational therapist. In the holidays she house-sat an almost comical series of needy animals, and in between applying antibiotics to a guinea pig’s swollen paw, feeding cats, walking dogs and getting bitten by a hormonal rat, she managed to fit in a few hours of illustrating and animating. Then we went back and forth via email to tweak the clip, then back and forth again until finally (finally!) voila…a fabulous new fleaBITE music clip was born.

Cat Scratch Fever is more like an old fashioned fairy tale than a modern children’s song. It’s about the flickering glimmer of wildness that lives within all of us all, and just like all good stories, this one has a happy ending.


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