- Associated Press - Thursday, May 12, 2011

CANNES, FRANCE (AP) - Cats were a big part of Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek’s lives long before they got in touch with their inner felines for “Puss in Boots,” an animated spinoff to the “Shrek” franchise.

Hayek has lived with cats all her life, among them a tailless kitty rescued by one of her dogs years ago. Banderas also has house cats, while his mother-in-law deals in bigger felines, with 72 lions now living at her animal preserve, he said.

“She rescues animals,” Banderas said of wife Melanie Griffith’s mom, actress Tippi Hedren, who runs the Shambala Preserve near Los Angeles.

“Sometimes, people just get a tiger because they’re beautiful when they’re little, and they grow,” Banderas said in an interview alongside Hayek at the Cannes Film Festival, where they came to promote “Puss in Boots,” which arrives in theaters this November. “And before they eat the grandma, they just try to put it in a zoo or something later. What she does is take them there, take care of them. They’re in a much more open environment than in a zoo. She even had elephants and snakes.”

Though she loves cats, Hayek said she’s more of a dog person. She has 10 dogs now and one cat, the feline coming to her thanks to a canine she used to have.

“I had a dog that is no longer with me that rescued that cat without a tail,” Hayek said. “This dog, she’s dead now, but she was on a ranch that I have, and she showed up with this cat that didn’t have a tail. I don’t know what did it. We took care of the cat, but it was this dog that was the friend of the cat.”

“Puss in Boots” features Banderas reprising his voice role as the title character, the tiny cat with the big personality who appeared in the final three “Shrek” flicks.

The spinoff is a prequel chronicling Puss in Boots’ adventures before he met Shrek, when he was a feline outlaw looking to swipe magic beans that, as in the Jack and the Beanstalk story, would lead him to a giant’s lair and a goose that lays golden eggs.

Puss’ quest is disrupted when he finds a rival and romantic interest in Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Hayek), a stealthy feline who’s after the same score.

While Hayek tends to prefer dogs to cats, Banderas does not play favorites among his pets, which now number seven dogs and four cats.

“I like both for actually their non-similarities,” Banderas said. “I love dogs. They’re very faithful, they’re very sweet. They’re almost like humans sometimes, actually. And I love cats exactly for the opposite, for how independent they are. They have their own life. The only thing you may manipulate them with is food. The rest, no.

“They are by themselves, and they have their own lives. They’re very special animals, cats.”

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