Ian Stich worried about getting labeled as a "crazy cat guy.''
Now he may be purring his way to the bank.
Stich is one of eight finalists for the Meox Mix Think Like a Cat Game Show, which premieres at 9:30 p.m. Saturday on GSN.
Stich, who lives in Sarasota, auditioned for the show in June at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay. He took a quiz to test his knowledge about cats and smiled for the camera with Quinn, his 17-pound Maine Coon cat.
About a month later, FedEx arrived with the good news. "I started screaming, 'Oh my God,' for 30 minutes straight,'' he said.
And for good reason. The winner of the show gets a chance to take home $1 million.
Stich is sworn to secrecy about the outcome but says the experience changed his life. He got to meet Chuck Woolery, the show's host, and stay in a swanky Los Angeles hotel. His personal dressing room came equipped with lots of cat toys for Quinn.
"I felt like a giant star,'' he said. "It's the most surreal thing. I've always been very happy and loved life, but 2008 is going to be the year I'm going to tell my kids about.''
Stich, 29, works as an assistant manager for a Starbucks in Sarasota and a part-time guitar teacher. He got Quinn and his brother, Harley, four years ago while living in Springfield, Mass. He and his wife, Jenny, also have a dog named Terra.
Stich chose Quinn for the contest because he loves attention — and food. As part of the game, finalists had to lure their cat down a track with food at the end. Surely, Quinn could do that.
Stich practiced the game at home with Quinn and studied any cat trivia he could find. By showtime, he was ready.
The 30-minute show includes a Jeopardy-like game with categories such as Cat-tistics and Just Kitten Around. Other games focus on anticipating their cat's next move.
The winning team gets $25,000 and a chance at the $1 million. Second place wins $15,000, and third place $10,000. All finalists win a year's supply of Meow Mix's new Wholesome Goodness cat food. Donations also go to feline charities.
Stich was scheduled to attend the premier party this week, then watch the show at home, with his family on the line from New York.
"I have people asking me all the time to tell them the ending,'' he said. "It will be quite a relief when it airs.''