Have you got a new kitten? Is your household cat something special? Is he or she like a dog than a cat? Do you have a special bond? Ever thought that your cat is so cute he or she could be the face of that new cat food as a cat mode or cat actor? Well, here’s how to go about it.
Training – yes, cats can be trained!
Cats, like all animals, can be trained, and we don’t just mean litter training. Cats are bright, intelligent and eager to learn. They love to please their owner and in the battle of cat versus dog, cats will surely surprise you.
More and more, we’re seeing that people are opening up to the idea of working with their cats to help increase their bond, entertain them and give them a fun and engaging home. It’s now become the norm to see harness and lead trained cats; let’s face it, we want to go everywhere with our best friend. Using positive reward training, other skills and tricks are as equally rewarding. Many cats show off skills such as ‘sit and stay’, ‘paw’, ‘high five’ and much more. It’s these cats that agents are specifically looking for when casting cat models.
My cat is second generation pedigree; King Simba is his daddy and his mummy has royal pedigree…
In honesty, this doesn’t matter. It’s amazing that your cat has a wonderful heritage, but that’s not what’s important to us. You’ll be surprised to hear that it’s actually moggies that get the most work and this is by a significant amount; about a 70% / 30% split. This is because very often, and particularly in TV advertising, production teams wish cat models to be relatable; i.e. your average looking household cat. That being said, we do know that cats of certain breeds have what is considered a higher intelligence… Read more about that here…
Agents want to work with cats that are happy, confident and feel secure. This means cats that are happy travelling in the car, happy seeing new sights and happy being around people. In fact, some cats are simply in their element when they’re showing off. If your cat is the type that would rather hide under a sofa or run up a chimney, maybe this isn’t for him or her. Our priority is the welfare of animals and unnecessary stress is something that we definitely avoid.
From our experience, we know that show cats that display at exhibitions (such as with the GCCF and TICA) do particularly well in the modelling world. This is because they are used to being around a lot of people, hearing new sounds, seeing new sights and are used to travelling up and down the country.
We find that gently exposing kittens to new experiences is the best way to go about getting your cat used to the big wide world. This isn’t to say ‘you can’t teach an old cat new tricks’. Showing them that they can always rely on you and increasing the bond through training is a great start.
See an example of a cat showreel below
A day in the life of a cat model
On film days, you can expect to travel to your shoot location. It’s very rare that a production crew will film in your home or on your land and this is why it’s so important that your cat is happy travelling. Your shoot location may well be a couple of hours away from home, though we will always try and work with cats as close to the shoot location as possible.
When you arrive on set, you’ll be greeted by a production team that could be anywhere from 5 – 20 people strong. If your cat is easily intimidated by strangers, this isn’t the place for them. Studio environments are busy, noisy and often quite frantic places, so it’s important that your cat feels confident and secure.
There’s a lot of waiting around on set. Make sure you have all the essentials with you:
- a secure playpen – for your cat to stretch out and not feel confined
- a litter tray
- food / treats / blankets that will help your cat feel secure
- a secure carry case – to easily and safely transport your cat
- a lead and harness – so your cat is free to stretch their legs
- toys – let’s keep kitty entertained in between shots
When it’s time for Felix to shine, remain as calm as possible. Animals pick up our cues, so if you’re calm, Felix will be too.
What’s expected of a cat on set?
Each cat acting brief or cat modelling brief is different. Even in stills photography, the cat may be required to complete a number of actions. Photographers are eager to capture the emotion of cats and often this is caught during mid-action. This action can be anything from sitting and looking to a point, lying down on his / her side, playing with a toy, jumping, sitting on a child’s knee, run from one point to another and so much more.
Recent requests have included pawing a phone screen, sitting and waiting for food, walking in between an actresses’ legs, being held by a small child, walking along a garden wall, jumping onto a stool and so much more.
Expectations vs reality
Whilst production teams are generally very understanding that cats are more independent than other animals, it’s important to remember that your cat has been hired to work and that is what is expected of them. In all honesty, some producers will expect the cat to perform on command as solidly as a dog or horse might. In this situation, it’s important to remain calm and be safe in the knowledge that you know your best pal better than anyone else. Most production teams, however, are realistic about a cat’s nature and will work with Felix to get the best out of him.
Each cat will be given a period of around 15 minutes to settle in and sniff out their surroundings which will give the cat a better knowledge of their surroundings and also allow them to feel secure. It’s important to let your cat be a cat at this time. A good producer is a patient producer. Take it all in your stride and you and Felix will relax enjoy your adventure together.
Still think your cat has what it takes?
If your cat is outgoing and confident, has training and is happy from travelling, we want to hear from you! Here’s what we need to see:
Send us four or five pictures of Felix that represent his personality. These pictures don’t need to be from a professional, but you should think about how your picture looks. Casting agents, photographers, producers and many other people will be looking at the pictures you send.
- Think about what’s in the background of your picture. We like to see pictures of your cat in the home, but we don’t want to see a pile of dirty washing in the background!
- We don’t care how good you look in the picture with Felix, we don’t want you to be in the picture with Felix at all! Felix is the star here, not his human.
- Pictures of Felix asleep aren’t helpful to us. We can’t see his eyes and we can’t see his whole body.
- Do you really want a lot of people to know what your bed linen looks like? If not, maybe don’t send us pictures of Felix asleep on your bed.
- Pictures with a filter aren’t appropriate. We need to see how Felix looks naturally. It’s no good if Felix has red hair in his pictures, but when he shows up to set, he naturally a cream colour.
Send us a video showreel of Felix in action
- Let’s see Felix’s tricks from a distance. Get your friend to help you shoot this video so you can concentrate on the action with Felix.
- Think about what skills might be asked of Felix in a studio setting.
- It’s helpful for us to see basic obedience without you in the shot.
- Try and capture Felix’s best skills; if he can safely jump onto a table on command, we want to see it!
Send us a paragraph or two about Felix’s personality
- Let’s get to know him – what’s unique about him? What is his temperament and personality like?
- Has he won awards?
- Has he helped you when you’ve been sick? Is he super intuitive?
- What’s the thing you love about him the most?
Send us a list of the skills Felix is confident with from a short distance.
- Think about the skills Felix has that might be appropriate on a film set.
- What skills can he do on command?
- Can Felix perform these skills outside of the home and in strange environments?
Is there anything extra we should know about your dog?
- Is he allergic to any medication or food?
- Can he work with children and strangers?
- Can he work with dogs?
Submit your info here
Things to consider
- Filming will not be in your home. You will probably have to travel to a location that you’ve not been to before. This could even be in a different city. Are you prepared to travel?
- Filming doesn’t happen on weekends. It happens within working hours, during the week. If you work during the week, maybe this isn’t for you.
- Filming is often requested with less than 48 hours notice – will you be able to get time off work?
- You have to pay your travel costs in advance, though they will be reimbursed when your payment comes in.
- You have to keep up good communication with your agent; let us know if you’ve moved address, if Felix gets ill, or if he’s happy being a family cat now and doesn’t want to work any more.
- Payment for work can sometimes take up to 60 days. Are you prepared to wait?
- Are you good at keeping a secret? We’re often not allowed to disclose who we’ve worked with and for what product until the advert goes out in the public domain.
- Do you have a performing animal license? All animals that work now require a license. You can inquire about this with your local council.