Do you have a new kitten? Is your household cat something special? Are they more of a dog than a cat? Have you ever thought that your cat is so cute that they could be the face of the new cat food product as a cat mode or cat actor? Well, here’s how to go about making that dream a reality!
Training (yes, cats can be trained!)
Cats – like any animal – can be trained, and we don’t just mean litter training. Cats are bright, intelligent and eager to learn, with a strong desire to please their owner. In the battle of cat versus dog, you may be surprised by how capable cats are at learning commands.
More and more, we’re seeing that people are opening up to the idea of working with their cats. This has the benefit of helping to increase your bond, entertain and give them a fun and engaging home. It is now 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 can be equally as rewarding. Many cats are capable of commands such as: sit, stay, paw, high five and so many more. These are what the cat’s agents are specifically looking for when casting cat models.
How much training does my cat need?
Not all briefs with require your cat to perform skills, sometimes they just want the cat to behave naturally. Despite this, that doesn’t mean that it will be smooth running and easy, your cat still needs to be happy in new environments with busy, noisy locations.
As well as the basics, the cat must be at least able to be placed in a certain position and are expected to stay in it. This could be that the brief requires Felix to sit in a pet bed and stay there until they have the shot.
The main thing that we are looking for is that your cat is content being in a busy and new environment with lots of people.
My cat is second generation pedigree; King Mufasa is his daddy and his mummy has royal pedigree…
In honesty, this doesn’t matter. While it’s amazing that your cat has a wonderful heritage – that isn’t what’s important to us. You may be surprised to hear that it’s actually moggies who get the most work; about a 70% / 30% split. This is because very often – particularly in TV advertising – production teams are looking for 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 who are happy, confident and feel secure, in other words – Bombproof cats. This means cats that are happy travelling in the car, happy seeing new sights and happy being around strangers. In fact, some cats are simply in their element when they’re showing off. If you feel that your cat is more likely to hide under a sofa or run up a chimney, maybe this isn’t for them. Our priority is the welfare of animals and unnecessary stress is something that we definitely avoid.
From our experience, we know that show cats displayed 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 strangers, 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 great 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 might 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. This is down to your flexibility though, and you would always decide on whether or not you are willing to take a job.
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 can be busy, noisy and quite often 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
- Edible treats and 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 or cat modelling brief is different. Even when it comes to 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 mid-action. This can be anything from sitting and looking to a point, lying down on their side, playing with a toy, jumping, sitting on a child’s knee, running from one point to another and so much more. These will be discussed with you beforehand to ensure that your cat is capable of all the skills required.
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 and jumping onto a stool.
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 this 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 giving the cat a better knowledge of their surroundings and helping 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, you and your cat will relax to enjoy your adventure together.
Still think your cat has what it takes?
If your cat is outgoing and confident, well trained and happy to travel then we want to hear from you! Here’s what we need to see:
Send us four or more 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!
- It doesn’t matter how good you look in the picture with your cat, we don’t want you to be in the picture with Felix at all, rather your cat should be the star. This is what casting agent is looking for.
- Pictures of your cat 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? Try not to send in images of your cat on a messy bed.
- Pictures with a filter aren’t appropriate. We need to see how Felix looks naturally and filters obviously make this difficult. 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
- We want to see your 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’s his temperament and personality like?
- Have they won awards?
- Have they helped you when you’ve been sick? Is he super intuitive?
- What’s the thing you love about them 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 they 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 cat?
- Are they allergic to any medication or food?
- Can he work with children and strangers?
- Can he work with dogs?
- Has he ever been in any adverts or marketing campaigns before?
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 almost always happens on weekdays within working hours. If you work during the week, This could be difficult.
- 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 they are happy being a family cat now and don’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.
- All animals that work now require a license, though you can apply for this via your council.