I started volunteering for my local animal shelter for the dogs. I started by just walking dogs, but then I fell into my niche of taking pictures. I only took pictures of the dogs, which was often challenging in itself. No way did I want to try taking pictures of the cats, as I just knew they would be all over the place! The cats are housed in separate cages, and, although they are taken out daily, I suspected those little furballs would be nothing but blurs on my camera screen. Besides, you could tell what the cats looked like from their intake photos. Who needs more than that?
Having caught up on taking dog pictures one day, I ventured into the cat room. Sure enough, the cats were a blur! Each one would leap onto the activity center in the room, scratching and rolling. They’d chase toys and strut their stuff for the other cats still in their cages. Kittens and adults alike, the cats were nearly impossible to photograph! Even the decent pictures I’d get were cluttered by the background of cages, litter boxes, and supplies, all lit by harsh fluorescent bulbs. With the dogs, I had the benefit of natural lighting, at least. My opinion about photographing cats remained unchanged.
As fates would have it, the kennels were quarantined for over a month due to a parvo outbreak. The executive director of the humane society I volunteer for told me I could still come in to volunteer … in the cat room.
He set up a backdrop for me out of a donated blanket and two heat lamps. I was grateful, but there was no way a cat was going to sit still and pretty in the middle of that blanket long enough for me to take a picture. I bought a flirt toy — a stick with a string and a bouncy toy — in hopes that I could distract the cats long enough to get a half-decent picture.
If there’s anything I’ve learned about cats, it’s to never underestimate them. Don’t overestimate them, either. In fact, don’t think about them at all, because they’ll read your mind and do something totally different! Cats are unique and surprising individuals, with too much personality to fit in one description.
Much to my surprise, I found cats much easier to photograph than dogs. It’s as though they knew exactly what was going on, and showed off for the camera. An extra bonus? I smelled a whole lot better leaving the cat room than when I left the dog kennels! The cats posed so well that I was able to photograph twice the cats in half the time I usually spend in the dog kennel. Now that’s saying something!
With the dogs, I also had to either follow them around the exercise run or wait for that perfect moment for them to stand still. They were always busy sniffing the grass for the latest news, so most of my photos ended up being dogs with their faces buried in the grass. Not very flattering! The cats were quick to pose, something I appreciated very much.
Before I knew it, I was preferring taking cat pictures over dogs! Now, I’ll always consider myself a dog person first, but cats have certainly earned their place with me. When I take them out of their crates, I put them in the middle of my lit backdrop. You can tell when I try to get their attention with the toy, because their expressions turn sarcastic. I seriously think they make fun of me while I’m making funny noises and saying, “Hey, kitty-kitty,” trying to get their attention. After they survive the photo, I give them a good snuggle and scratching. I haven’t had one dislike that part yet!
I love it when I’m in the cat room and a potential adopter comes in and mentions they came because of a cute picture on the shelter’s website. The shelter has also recently started putting the pictures up on the electronic billboards around town. They have a “Pet of the Week” segment, and it really helps having the shots with the backdrop rather than in a cage. I’m not glad the dogs got parvo, but I am glad that I finally gave the cats a chance. Cats are beautiful, unique individuals that deserve wonderful homes, and I’m hoping their glamour shots help them find one!
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