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Why My Photogenic Cat Will Never Be a Top Model

Ghost Cat and I were chosen for the 2016 Cats & Gals calendar, and I thought we'd have no problem at the pro photo shoot. Oh, was I wrong.

Heather Marcoux  |  Nov 9th 2015


People always tell me how beautiful and photogenic my darling Ghost Cat is, and I’m happy to agree. I’ve often joked that Ghosty could be a cat model, but I recently learned that my beloved Ghost Cat just doesn’t have what it takes to become the Tyra of the cat world. In a professional setting my cute kitty becomes a demanding diva, tail in the air as she sashays off the set long before we’ve got the shot.

Before I explain just how badly behaved Ghost Cat was during her first professional photo shoot, I should explain why we were even in a photo studio.

My baby Ghost Cat and I at Room 4206 Photography. This her best shot from the in-studio session. (Photo by Jan Stolee)

My baby Ghost Cat and I at the Room 4206 studio. This her best shot from the in-studio session. (Photo by Jan Stolee Photography)

Back in the summer I entered Ghost Cat and myself in the Canadian Federation of Humane SocietiesCats & Gals photo fundraising contest. An offshoot of the CFHS’ Cats & Bros photo contest, the premise was simple: Submit a photo of yourself and your cat, along with a short paragraph celebrating your “purrmance,” and then fundraise online. The 13 entries with the most online votes would be included in the 2016 CFHS Cats & Gals calendar. The campaign aims to raise awareness about the cat overpopulation crisis in Canada and teach people that donations as small as one dollar can save a cat who is languishing in a shelter.

On a lark, I entered one of my favorite pictures of me and Ghost Cat. It’s one my husband took a couple years ago, just a few months after we first brought Ghosty home from the Saskatoon SPCA. Ghosty often serves as a test subject for my guy, who is something of an amateur photographer and smartphone fiend — every time he gets a new device (very frequently), he tests the camera out by snapping pictures of Ghosty and checking the details of her beautiful eyes, her fur, and her whiskers. The pic I chose as our Cats & Gals entry is just one of hundreds of photos my husband has taken of Ghosty.  

An old pic my husband took of us back when we lived in Saskatoon. (Photo by Gilbert Marcoux)

An old pic my husband took of us back when we lived in Saskatoon. (Photo by Gilbert Marcoux)

When I entered the image in the contest, I assumed that it would be the picture used in the calendar. I didn’t realize the CFHS would send us to a real photographer, but I was happy to do it as I figured Ghost Cat was already a practiced model from helping her dad. We even decided on a Superman theme (as Ghost Cat likes to jump to my shoulders in a single bound) and got Ghosty a cape.

A test pic my husband took at home when we tried Ghosty's cape for the first time. She was cool with it. (Photo by Gilbert Marcoux)

A test pic my husband took at home when we tried Ghosty’s cape for the first time. She was cool with it. (Photo by Gilbert Marcoux)

The morning of our photo shoot for the calendar, I plied Ghost Cat with treats, packed her up in her crate, and drove five minutes to a (conveniently close) photographer’s studio. When we arrived at photographer Jan Stolee’s home-based studio, we were greeted with warm welcomes from Jan and her assistant Mel, both dedicated animal lovers who lavished attention and compliments on Ghost Cat from the moment we walked in the door.

As Mel did my makeup, Ghost Cat explored the makeup room, even jumping up on my shoulders a couple times while Mel was applying tasteful eye shadow and making my cheek pimple invisible. Ghost Cat was slightly weirded out about being in a strange place, but she was still being her usual, adorable self — until we moved from the makeup room to the studio and got the camera out.

Naively, I expected Ghost Cat to just climb up onto my shoulders the way she does at home and pose for a picture the way she does for my husband, but it didn’t matter if I stood, sat, or even lay down on a rug, Ghost Cat was not feeling the photo shoot at all.

This pic was taken later in the shoot, when she was almost back to her normal self. (Photo by Jan Stolee Photography)

This pic was taken later in the shoot, when she was almost back to her normal, cuddly self. (Photo by Jan Stolee Photography)

At one point I held her in my arms, and she shoved my face away from hers with her paw — a little kitty punch, really — before running away to check out another corner of the studio. Jan and Mel were completely patient and wonderful, bringing out toys and music makers to tempt Ghosty and explaining to me that this was pretty common for photo shoots involving animals or babies.  

I so appreciated their patience, because I was very surprised that this was not going as I had planned. We took off Ghost Cat’s cape and tried a few more shots with her in her natural naked state, but her distracted behavior didn’t really improve with her disrobing.

“I’m so sorry,” I told Jan. “She poses so nicely at home!”

We had to take the shoot back to my house to my Ghosty comfortable. (Photo by Jan Stolee Photography)

We had to take the shoot back to my house to my Ghosty comfortable. (Photo by Jan Stolee Photography)

At that point, Jan and Mel decided to take this show on the road and follow me back to my house so we could try to get a nice shot in my living room, where Ghosty might be more comfortable. Unfortunately, while my house has good natural light, it also has some issues the studio didn’t — like my crazy dogs, GhostBuster and Marshmallow.

As Mel and Jan moved my coffee table out of the way and set me and Ghost Cat (who was still refusing to look at the camera) in a seated pose, the dogs decided to play, jumping and lunging at each other in the space between me and Ghosty and the photographer. It was chaos, and eventually I put the dogs in another room, but not before Jan said their crazy play was actually helping, as it was keeping Ghost Cat’s attention focused in front of us (my other cat, Specter, watched this whole spectacle with aloof indifference from the top of her cat tree).

Ghost Cat was not interested in looking at the camera. (Photo by Jan Stolee Photography)

Super Ghost Cat was just not interested in looking at the camera. (Photo by Jan Stolee Photography)

In the end, the two-location photo shoot took about an hour and a half. I’d honestly thought Ghosty would just show up at the studio, climb up on my shoulders, and deliver her poses in a couple of minutes, but apparently studio modeling just isn’t her thing. She prefers to have her image captured in her natural habitat — our living room. Ghost Cat will never be a top cat model, but she’ll always be a beauty to me (even when she punches me in the face).

Read more about Heather and her cats:

About the author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but Specter the kitten, GhostBuster the Lab and her newest dog, Marshmallow, make her fur family complete. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google +.