Let me preface this post with – I LOVE ANIMALS.
All of them.
But cats are truly assholes.
I actually have a cat – and I always knew she was an asshole, but I thought it was just her. I was wrong.
My most recent life lesson is understanding why more photographers are not out there scrambling to put together cat calendars as fundraisers for the shelters or rescues they love. I have done a fundraising calendar in the past – but it was just dogs. That was easy.
I am a pet photographer – I think I am actually pretty good, not the best but good. I can normally engage any animal and typically walk away from every session thrilled with some of the images I took.
But that was not the case with this project.
Because – well, cats are assholes.
They are cute as hell – they are fun and can be entertaining – sometimes they are even snuggly and cute, but the rest of the time they are probably being assholes.
My Brilliant Idea
I had done shelter photography for a while but had taken a leave of absence due to burnout and the stress of the rescue world. But after a couple of years off I decided I was ready to get back into things. I pulled out my camera started practicing to make sure my skills were in tact and decided to jump in 100% to a project.
I had met Christie from Karma Cat Zen Dog a few years ago and hit it off instantly. She is a top notch rescuer and I admired and respected her and see all the good she does in her rescue – with no drama! 🙂
I noticed they had never done a photo calendar fundraiser and figured I would ask if she would be interested in doing one and she came back with a Heck Yeah! I was pretty psyched and excited to start planning to make this an amazing fundraiser that will not only expand her reach and visibility – but of course raise much needed funds for her rescue.
I started taking notes and planning and was super excited to get started.
Now, let me note that I had taken photos of shelter cats before – many times, but never had any major difficulties getting great shots. I clearly did not allocate how much different they would be in their own homes.
So the goal was to have Karma Cat reach out to their volunteers and supporters to engage them and have them submit their kitties adopted from the rescue to take part in the calendar.
Here is an outline of the contest portion of the calendar:
- We created a photo contest on WooBox where supporters could submit a photo and description of their cat – we allowed this to be live for 2 weeks or so.
- Once the photos were submitted we allowed 2 weeks for public voting. The contestants could share and promote their kitties to get the most votes so they could get their cat in the photo calendar.
- The 12 cats with the most votes would receive a photo session and have spot in the calendar. One lucky kittie will also get the cover!
Once the contest was done we reached out to each of the contestants and setup their specific photo sessions times. Because the cats were all over we setup a few days – one day I did 6 sessions – so needless to say I was stressed and underestimated just how hard cats were.
The Calendar Theme
I brainstormed with my cat loving daughter on some theme ideas for the calendar. I love the idea of a theme in a calendar that ties it all together and this was something really important to me.
We had a few ideas including:
- Rocker kitties – bad ass cats with a retro dark look, black leather lots of metals etc.
- 80’s kitties – yeah no explanation needed here, I am an 80’s chick!
- City kitty goes suburbs – a take on being adopted from not so great areas to great homes in the suburbs – a graffiti look was the concept.
Yeah – none of them “thrilled” us either! Hey, I said they were just ideas!
But the one my daughter actually came up with I LOVED.
“A day in the life of a Karma Cat”
The inspiration would be a 24 hour look at how a Karma Cat lives the good life with their owners. The concept was going to use people but only to show the “bond” – there was not going to be any human faces. Just arms, feet or other body parts that tie the concept together.
- A cat upside down on the couch between his owners after a long day of work (not that cats work of course).
- A cat dipping his paw in a bowl of cereal at breakfast.
- A cat snuggling up at night with his owners after a long day for a good nights sleep.
- A cat playing with his toys during the day while his parents are away.
You get it right?
I still love this idea.
But it did not come fruition.
Can you guess why?
Because cats are assholes.
The Photo Session Realities
So I show up at the very first session filled with excitement and the plan above for a “day in the life”. I imagined a glorious image of Ronald with his mom doing whatever it is that they do in a day. Maybe snuggling on a couch. Maybe eating dinner together. Maybe playing a game of fetch – who knows what they do, but I was going to capture it.
Below is how Ronald spent most of the session. Under a chair – under a table – under a desk, anywhere he could be under something, he was.
Ronald was not alone.
Most of the sessions went this way. It is like the all connected with each other mentally to play “keep away from the photographer”. Whether they were under chairs, under beds, under covers – in litter boxes, they did everything they could to keep me from photographing them.
I swear it was a cat conspiracy.
Oh, but let’s talk about the 2 cat homes.
Like Ronald’s housemate who could not stay away from me.
Everywhere I was – he was. This picture pretty much sums up the session. Great picture – wrong cat.
And as soon as I turned my lens on Ronald in the background there – yep, under the table he went.
The Photo Session Results
I am a Type-A photographer – meaning I hate putting out anything that is not perfect. I want purrfect exposure (see what I did there teehee), I want purrfect backgrounds and settings, I want purrfect facial expressions and I want images that tell stories.
Unfortunately, I cannot say I got that in every session for the Karma Cat Calendar.
Am I disappointed? Yes, of course a little bit – but I do know either way that I am making a difference – had a lot of fun doing these sessions and I know the pet parents will ultimately be happy with what I was able to get of their fur kids.
I did have to put aside my grandiose idea of a well thought out theme – because clearly the cats had a totally different plan for this calendar.
A couple of sessions I walked away just glad I got something I could use.
The Lessons I Learned
I am still working through everything to get the calendar together – I still have editing to do and design work to make it all come together and will do a separate post about the calendar itself and all the kitties I got to meet.
But, I learned a lot on this journey – besides that cats are assholes.
- I learned that Karma Cat Zen Dog animal rescue is adored and respected in the animal rescue world. This warmed my heart to hear all the great things about them.
- I learned that their adopters are some of the best and most loyal I have ever met.
- I learned that for cat sessions – you will NEVER get them to do what you want when you want it. You need to be flexible and ready for the brief moment you may have to “get the shot”.
- I learned that cats – well they are each so unique. Every one of them has their own preferences for sounds, smells, foods and more – what I tried with one cat would freak out another.
- I learned catnip works on 99% of the cats tested. But I also learned catnip does not help get great shots – unless you want catnip filled cats rolling around on the floor as your subject – like CJ below proves.
- I learned cats do not care if you like them.
- I learned that cat people are a passionate and caring group with the biggest hearts and limitless love for their fur kids. Every cat I met was loved immensely – and had an amazing life.
- I learned that I did not leave enough time for the sessions. Because I was driving all over and own a business time was an issue so I sacrificed precious photo time. I would rethink this process carefully if doing it again next year to allow more time with each cat.
Will I Do This Again?
Hell yeah – and I hope this year is such a success we have to do it again next year!
As soon as we finish up the calendar we will share the post link here so you can see the final images and calendar!
I just know that next year I will just have to plan a little better and not have such high expectations for what a cat is willing to do. I will have to schedule a little more time for each session and will use a different lens to allow me to create more distance between the cats and myself so I have a better chance of getting that magical image that tells the story of their rescue success!
So – Do You Agree or Disagree With My Cats Are Assholes Attitude?
I want to hear your cat stories – am I an asshole and not the cats? Do you agree and own an asshole cat? Did this post just piss you off?
Meow at me in the comments below!