There’s an old saying in the theater — never work with animals, children or drunks. Basically, they’re hard to control and make a lot of extra work for everyone. Sometimes it’s worth it, though, like when we brought seven kittens to our photoshoot for our September/October issue.
The pet beds we were shooting were made with the names of my cats, but we had several reasons for shooting with kittens instead. The main reason, of course, was that even though my cats are pretty cute, kittens are even cuter. Also, kittens are very adaptable and are able to roll with unusual situations in a way adult cats can’t or won’t.
I’m lucky enough to have a friend who fosters kittens (in fact, she fostered one of my cats) and had, if I recall correctly, 10 kittens in her house at the time. When I asked to borrow some, she was happy to set me up with all but a few that were too young for a field trip. So the morning of the shoot I swung by her house and picked up two travel carriers worth of kittens. Turns out that driving with that many kittens in the back seat is pretty nerve-wracking; a couple were very unhappy about being shut up and protested loudly the whole drive.
At the studio, we set the kittens up in the bathroom — the only space where we could safely contain them. I gave them water, a litter box and some toys, then put a baby gate across the door, which did absolutely nothing to stop the more determined kittens. After about two minutes of plucking kittens off the gate, we had to shut the door.
We were shooting a lot of projects that day, including our pants and little black dress reviews for Sew News, which meant that all the editors were in attendance and we were all being photographed. This was probably a good thing, because we were able to leave the kittens to hang out and get used to the new environment without being constantly harassed — though they had a lot of visitors!
I gave the kittens some food about a half an hour before we were planning to shoot the pet bed pictures; my friend suggested that they would get sleepy after eating, making it easier to photograph them. It worked, to some extent — we set up the shot, then I went in and got the ginger and white kitten, who was sleeping. I set him down on the bed, and he snuggled in and started nursing on the faux fur. We got a couple good pictures — and then he realized something exciting was happening. He perked up and wanted to explore, and by that I mean run around the studio checking things out.
In the end, it went like this; we’d take a few kittens at a time, put them on the bed, and take photos really quick before they jumped down and ran off. The whole team was chasing kittens, bringing kittens back, jumping out of the shot, then preparing to chase the kittens again. The little ginger and white guy turned out to be very slippery and ended up under the studio’s refrigerator a couple of times. Tina, our stylist, turned out to be a kitten-coaxing guru and got him out.
It was absolute chaos, and it was the most fun I’ve ever had at work.
After we had managed to take a dozen or so really good shots amongst the chaos, Ellen suggested that we should do a group shot with everyone holding a kitten. That became the editor letter photograph for the issue. I got to hold my favorite kitten, an affectionate little brown tabby who tried to stick his head up my nose (out of friendliness; cats are weird).
After all that, Ellen still had to take a few photos for her editor letters, but the rest of us were done, so we could start cleaning up. Usually, that meant collecting projects, garments and accessories and packing them up. I had to do that, of course, but I also had to clean all the kitten’s stuff out of the bathroom, empty the litter box, pack up the kittens, and sweep up.
Clean-up took a while, but I managed to get all the kittens (I counted three times) into their carriers and get them home safely. We (me and the kittens) were all pretty worn out from all the excitement, but it was worth it… and I’d be happy to do it all over again. I just need to think of another project that will require kitten models!