“Never work with children or animals” — W.C. Fields
We’ve all heard this line before. However professional handlers' expertise makes filming with animals somewhat predictable. When working with animals in production, experience, preparation, and proper training will reduce the odds of unforeseen challenges.
Cats are not like their canine counterparts. Most have no desire to please humans. They have minds, moods, and goals of their own. Getting Puff to sit when Puff wants to lie down does not come without a challenge. MAP strongly recommends production leave this up to a qualified professional.
Private party cats are very rarely appropriate animals to be brought on-set and may only be brought out of crates indoors at MAP's discretion. It is best to use animals that are well prepared for the filming environment and scripted action.
A safety plan must be in place to prevent their escape. Secure food, water, and litter provided in the crate.
A sturdy bottom bowl for water to prevent spilling.
Cats should never be removed from their crate while outdoors. Cats tend to bolt; an unfamiliar location is dangerous. Besides being nerve wracking, looking for a cat could hold up your production.
Cats must be accustomed to a harness and leash. It can take months for cats to become trained to harness and leash. An unexpected noise can spur a cat to escape a harness. A barking dog can turn Puff into a flying furball.
Care should be taken when handling a cat. Aggression is a common behavior in cats. They can become aggressive when they have had enough petting or become frightened and even while playing due to overstimulation.
Cats are territorial. The sight of another cat can make a cat hiss-terical.
MAP strongly encourages the hiring of a professional movie trainer as a head or lead trainer along with the inexperienced handlers and animals. The professional head trainer can help bridge the gap between the inexperienced handler and animal and the special challenges of a film set.
Professional Handlers will be able to provide guidance by:
- Identifying animals that are temperamentally unsuited for the filming environment.
- Knowing which types of questions to ask private party owners to determine an animal’s suitability for the scripted action.
- Knowing what special effects can be safely used around the species of animal.