“The Fonz is extremely shy – I don’t know if you are going to be able to get anything.” said his mum. As you can imagine, this is a phrase we hear often when working with shy cats.
On average, a cats fight or flight response is much more active than a dog. This is the reason they can be highly reactive to new people, new sounds, and cameras pointed at them. Even a stare is enough to tip one over the edge. They are sensitive to changes in routine, in their owners mood and loud weather. They are also extremely sensitive to new people in their home, especially the big boots of tradies walking in and out of the house. I remember one shoot where the the unlucky couple had returned home from a trip only to have a home invasion the next night. You can imagine how freaked out their poor kitty was. Leaving your cat for any length of time is the ultimate sin in their book. But imagine how scary a home invasion was on top of that.
How the hell do we consistently get great results whilst working with shy cats?
You are probably wondering then how I continue to get consistent results with such changeable variables? When it comes to working with shy cats meditating regularly is my biggest secret. Shy cats require an extra level of skill than most other types of pet photography. It requires a zen vibe, a quiet confidence, flexibility, sensitivity, multi tasking, conversation skills, readiness, and intuition amongst already amazing photography skills, and a fantastic camera to boot.
Over the years I have grown into a person who is super comfortable in her own skin, which helps with most of the above. I will spend the majority of the time chatting quietly to the client, having a laugh and a cup of tea, while keeping an eye on what the cat is doing. To minimise noise I will usually arrive with my camera and long lens ready to photograph. I will use my mirrorless camera which makes no sound. And I will also try not to look into the view finder often, as this directs too much energy towards the cat.
When working with shy cats I treat each shoot with curiosity, and am fully prepared to come back again if the cat just isn’t in the mood. This makes sure there is no pressure on anyone. Interestingly this has only happened twice before – once in the story above, and once with Frida & Khalo. Which isn’t a bad record for 17 years of cat photography!
IF YOUR CAT IS SHY DO NOT:
1. Schedule any other work (plumbing/electrical/lawn mowing etc) to be done at your house – inside or out – before or at the same time as your photoshoot.
2. Have your photoshoot just after moving house, during the packing up process, or any other major life change.
3. Have your photoshoot just after coming back from holidays.
4. Have your photoshoot at the same time as house guests.
5. Have your photoshoot just after or during severe weather.
6. Have your photoshoot just after a home invasion.
7. Worry too much – worst case scenario is that we will come back again.
1. Follow your normal routine.
2. Calm your own excitement and nerves – Cats can sense this.
3. Keep any children in the home calm and occupied. This is especially true if your cat isn’t a fan of kids. Eventually, after your cat has got used to me, we can introduce the children into the mix quietly.
4. Keep your cat inside the home until they get used to me
Firstly, what is your favourite thing about The Fonz?
He’s a wussbag (just shy of 6kg) despite appearing rough around the edges.
He can be super cuddly and chatty but he’s very much his own purr-son.
We know every fur baby is unique, & in your totally unbiased opinion you have the best pet ever!
What makes yours so special?
Being adopted at the ripe age of 10 as a black cat made his chances look pretty grim, but Cat Haven gave him a chance…..
Most of all Fonz has clearly brought a love of sleeping next to my head with him from wherever he was before. I’ve never had a kitty do this!
Tell us something about The Fonz that will make us laugh?
He gets bossy and head butts like a trooper!
It took a while for him to come out of his shell. One of the most lovely things is that he has developed his trust in me and his love of catnip!
Why is having beautiful imagery of Fonzy important to you?
It’s the first time I’ve ever taken the opportunity. Why not?
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