Thursday, June 10, 2010

Kitty Spotlight

The Dracoonfly cats have been in the spotlight recently.  First, our resident stud muffin, Bugger, was selected as one of 6 out of 45 cats submitted to be photographed for a print ad for Arm &Hammer Cat Litter.  Then the following week I was asked to be interviewed for a Maine Coon segment on a show called "The Secret Life of Animals" on NECN. 

I've been contacted by animal talent agents before, but none of my cats were ever selected.  The agent has to submit pictures of animals they can bring in for their potential job, bidding against at least two other agencies.  Bugger's picture shown here was taken when he was about a year-and-a-half old during a TICA cat show around Halloween in Hartford, CT.  It was apparently this photo that Arm & Hammer liked. 

So I bathed Bugger twice that week in anticipation of his big photo shoot.  Bugger naturally has a pretty greasy coat and it needed work.  Even after the second bath, he didn't look great, but presentable.  Luckily, although the big boy can be kind of nervous, he's extremely tolerant...even standing at length in our kitchen sink that is way too small to handle a cat of his stature. 

The photo shoot was on a Thursday.  On Wednesday, I discovered I had been bitten by some bug on the top of my foot.  We suspect a deer tick.  Ironic since I got the chickens with the idea that they'd take care of the ticks and I felt the bite while in the chickens' yard.  The bite mark on my foot grew exponentially the next day so only my Crocs fit comfortably.  I threatened the chickens with the fryer for slacking off, but they just laughed at me.

The day before the shoot, the animal agent suggested that I bring a back-up cat.  Partly so the other cat gets the exposure and also in case Bugger didn't behave.  I decided to bring Bubba, Kelsey's European Burmese cat.  Bubba loves to travel and is very photogenic.  Click here to see Bubba's past photo shoots. 

Our photo shoot was scheduled from 3 to 5 pm at the Chris Collins Studio on 20th street in Manhattan.  Not being able to bring myself to wear my Crocs into the big city, I put on sandals, taking off the left one and driving with a freezer pack on top of my foot most of the way.  We were running slightly late as I had to stop for gas and to clean out the litter box.  Bubba pooped and Bugger threw up, both landing it in the box.  Bugger gets car sick easily, a problem which he demonstrates by vomiting and prolific drooling.  I had him in a large cage in the back of the van with a litter box and a bib around his neck to try to soak up the drool. 

Rushing to cross the Triboro Bridge, I got into the EZ Pass lane.  Traffic was moving nicely since it was a Thursday afternoon.  I should make it in time, I thought.  Then, the EZ Pass reader wouldn't let me through.  The sign said low balance and the bar blocked my escape.  I had to sit there in the toll area, cars backing up behind me and honking, until an attendant finally came to check it out.  Turns out I didn't update my credit card with EZ Pass.  Last September I had to get a new American Express card due to fraudulent charges on it.  Amazing how that wasn't a problem two weeks earlier when we picked my step-brother up at La Guardia Airport and crossed a couple of NYC bridges then.  Ten minutes lost.  I called the studio and told them I might be a few minutes late; no problem.

I found the studio easily enough and was ecstatic to have an open parking spot directly across the street from it.  I checked for signs about parking restrictions and seeing none, parked on the street between two large vans.  Not dealing with a parking garage was a blessing.  I loaded both cats into individual carriers and went inside.  First question from the photography staff, "Which one is Bugger?"  Second question, "Why did you bring the other cat?".  Thanks for the suggestion Ms. Animal Agent; now I look foolish for bringing an extra cat who now has to sit in a carrier for two hours watching Bugger get all the glory. 

Bugger's job (after I used his bib to dry up the drool that somehow permeated his entire mane) was to sit on a low table, front feet on a mark (masking tape).  The litter box filled with the product would be added later using Photoshop.  Good thing, because one anxiety I'd had was that if he had to actually pose with the box, Bugger would keep trying to use it or lay in it.  Bugger's table was surrounded by white boards on one side and a very large, square, warm light on the other.  I stood on the light side and kept him in position.  Bugger was nervous at first, curious at what he saw around the obstacles, then just plain bored.  I had brought cat teasers on a stick to direct his attention, but he REFUSED to acknowledge them.  He was like a child with his fingers in his ears, singing "La, la, la, la, la....I can't hear you!"  He completely ignored me.  Fortunately, if there's one thing Bugger is good at, it's just sitting there.  The camera crew blew air canisters and made noises so he'd look at the camera and I just kept making him sit up straight when he started to slouch.  After an hour, Bugger ignored the photographer's crew also but they kept shooting.

The studio must have taken well over 150 shots.  They loved his intense "look" and that he was content to sit (I guess the previous model kept trying to run away).  They affectionately called him Dr. Evil and compared him to a cat wearing a cat costume due to his big head.  A small fan was brought out and directed at Bugger's face, blowing his mane back as if he were in a rock video.  The fan felt good under the hot lights so he really enjoyed that part. 

After two hours, we packed up to leave the studio.  One of the staff nicely offered to help me carry my two cats to my car.  I replied that I was just parked across the street so it wasn't necessary.  Pause.  "You parked where?"  Uh oh.  I found a $115 parking ticket on my car, time stamped for about 1 minute after I parked.  Now I saw a sign on the opposite side of the street stating that parking was restricted to utility vehicles with permits.  Is it possible that the NYC parking police actually watched me park, unload my car and walk away before issuing the ticket?  Couldn't he have at least approached me and let me know I was parking illegally?  There goes a huge chunk of the $250 I'm supposed to get paid by the animal agent. 

The drive home was long as expected due to rush hour.  I didn't get home until 9 pm, taking 4 hours to make a 2-hour trip.  I was exhausted and my foot hurt, swollen and red.  I hope it's all worth it and Arm & Hammer use his picture.  They used 6 cats for the shoot. Supposedly there will be 6 similar ads with a cat named "Scooter" sitting beside the litter box.  The following day, I saw a doctor about my foot who immediately prescribed antibiotics as prevention against the effects of Lyme Disease. 

After all this, I was somewhat reluctant one week later when I was contacted by a producer at NECN in Newton, Massachusetts about a segment they wanted to do on Maine Coon cats the following day.  That's right, one day's notice.  Someone must have cancelled on them.  They had found my name on the website for the Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers Association (MCBFA) and wanted a breeder to talk about the breed because it's the second most popular of the cat breeds.  They offered a staff member's Maine Coon as a prop, but I counter-offered with cats of my own.  I wasn't sure if the staff member's cat was from a breeder or just a long-haired tabby that a vet declared "looked like a Maine Coon". 

I decided to bring the Bugger again, so another bath for him.  I also brought along a 10-week-old red and white kitten, currently called Boston, to demonstrate the color diversity and the tremendous growth a kitten goes through to reach adulthood. Boston is pictured here at our house, watching his promo on TV. 

This trip was much less eventful.  A parking lot with marked Visitors Spaces was a luxury after last weeks' photo shoot in NYC.  I put two bibs on Bugger this time so he was mostly dry when we got there.  If you'd like to watch, the show can be seen online here

There are so many things I wished I'd said or done, but the taping was completely unscripted with no rehearsal or questions given ahead to think about.  I wish I had made Bugger stand up, but he was comfortable lying on the couch with his head in my lap and the host, Vicki Croke, had instructed me beforehand to just let the cats be cats.  I had also intended to dispute the false statement made on Animal Planet that if a cat has an "M" on its forehead, it's a Maine Coon, but I forgot in my nervousness.  Oh well, looking back at it, I'm glad they showed mostly shots of Bugger's head instead of me.  And I did get in some comments about heart screening and color genetics.  I could talk for the whole show about my cats, but fortunately for everyone, I was being thanked for coming before I knew it. 


  1. I threatened the chickens with the fryer for slacking off, but they just laughed at me.

    This surly behavior is the reason why chickens don't get animal agents for media exposure like the cats do. Is it any wonder KFC used Colonel Sanders as their spokesman instead of a chicken?

    I had also intended to dispute the false statement made on Animal Planet that if a cat has an "M" on its forehead, it's a Maine Coon, but I forgot in my nervousness.

    There is a whole branch of Animal Planet-endorsed cat vendors selling cats as Maine Coons, after applying an "M" with a permanent marker to a feline forehead, that breathed a sigh of relief.

    There are so many things I wished I'd said or done, but the taping was completely unscripted with no rehearsal or questions given ahead to think about.

    That's a little unusual. When my lovely wife Denise did her Homemade Gourmet pitch on TV, she gave the hosts questions to ask her, which they strayed from only once.

  2. Sharon, I loved your blog....I see you in New York, trying to park with two carriers. Having gone to school in New York and working there, I am well aware of making one's way through the throngs, buildings, traffic, ....and then hot lights and cameras!


  3. hi sharon,i loved your maine coon interview.
    you do a fantastic job with your cats. i see
    you at the shows all the time.if i ever get
    another maine coon( ihave 2)i will definitely
    want to go on your wait list.