Julie’s comment on our last post about cat photos got me thinking: I haven’t given Buddy a bath since he was a kitten.
There are a few good reasons: Many veterinarians don’t think it’s necessary if the cat doesn’t go outdoors, doesn’t have any flea problems and doesn’t come into contact with potential toxins. A short-haired indoor cat who is healthy and flexible enough to thoroughly groom himself doesn’t need bathing, according to trusted animal organizations like the ASPCA.
Unless your cat is a rescue off the street, unable to groom herself or is one of the “hairless” breeds — like a Sphinx — caretakers should “absolutely not” bathe their cats, feline guru Jackson Galaxy agrees.
Since Buddy is young and healthy, and the little guy was always seriously distressed by taking a bath, I decided not to put him through the stress. Fear of water may seem ridiculous to us humans, but for cats it’s a big deal.
He does a good job grooming himself, I’ve never detected any odor on him, and perhaps most importantly I’d need heavy gloves, a plastic mask and a family size tube of antimicrobial ointment for the inevitable wounds in places where I’m not heavily armored.
I am, however, open to feedback. Are there good reasons why I should be bathing Bud? Have I been too eager to accept the anti-cat-bathing argument because I don’t want to get soaked and scratched by an angry cat? Am I being negligent by not bathing him?
If you do advocate bathing cats, how often do you bathe your own little buddies, and how do handle the ordeal?
As some of our readers know, I spent the first years of my professional career as a crime reporter, covering everything from murders to mall shooters, plane crashes and freak accidents.
One of the perks of the job — aside from seeing some truly crazy and bizarre things up close — was getting to work side-by-side with amazing photojournalists.
I watched how they handled themselves, what they were willing to do to get their shots and how they captured the essence of a story in just one or two frames.
It turns out photographing cats isn’t much different from capturing random moments of life. Our furry friends are unpredictable, they tend to shy away from the camera and they won’t wait for you to get the shot.
Some of this advice is general and some of it is cat-specific. I’m certainly no professional and I’m always learning, but I hope you can put some of the lessons I’ve learned to good use getting better shots of your own little buddies:
Let kitty forget about the camera
Cats are famously curious, and a shiny new thing must be investigated. As far as kitty is concerned, the best way to investigate is to pad right up to it, rub her cheeks against it, maybe bite the camera strap. You know, the standard stuff.
Let your cat do what she needs to do. If you don’t let her do her thing, the camera could become an item of intrigue, but let her sniff and bunt it a few times and she’ll quickly forget about it. A camera, after all, is clearly not as awesome as a cardboard box, a milk bottle cap or a treat.
When your cat decides to ignore your camera, you can start taking pictures. Which brings us to our next tip…
Distract the little ones with toys
Cats won’t pose for us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t nudge them toward particular actions or postures. Dangling a good wand toy or ball is a great way to get your cat to look at the camera or reach out. Want an action shot? Set a fast shutter speed and toss a ball or a bottle cap.
Catnip and treats, when used strategically, can also help you get the shot you want.
Use your smartphone for shots of opportunity
We’ve all been there: You’re sitting on your couch reading a book or watching a movie when you look over and realize your kitten looks adorable sleeping on his back, or your adult cat is striking a majestic pose…but you don’t have your camera.
The second you get up your cat is going to shift or get up to follow you, and the shot is gone.
For those fleeting opportunities keep your smartphone to hand and configure it so you can pull up the camera with a single button push: No passwords, no navigating to the app. Both iOS and Android can be configured to reach the camera quickly. (In most versions of iOS, for example, simply swipe from right to left on the lock screen to get the camera. In Android, double tap the power or home button.)
Below is one of my favorite photos of Buddy taken in a moment of opportunity with an iPhone. It may not be the kind of ultra-sharp image captured by a pro camera, but as one commenter put it, Buddy looks like he’s “radiating love.” I’d rather have a smartphone shot than no shot any day:
Choose the right setting
Unless they’re sprawled out in an ecstatic nip haze or curling up for a post-dinner nap, cats are usually moving. Unfortunately, your cat is not going to hold a pose for you while you fumble with the settings.
Whether you’re photographing a kitten with limitless energy or an adult who’s just doing his thing, you’re going to want a fast shutter speed — something in the neighborhood of 1/1,000 of a second to avoid blur and capture crisp images of motion.
If you’re not comfortable changing the settings manually, use the sports/motion preset on your camera.
Get up close, on the floor and use a proper zoom lens
Too many cat photos look like they could double as interior home photos that just happen to have a cat in them. If you’re shooting from eye height and your cat is a tiny smudge of fur in the center of the shot, you can do so much better.
Bring yourself down to your cat’s level and either shoot up close or use your zoom.
If you’re using a smartphone or a point-and-click, you’re going to want to get close because digital zoom is worthless: The camera doesn’t actually zoom, it simply displays the view at a larger size. You’re not capturing more detail. That’s why the quality decreases the more you “zoom” and the image becomes pixelated.
If you’re using a Canon, a Nikon or some other brand of dedicated camera, you have the advantage of a true optical zoom that does capture more detail. It can be useful for keeping your distance — and thus avoiding potentially distracting the cat — and for playing with perspective.
Shooting in ultra-HD JPG or RAW means you’re capturing more detail with each shot, giving you the option of heavily cropping photographs so your subject dominates the scene without degrading the image quality.
Here’s a raw photograph of Bud on my balcony with clutter in the background and uneaten treats on the ground that could be mistaken for turds or something, and the same image cropped close:
The cropped version puts the focus squarely on His Grace and cuts out most of the distracting junk. Along with a simple tweak to the color levels — giving definition to the shadows and creating better contrast — the photo is improved and its subject appear more vivid.
Don’t sweat imperfections
You may have noticed Buddy almost always has gunk in the corner of his eyes. (Just like humans, some cats produce more of it. It’s not a threat to his health.) He’s not fond of me trying to remove it. Early on I attempted to Photoshop the eye gunk out of his shots. Not only was it a lot of work, but it was very difficult to remove it without the photo looking wrong.
I decided to just let it go, thinking people would see it right away, but I’ve never even gotten a single question or comment about it. Nobody’s perfect, not even the Budster. (Shocking, I know.)
Avoid the temptation to go all Instagram-y with filters
There isn’t a camera app these days that doesn’t come loaded with Instagram-style filters to “improve” your photos. I strongly recommend resisting the urge to use them and instead take the time to learn how to filter your photos manually with Photoshop or a free alternative like the browser-based Photoshop clone, Pixlr.
The vast majority of Instagram-style filters are simply presets of the most extreme color, contrast and saturation sliders available. They degrade the image, stripping it of detail and making it look like every other photo on that platform, like autotune for images.
That’s all for now. Next time we’ll take a look at how to apply some basic filters to your photos to emphasize shadow and light, and make colors pop the way they should. Check back for part two in the weeks ahead, and thanks for reading!
CAIRO, East Litter Box — A new pyramid dating to the 3rd dynasty has been found buried beneath the sand in Buddy’s litter box, a university dig team announced in the scholarly journal Fecal Archaeology.
The find is significant not only because it reveals one of the few surviving artifacts of the Old Kingdom, but because it lies outside the so-called Valley of the Kings, an area rich with deuce deposits and hidden burial chambers, Egyptologists said Thursday.
“Previously King Poopankhamen, a 3rd dynasty pharaoh, was considered apocryphal,” said Ferdinand Lyle, an Egyptologist with the British Museum. “Now, thanks to the inscriptions found in the newly-discovered pyramid, we know King Poopankhamen did indeed exist, and is responsible for many of the most fabulous monuments in the eastern litter box region.”
Of particular interest to archaeologists was an internal chamber of the Temple of Deuceamemnon featuring a cartouche extolling the excretory potency of Buddy.
The cartouche, Lyle said, proved Buddy was worshiped before the 4th dynasty pharaoh, Pooptolemy, founded the Cult of Budster.
“The inscriptions in the poop burial chamber speak of mighty nuggets of feces raining down from the sky,” Lyle said, “which was seen as a sign that Buddy was angry and signaled an impending yellow flood.”
Still, not all were convinced to change their views in light of the newly discovered pyramid.
“It’s obvious we couldn’t have built those pyramids without the help of aliens, bro,” said Joe Rogan, who is best known for making contestants eat roaches on the short-lived show Fear Factor. “Like, when you get stoned and really think about it, it’s clear that aliens were here millennia ago and were worshiped as gods, like in the movie Stargate.”
A female Siamese has become the first cat to test positive for COVID-19 in the UK.
The cat almost certainly caught the virus from her COVID-infected owners, authorities said. Christine Middlemiss, the U.K.’s top veterinary official, echoed the CDC in urging people not to freak out:
“There is no evidence to suggest that pets directly transmit the virus to humans,” Middlemiss said. “We will continue to monitor this situation closely and will update our guidance to pet owners should the situation change.”
Owners who have COVID-like symptoms should social distance from their own pets, says Margaret Hosie, a virologist at the University of Glasgow: “Don’t kiss your cat. Don’t have the cat sleeping in a bed with you, and don’t share food with the cat.”
If your cat is anything like mine, good luck trying to tell him he’s not sleeping in your his bed.
Kleptomaniac cat collects goggles
A cat in Bristol, UK, has an odd obsession with swimming goggles. The four-year-old moggie, Avery, has stolen eight pairs so far this summer.
Avery’s human, Sally Bell, said she’s checked with her neighbors and no one’s told her they’re missing goggles, so Avery must be wandering further than realized.
“He doesn’t play with the goggles, he just leaves them for me. In fact, the pair he brought home the other day had a dead mouse with them – two presents at once,” Bell told the BBC. “I feel so bad in case it’s children who are being brought new goggles and they’re getting into trouble because they keep going missing.”
Terrible human beings are terrible
Someone is shooting cats with pellet guns in a Wyandotte, Michigan, neighborhood. Four cats have been killed and a fifth had a leg amputated after he was shot, WDIV reports. There’s a reward for information leading to the shooter’s arrest, and police want to hear from anyone with information about the cat shootings.
Meanwhile, the Humane Society of Utah is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a sicko who tied a cat down, tortured it and set it on fire.
A woman found Sterling the cat on July 21 and brought him to the veterinarian. Little Sterling made it through surgery and remains under the care of the vet, who’s providing pain medication and making sure the tough kitty is being “loved and spoiled.”
“This level of cruelty should unnerve the community,” said the Humane Society’s Rachel Heatley. “In the interest of public safety, an individual who is capable of torturing an animal needs to be identified and taken off the street as soon as possible.”
A distressed Redditor says his girlfriend of seven months gave him an ultimatum: Get rid of his cat, or the relationship is over.
He chose the cat.
If only he’d seen the warning signs earlier.
“She is an outspoken vegan, and she made it clear at the start of our relationship that it was important to her that any potential had similar cruelty-free values,” the Redditor wrote. “Me, already being a pescatarian, had little difficulty transitioning to a fully plant based diet. My GF was proud of me for going cruelty free and everything seemed well.”
With her boyfriend converted, the pair “became ‘the vegan couple’ on our college campus.” Retch.
However, Ms. Vegan wasn’t done creating the Perfect Boyfriend:
Fast forward through all the quarantine stuff… My gf and I have spent a lot of time together during this pandemic and we’ve started talking about taking our relationship to the next level. We began seriously looking at either buying a new apartment together or having one of us move in with the other.
However, after a lot of talking and planning, my GF sat me down and dropped a bomb shell on me. She said that with this next phase of the relationship, she did not see a future with me unless I was willing to give away Mittens. She said that she believed owning a cat is unconscionable for vegans, because they hunt mice and eat meat, and because the very act of owning a pet is a violation of vegan principles.
If you’re reading this and thinking that’s strange logic, you’re not the only one: The guy’s girlfriend wanted him to dump a well-loved animal because the cat eats meat and might hunt mice. (It’s not clear from the post whether the cat has access to the outdoors.)
But that’s not all!
I was stunned. I told her that I was absolutely not willing to give up Mittens, and she had no choice but to eat meat so I was reducing harm as much as possible by buying reputable brands of cat food. Plenty of vegans own cats and think along those same lines. My gf got mad and said “how much flesh does your cat eat? How many animals died to make all that food? Would you be okay with that being human flesh?”
I got mad and told my GF that I would have really appreciated her telling me about her cat opinions before we got serious. She went on and on about cats killing animals. I ended the conversation there. I was so angry that I left my gfs apartment. And I snuggled with Mittens when I got home! Although the mood soured a bit when my GF sent me a link to a Reddit thread advocating for the extinction of domestic cats. Sigh
I don’t think the Redditor’s vegan (ex)-girlfriend has really thought her position through.
Cats have been living with humans for thousands of years. The process of domestication results in genetic changes that make cats more friendly, sociable and curious than their wild forebears, at the expense of traits — like aggressiveness and cautiousness — that would help keep them alive in the wild. It’s nature’s trade-off, and it happens in every domesticated species.
In other words, domestic cats don’t have a “natural habitat.” They don’t have a home in the wild, and they belong under the care and protection of good humans.
We domesticated them, so it’s our responsibility to care for them.
If vegans are motivated by ending animal suffering, exterminating an entire species of cat — millions of animals — seems an odd way to go about it. So does advocating the dumping of millions of animals who are damned to short, brutal lives without human care.
Thankfully, the Redditor refused to dump his cat — who he’s had for more than three years — and ended it with Ms. Vegan.
“So, we broke up, obviously,” he wrote in a follow-up post. “I would never, ever give up my cat Mittens. Many users said that this situation was about control, not veganism, and looking back, I do see a pattern of control on my GFs part. I was blind to it I guess.”
Chronicling the adventures of Buddy the Cat and his various criminal enterprises.