Sunday, November 6, 2011

Worth a Thousand Words

It's commonly accepted in rescue, I think, that cats get the short end of the stick. They don't enjoy quite the cherished position in society that dogs have received, and while small animals are even less valued, the number of homeless small animals is dwarfed by the number of homeless cats. Cats are rarely claimed, rarely fixed, and constantly multiplying. It's hard for them to stand out in the mewing, cage-climbing crowd.
Recently I was at the shelter and I was all up to date on the small animal photos and I thought, why not do the same for the cats?
With dogs, they get their photo taken by the incredibly talented Fred, and the staff do a write-up on the website for each one. For small animals, I do a photo and write-up for each one on the website, and I write a printed bio to attach to each cage.
People looking for a dog or small animal get to know each one individually before they even reach the shelter. But the cats are a blurry mass of intake photos, with no bios - most of them are lucky to get names on the site. This is certainly not the fault of staff. They are way too busy actually caring for these animals to write bios or wait and wait for the perfect photo.
That's why we have volunteers!
 I've done cat photos here and there for a while, but a few weeks ago I decided to try and get photos of every available cat, make sure their names are on the site and even write some web bios for the ones I knew.

It's really amazing what a difference a photo makes. When someone is looking for an animal, a good photo can catch their eye. People can connect to a cat through a photo alone. Intake photos are not great for this:
How can you resist this cat???
Intake photos are quick, taken for the purpose of letting people see if the cat matches their own cat who is missing.
Then hopefully when they move into adoption, volunteers update the photo. This cat in particular is absolutely gorgeous, I'm not sure my photo did her justice:
People also tend to make judgements on a cat based on a photo. If the cat looks angry in the photo, it must be an angry cat. It's a silly thing but a human tendency. This photo of Rose, for instance, could leave a very negative impression:
She looks simultaneously angry and scared out of her mind. And while Rose is a shy cat, and not the cuddliest girl in the world, she's not that bad. Plus she's absolutely gorgeous! She wasn't too pleased with posing for a photo but I think it turned out okay:
The point of this post is not to give myself a huge pat on the back or anything. My photos aren't mind-blowingly professional - the point is that they're an upgrade on the intake photos. They're more likely to catch adopter's eyes. They form a good impression before they even come to the shelter, and they say "these cats matter." They have names, photos and sometimes bios - they matter as individuals and they should be valued.
It's very easy to do photos at a shelter if you have a camera. You have more time than staff, so you're pretty much guaranteed to get some upgrades. A lot of people say they don't have time to volunteer weekly, they wish they could get involved, etc etc. Well here you go - take a couple of hours out of your day and head down to the local shelter with your camera. It doesn't take long and it might make a huge difference.
Out of the 27 cats listed on the website for TAS South, 17 of the photos are mine, and it only took a few quick sessions. They aren't great, but they're an improvement and maybe they'll catch someone's eye.
Anyway, enough preaching. There's another reason for posting cats right now:
TAS is having a big campaign for cats! Until November 13th, all cat adoptions are just $25. And of course they still come microchipped, spayed/neutered, licensed, dewormed and vaccinated. With that in mind, why don't we meet some of South's cats:
Cisco is a huge cuddler. He's only a year old, and such a lovebug. He also has his independent side, but pick him up and he'll melt in your arms.
Rosemary here is about 4 years old and has a lovely dignified way about her. She likes people (although she seems iffy with other cats) but she also likes to be on her own.
Czar looks magnificent, but is kind of a wimp. He has the most pathetic meow if you're not paying attention to him. I've actually photographed him twice - I did his photo at West a few months ago, and now he's at South because he was returned for some stupid reason. I think his owners got divorced? Anyway he's not very happy about being back. Plus he needs a shave now, poor guy.
Jewels is one of my favourites. She too looks magnificent, but her personality lives up to her looks. She is quite aloof and rather queenly, but she's a nice girl who will lie beside you to get her ears scratched, and she has a great deal of patience with being picked up or brushed.

This post is kind of all over the place but to sum up: If you have a camera and you want to get involved at a local shelter, offer to do photos. If you want a cat, there's a great deal at TAS and our cats are awesome!


Mel B said...

It is true that a good picture makes all the difference. Sometimes we have volunteers that take quick, blurry photos of their fosters in an effort to get them on the website, but it does very little good.

Good job with the photos, though. What a *huge* difference, especially with Rose!

Caroline said...

Beautiful photos Laura, they really show the cat's personality.

Anonymous said...

How would someone sign on to do the photos & bios for the cats?

My husband and I would be happy to help with this; we both have work-related backgrounds in photography, plus we do occasional volunteer work with another cat rescue organization. We'd really enjoy combining our two "hobbies" into one project!

Nicole said...

Hi Laura!

I have taken interest in your posts as it seems you are an animal lover! It would be wonderful if more pets this holiday season could find owners as great as you! I am a pet lover myself and work on Proctor & Gamble’s Pet Care program, Iams Home 4 the Holidays.
The program’s goal is to find forever loving homes for more than 1.5 million orphaned animals this holiday season.
As one of the world’s largest pet adoption campaigns, Iams Home 4 the Holidays has helped 6 million pets find homes across the globe to date. Since there are as many as a quarter of a million orphaned pets in Canada, Iams Home 4 the Holidays is encouraging families to adopt a pet this holiday season from a shelter or rescue group.

So how can you participate in the Iams Home 4 the Holidays program?
• By visiting the Iams Facebook page ( and clicking to “like” the page or various messages, photos, videos etc. For every “like” that is posted Iams will donate meals to participating animal shelters
• Spread the word about Iams Home 4 the Holidays with a post about this amazing program and encourage your readers and friends to visit a nearby shelter over the holidays

Please get in touch with me if you are interested in learning more about the Iams Home 4 the Holidays program. I can be reached at or (416) 934-8099.

Warmest regards,
Nicole (on behalf of Iams)