In the Cake Panel conversation we did with the directors of the new PET SEMATARY film Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmeyer, we did touch on the subject of the cat Church who plays such a central role in the film.
But we didn't get to discuss HOW the cats who played Church were trained, and after the huge sensation they caused on social media, I wanted to learn more!
So how did the animal trainers for PET SEMATARY accomplish this tremendous feat of getting cats (which they say are the most difficult animals they've worked with, out of a lineup that includes birds, dogs, skunks and buffalo) to hiss on cue, stand in the right places, and stay focused? They discuss in the below video.
In another interview with the AV Club, Kirk and Melissa discuss special steps they had to take just for the film's hair and makeup needs (fur needs?):
AVC: I was going to ask—How do you keep a cat from licking themselves with makeup on?
MM: Before I got into movies—and live shows, which is my main job—I was an animal trainer for 20 years doing counter-conditioning and desensitization, which is a protocol for confidence. That’s what I do with family pets; I teach them to be less fearful, and more confident. For learning how to bathe, we’d do: Level one, we’re in a dry tub, and we’re having a catnip party. Level two, we’re in the tub having delicious treats. Level three, we’re enjoying those treats, and we’re dropping two drops of water on the cat, and so on.
It’s the same process for makeup. By the time the cat was wearing the makeup on set, it didn’t bother them, so they were able to focus and work without eating the edible makeup. They wouldn’t come out of their crates otherwise. It’s a very slow process, it’s how you have to work with cats.
Fascinating! Although I don't think my rescue cats have what it takes...