Have you ever thought of including your cat in your engagement photos or proposal? Most of us are used to dogs being included in wedding festivities, but unless your cat is an adventure cat most people don’t plan on having their cat hold up a save the date sign or walk down the aisle with them.
And there’s valid reasoning for this. It’s important to consider your cat’s personality and what will make them feel safe and happy. Most cats, unless outgoing in personality or conditioned through training, are used to being at home and would feel stressed by being outside much less at a wedding. That being said, with the right planning and tools many cat owners are finding creative ways to include their cherished feline family members in the celebration.
When searching for inspiration I may have spent an unhealthy amount of time on Instagram in the #catwedding hashtag, as well as annoying my fiancé with all the pins that included weddings with cats in them.
After looking at all the wonderful inspiration, I considered my cats’ personalities and what was realistic for them. Our wedding is being held in Austin, which is about a 4 hour drive from where we live so I knew there was no way I was getting Leon to ride in a car for that long and walk down the aisle with me or Luna to go outside on a leash wearing a flower crown in our timeframe–maybe even their lifetime. So I decided the best way to include them in our wedding celebration was through an at home engagement session.
When I started searching for a wedding photographer, one of the criteria was that they were comfortable photographing animals – but more importantly that they had the patience to work with animals. When I first talked with our wonderful photographer, Micahla Vaughn, she had a warmth and calmness about her that put me at ease which I knew the cats would pick up on as well. She admittedly had only photographed dogs before our session, but I had a good feeling by how enthusiastic she was to work our cats in to the shoot.
If I remember correctly, she ended up walking away from the shoot with a totally new perspective on how sweet and cool cats are – which I get a lot. Even my fiancé had to be converted to a cat person due to some bad experiences with cats, but I’ll save that topic for another post.
DSLR cameras used by most professional photographers make a lot more noise than your cell phone or point-and-shoot camera does which can unnerve some cats. In my cats’ case, I’ve been photographing them most of their life so they associate me bringing out my DSLR with treats and have been desensitized to the shutter noises of the camera.
If you have a shy cat or one that is sensitive to new noises, try desensitizing them by giving them a treat each time you play a camera noise. Another important thing to ask when choosing your photographer is if they use flash and if they can use natural light instead. Their answer may depend on your space and how much light it lets in. In our apartment at the time, we had a wall that was a floor to ceiling window which let in tons of natural light.
Tricks & Training
Depending on how much time you have, you can train your cat to do certain behaviors like walk on a leash or desensitize them to having strangers over. But if you don’t have enough time before the event or photoshoot you can train smaller tricks too.
For instance, there was a particular photo I had in mind based on my inspiration where I wanted Leon to have my ring on his paw. Knowing how sensitive Leon is about his paws, I started doing clicker training a month or two before the shoot was scheduled to desensitize him to having me place the ring on his paw. I would touch the ring to his paw and if he didn’t pull away I would click then treat. I eventually tried to increase the duration. I wasn’t super diligent about the training so we only had about a 15-20 second timespan to work with before he would pull away. Thankfully Micahla was able to work with me to time it just right and get the shot. When she showed me the proof on her camera screen a gasp of pure joy and aww escaped my mouth. It was totally worth it and possibly my favorite shot from the whole shoot. A perfect symbol of the two loves of my life – my partner and my cats.
Favorite Treats or Toy:
Try to keep the treats to a minimum but if you notice your cat is hesitant or bored bring out their favorite treat for some extra motivation. Sometimes cats are more motivated to engage with play. You can get some great candid shots of you and your partner laughing at your cat’s antics.
If you’ve trained a particular behavior like I tried to do with the ring on the paw, keep your clicker handy (or make a clicking noise with your mouth) to let cat know you’re doing a training session and to reinforce the behavior you want.
Harness, Leash, Collar & Microchip:
If you’re in an unfamiliar location, whether you’re outdoors or indoors, always make sure your cat is safe in a harness. A secondary tether to their collar from the harness can be a good failsafe if the cat manages to wiggle out of the harness. In the worst case scenario that they get spooked and end up lost make sure they have identification such as a collar and microchip so they have a higher chance of making it back home.
Time & Patience:
Ultimately, it just takes time and patience from everyone involved. As their guardian, if something goes wrong always do what’s best for your cat. If it’s your wedding day, prepare a safe place for them and assign someone you trust and that they know to take care of them if they get overwhelmed. If it’s an engagement shoot, allow them space if they go in to hiding. Ultimately, you know your cat best and their limits but also be prepared to accept that you may have to celebrate or do photos without them.
HOW OUR ENGAGEMENT SHOOT WENT
The day of the shoot my fiancé and I went to a local cactus garden for photos with just the two of us before heading back to my apartment to take photos with the cats. When we got back to the apartment we did a wardrobe change which allowed the cats to meet our photographer and get comfortable with a stranger in the house.
As I expected, Luna was more hesitant to be a part of the photos and was more interested in birdwatching. The cat tree is her favorite spot because it’s near the window and is a safe spot to watch all the action from. So our photographer and I went over to her instead and captured some precious detail shots of her and my engagement ring.
My ultimate goal was to let the cats dictate how much involvement they wanted, however I really wanted to have a photo with all four of us in it. I knew I had about a 2 minute window to pick them up and hold them for this shot. Thankfully our photographer was quick on her feet and captured some really great shots here. We might have snuck in some neck scratches for some extra time before they told us they’d had enough by wiggling out of our arms.
Based on my past experience with the cats and photoshoots like this I did not use treats this time in order to get them to relax just be themselves instead of being overly excited and obsessive about treats in our hands. As I think you can tell it worked as I had hoped. They were definitely just being themselves – especially Leon with his full belly display and playing with the controller cords.
Towards the end of our session, I did pull out Luna’s favorite treats when we were on the bed to entice her up there for some more photos. Ultimately you just have to read your cats in the moment and they will tell you when they’ve had enough or when they need more motivation to continue participating.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these photos as much as I have. I will definitely treasure these photos forever and think it was a fun way for us to include our cats in the celebration of our love. I definitely have to give Micahla Vaughn all the credit for how these photos turned out. Her patient, calming presence and talent with the camera made it easy to trust her to capture these special moments.
If you are planning on including your cat in your wedding I’d love to hear your plans. And if you included your cat in your wedding, or didn’t, I would also love to hear your stories on what you did and why and how you would or wouldn’t do things differently now.
ABOUT MICAHLA VAUGHN PHOTOGRAPHY
Micahla Vaughn is located in North Louisiana and services all couples in Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas. Micahla learned to love natural light and all things French inspired. She began to photograph weddings & sessions in 2010, and fell in love with people in love. Micahla has one goal at every wedding – to uniquely capture all of the special emotions and details.