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Cats

Many thousands of cats get hit by vehicles on our roads every year in the UK. In the last weeks I’ve heard about a Road Traffic Accident (RTA) on an online forum I frequent, and also had one of my clients contact me to take their now deceased pet off my books.

At least 4 cats owned by either me, or my family while I was growing up, were killed by cars and another three were badly injured but survived. But that was in NZ, here in the UK RTA’s do seem to occur less frequently.

About half of cats hit by cars will die from their injuries; many more survive but are permanently damaged having lost a leg, hip or tail. A few lucky felines recover completely from their injuries but most RTA survivors  become very wary of vehicles and roads for the rest of their lives. Of course, there are always exceptions.

It’s true that once you let your cat out of the house you have no control of where it goes but there are a number of things you can do to reduce the chances of your pet being run over or hit by a car.

1/ Consider keeping your cat as a house cat. A house cat never gets to go outside, and as such is not at risk of being run over. The downside to having an inside cat is that you do need to work a bit harder to look after your pet. You will have to change litter trays and make sure your cat gets enough exercise and doesn’t get bored. And if a house cat ever escapes outside, they will not be very streetwise so are probably in greater danger of being hit by a car than a cat allowed to roam freely.

Variations on the theme of keeping a cat indoors permanently include

a/allowing them outdoors only on harness and lead a few times a day

b/Building them a cat run so they can get outside but not roam free.

2/ Keep your cat in overnight. Most RTA’s happen at night so if you keep your cat in from dusk to dawn, you reduce the chances of your cat becoming a statistic. There is a very clever cat door that can sense when it’s night and when it’s day and locks itself at night!

3/ Have your cat neutered. Neutered cats roam less so are less likely to get run over.

4/If you move house, consider the road your potential house is on. A very busy road is less of a danger than one where traffic moves along it intermittently. Cats see a constant traffic flow as a kind of wall to be avoided, whereas a quiet road is seen as safe place to cross. Just because you have a large garden out the back doesn’t mean cats will never go out the front.

5/ Don’t allow your cat to lie or climb on stationary cars. Use a water pistol to train them not to sleep under cars or walk near them. If you come home and find your cat sitting in your driveway, shoo it away before you drive towards it. Putting the car in neutral so it can’t move, flashing lights and revving your engine can help persuade your cat that cars are scary, and should be avoided.

If you think your cat has been hit by a car, even if it seems fine, you should visit your vet for a check up.

And if you run over someone else’s cat, please stop and see if you can find the owner. A lot of cats manage to get themselves off the road when they are hit, and run for a short period of time but will collapse nearby. These cats will probably die without urgent veterinary attention so it’s probably more important to get them to a surgery than find an owner.

Paul Walker FMPA is one of the UK’s best pet photographers and author of the internationally selling book “Pet Photography Now”. He has extensive experience of photographing pets and animals with many different temperaments, from rescue dogs through to highly trained dogs at Crufts. His bespoke pet imagery and attitude to pet photography is well regarded, as are his crazy “animal wizardry tricks”. These have been learned and refined over many years, guaranteeing the personality of the pet will be more than just captured with a resulting set of professional images to treasure for a lifetime.

The Visiting Vet was lucky enough to get him to answer a number of questions about how to get the best  possible home photos of your pet.

1/ How do I get my pet to sit still?

Either obedience training, or food treats are the main two methods, though I always prefer the former method if the owner has put the work in.  For cats, it may well be food treats or perhaps after exercise a dog will be that bit more compliant.

2/ How do I get my pet to look at the camera ?

You need to entertain the pet’s senses, whether it be sound or smell (food).  I have a large repertoire of different sound makers together with other noises, its about arousing the pets curiosity.

3/ What’s the easiest way to get a good action shot?

Have another person throw an object that interests the pet from left to right in front of your line, so that the pet is running perpendicular to you.  Cameras often focus easier when the pet is running from left to right or right to left rather than straight at the camera.

4/ How do you photograph a black animal?

It really is all about the light and where it is falling on to the pet subject.  Black dogs and white dogs can be hard because you need to get the detail showing in the fur of the pet.  Sometimes you can have black and white pets and in such cases I’d opt to have the detail retained in the white fur.  The key is in setting the correct exposure with your camera and having the light in the direction that shows the level of detail required.

5/ How do you photograph a white animal?

Very similar to that of the black pet – get the correct exposure so the detail is retained in the white fur.  With a very high midday sun, sometimes positioning the white pet in an area with top shade can help reduce the harsh light that is falling from above.

6/ What’s the best way to get a good picture of a ‘small furry’ or reptile.

Often food is the main way of directing such pets, so observe the light and background and position the food in any area that will tempt the pet into such places.

7/ Is there anything I can do for a nervous or camera shy pet?

yes, take your time, be patient and gentle, do not move around too abruptly or make too loud a noise, build the session up gently and get the respect and trust of the pet.  Involve yourself in some of the pet’s favourite activities.

8/ How to get a good photo of a child and their pet?

Don’t they say “never work with children and animals” – think of ways that they could interact whether it be a child throwing a ball, running together etc..ensure that safety and welfare is key and that there are enough handlers to help out.

9/ Whats the best way to photograph fish in a tank?

Unless you are going to use an underwater camera, fish can be tricky, ensure the flash is turned off and ensure that the tank is illuminated or positioned next to an area of great light.  Fish often do not stay still for long periods but some great images can be taken around feeding time, you can easily position certain types of food in the best places in terms of light or backgrounds.  Tubifex worms are a great sight to see in the open mouth of a goldfish as it tussles with the food cube.

Paul takes photographs his subjects on location. He is based in Scotland but travels down to London 4 times a year.

Follow him on Facebook and Twitter or enquire about booking a session with him by clicking here.