The latest iteration of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary has been receiving extremely mixed reviews but one thing we can all agree on? How awesome it was that the cat actors were all from the shelter.
Although ultimately four cats were used to play Church, two emerged as the stars. There’s Leo, who became the “poster child” for undead Church. And then there’s Tonic, who played the family cat. (The two understudies were Jaeger for action scenes and JD for “quiet staring”).
When it came to finding the kitties, the two cat trainers Kirk Jarrett and Melissa Millett explained that they were determined to turn to the shelters due to the huge cat overpopulation in the country.
Melissa told the A.V. Club,
“Each cat has their own story. JD was left in an apartment — somebody moved out and just left him there for months. A neighbor fed him for a while before calling the humane society. So he’s so desperate for attention.”
As for Tonic, he was found as a stray in the streets.
After being rescued, the cats were all treated like royalty on set. They had their own air-conditioned trailer to keep them cool in between takes and were constantly cuddled and given attention.
Since the cats were rescues, the trainers went to great lengths to help the cats build their confidence.
“At first, we took them home from the shelters and just let them taste freedom for a little while and be cats. Then, in order to start the training, the first step was to have catnip parties. We’d come in and lay out mats and we’d cover them up with catnip just to say, ‘hey, I’m fun to be around. This room is fun.'”
“We just had to make sure that all of our kitties we were able to acquire had the confidence, and wanted to be in the position.”
The trainers also worked closely with the American Humane Association, as well as a team of vets, to ensure that everything from the shampoo to the makeup was safe for the cats.
Since the film wrapped, all of the cats have been officially adopted — three of the kitties were actually adopted by Kirk and Melissa.
To learn more about adopting cats in your area, head to the ASPCA’s website.