This feature first appeared in GamesMaster magazine.
It’s almost unfair how much attention dogs got in games last year. D-Dog, Dogmeat and now we’ve got this year’s Home Free to look forward to. It’s time to level the pegging somewhat. We caught up with Freyu, the feline gaming wear professional responsible for Tumblr’s Cat Cosplay (opens in new tab), to find out exactly why he doesn’t get turned into a human version of exceptionally fine pasta when he puts a Pip Boy on his pet’s paws.
Based in Seattle, Washington in the USA, Cat Cosplay’s Tumblr has been running a mere seven months but the team has been at work a lot longer than that. “Cat costuming for us has been going for five years. It started when we took our tortoiseshell out for a few street faires as a shoulder cat - she rides on my shoulders in public,” explains Freyu.
“Since she enjoyed getting out we started taking her everywhere. Going to a Renaissance Faire that year I bought a small dog Jack Sparrow costume for her so we could all go dressed up. The response was overwhelming from people wanting pictures with her. So much so I became unhappy with the costume and by the next weekend of the faire we returned with a handmade dragon costume with poseable wings and over 300 metal scales hand stitched on (that match her fur color).... Cat Cosplay was born from this and the desire I have to create. Building human cosplay can take hundreds to thousands of dollars. Here I can make the costumes in my head for a fraction of that cost and people enjoy them so much more.”
And while most cosplayers have to stick to one costume over months, cat cosplay means outfits are much smaller and Freyu can work much faster. Fallout 4, Assassin’s Creed, Batman, Pokemon and Back To The Future are only a handful of the costumes that he has worked on for his furry models recently. But who is the talent? Do they ask for only Cravendale milk in their dressing rooms?
“Nak is our tortoiseshell calico. She is a real sweetheart. She’s great with the public and very good communicating with me when she needs breaks and downtime,” Freyu says. “Fawkes, adopted on Guy Fawkes Day and he has the little goatee, is our tuxedo cat. He's about four now. When we adopted him we thought he would be a magnificent shoulder cat based on his kitten antics. But he never developed the balance for it and he's terrified of everything outside of our house. He's far too much of a scaredy cat to be a performer outside. But inside he has quite the swagger and gift for photoshoots.”
Looking at the shoots themselves, we’d swear there was some kind of sorcery at work as the cats happily pose in ridiculously complex costumes. Does Freyu put something, well, dreamy in their Dreamies? Apparently it’s all about positive reinforcement and Freyu’s cats even now wait at the set if it looks like he’s building a shoot that might involve some nice rewards. “Ask anyone who's worked with animals and its touch and go. Actors can wait hours to have an animal ready to shoot a scene for a TV show or movie,” he says. “I have the cats trained to noise and treats to get them to look certain directions after I pose them. But more often than not they'll hear an external noise and move. For every picture you see there's about five to twenty that I've deleted.”
While that Fallout cosplay looks like it must have taken at least 200 years in a vault, the Legend Of Zelda costume was Freyu’s biggest project to date. “Ganondorf was definitely the most challenging because I was learning foam as I did it,” he explains. “It was a costume that I taught myself several new crafting techniques with as well as made a ton of mistakes along the journey. It took more than 40 hours to finish.”
Freyu has a stack of tips for us if we fancy dressing up our feline friends and keeping them happy at the same time but it’s not going to always be easy. “Start small,” he warns. “Make an Assassin's Creed hood that’s just draped around their shoulders like a collar. Or a fancy armor torque collar. Or a Batman cape. There’s three big rules: Easy on, easy off - You have to be able to take it off within a split second. Velcro etc. It's important for your pet’s safety. Know your pet’s sensitive areas - every cat has an the area they don't like having petted or an area that is sensitive (whiskers, top of the head). When you're making something for the pet the costume needs to be either loose around these areas or avoid them altogether if you want your pet to wear it.”
“Finally, make it a positive thing. If you put the costume on have something ready to play with them immediately or their favorite treat at hand,” he continues. “All too often you see animals forced into a costume and just photographed. They aren't having fun. Why would they want to do it again? You have to know what your pet likes to do. Costuming is a thing that we humans enjoy, so it's figuring out a compromise with your pet where you both have fun at it.”
Freyu makes whatever cosplay comes to mind but does take requests so if your moggy just isn’t playing ball when it comes to your favourite costume, you can suggest a suit on Tumblr. All the fun and none of clawmarks? Purrfect.