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Cats' Adventures & Travels 11

Cooper the
Photographer Cat


Cooper the photographer cat from Seattle, preparing for another mission

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Cooper the photographer cat relaxing Cooper, of Seattle, in Washington state in the US, was a cat with a mission: he took photographs. His owners, film-makers Michael and Deirdre Cross, wanted to find out what he got up to all day in his wanderings around the neighbourhood while they were at work; so they came up with the idea of fitting him with a special small, lightweight digital camera on his collar. He wore it on one day each week and it was set to take a picture automatically every two minutes. Encased in plastic to protect it from the weather and mounted on a special harness, there was no sign that the camera bothered Cooper at all: he was said to have handled it 'like a pro'.

Cooper and Michael Cross at the exhibition of his work in Seattle, 2009 Although naturally there were a lot of 'duds', with thousands of out-of-focus, dark or meaningless shots, on the whole the results from the 200 to 400 images a day were amazing — people's gardens (yards), busy streets, scenery — and on at least one occasion the cat seems to have spent a long time bird-watching! There were some spectacular successes, enough to produce several Flickr pages. Included was a great video of Cooper on a typical day: see A Day in the Life.

The Crosses set up a 'cat-cam slide show' that neighbours watching it thoroughly enjoyed, recognising their own houses and gardens from Cooper's unique perspective, six inches (15 cm) above the ground. In February-March 2009 some of his best shots were exhibited at a local art gallery; his work was also seen in London and of course online. He had a spot on Cats 101, an Animal Planet series on American TV, and in early 2011 on the same channel, Must Love Cats: Cat-tographer. Some of Cooper's efforts were for sale, and part of the proceeds went to benefit PAWS, an animal-welfare society in Seattle. From September 2009 until April 2010 Cooper's photos were on display at the Nature Museum in Chicago.

Results from his photos seemed to show that Cooper, a former stray, didn't seem to meet feline friends. He gained one important benefit from his 'work': an infra-red device on his collar that opened his cat door and allowed him — and only him — to get into his home. It had become obvious from early photos that he was spending hours outside the door waiting to be let in while his owners were out. Usually, said the Crosses, he was home 'at a reasonable hour'.

Cooper the cat with his camera One day in the middle of winter 2008/9 Cooper returned home with no camera, which had apparently fallen out of its case. This was a disaster! A replacement was quickly provided by the original suppliers and the feline pro was back in business. Some three months later, in the spring, a neighbour turned up with the missing device, which he had found in his garden. It had survived the rigours of a Seattle winter, and although unfortunately none of the photos had also survived, it was repaired and put back into use. It was preferred to the newer one as it had a shallower depth of field.

Cooper had his own blogspot, Cooper: Photographer Cat, with news, links and images (as of early 2020, there had been no entries since 2012).

From 2009 Cooper had his own video camera, which he used occasionally. Some of his CatCam films can be seen at his YouTube channel, including one short clip of him on a day's shooting, called On Location. A full-colour book of the best of Cooper's work was produced in late 2010, under the title Cat Cam; see a short promotional video.

Farewell Cooper

Cooper was 15 in 2019 and at that time was reported as still going strong, although his human Michael said he was 'taking it easy these days'. However, he was suffering from kidney problems, as is the case with many older cats, and in early January 2020 they got the better of him and it was felt best to put him to sleep. Michael said, 'His unique, outgoing personality swept us off our feet and he became a beloved member of our family. Somehow Cooper carried us all along on his photographic adventures and gave us a cat's-eye view of our neighbourhood and of the world.'

We understand that Cooper has been succeeded by two rescue cats, Dr Grant and Malcolm — but they probably won't be photographers! A short clip of the young pair can be seen at Cooper's Facebook page.

Cooper the Photographer Cat

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Our featured feline at the head of the page is Socks, pictured in 2003 surveying his 'estate' in the early morning sunshine. Affectionately known as Soxy, he blossomed from a thin and hungry stray into a substantial and handsome cat who loved life and company, and his gentle ways endeared him to many friends. He is no longer with us, but you can read more from his human companion here.

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