Shaina & Ryen: Behind the Brooklyn Animal Action’s Cats In Hats Project

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Fishman-CatsHats Blues Brothers

Getting a cute kitten to stay in one place for any length of time is a challenge.  Add trying to take a photograph, double the trouble.  But imagine, if you will, trying to put a hat on a kitten and then having is stay in relatively one place to capture that perfect portrait.  Well, that is exactly what photographer Shaina Fishman and stylist Ryen Blaschke set out to do.  Their project Cats In Hats has resulted in an adorable gallery of kittens in hats, all with the intention of bringing attention to these sweet little guys looking for forever homes and Brooklyn Animal Action.

I had the opportunity to interview Shaina about the project, how she and Ryen became involved, and where things are going from here.


Fishman-CatsHats Potter

LWC:  How did you come to the idea of the Cats In Hats Project?

Shaina Fishman: I’m always looking for rescue groups where I can volunteer my time and photography. I’ve worked with various shelters to bring attention to rescue and adoption. Normally I contact a shelter and see what I can do to help. This project was a bit different since I specifically wanted to work with a stylist and do something with props. I reached out to a friend asking if she knew any stylists that were also animal lovers. She introduced me to Ryen Blaschke. Ryen also volunteers with Brooklyn Animal Action.

Ryen and I bounced different ideas and concepts off each other. She told me about some felt hats that she had created for fun for her own cat. She shared the images of her cat wearing the felt hats and I fell in love with the creations. This concept incorporated her craft and styling skills and my photography. Together we came up with lists of iconic hats that would be tolerated by the cats.

Cats In Hats

LWC:  Had you a prior association with Brooklyn Animal Action or was this your first interaction?

SH:      This was my first interaction, but Ryen has been volunteering with them for a while.

LWC:  What were your initial thoughts in working on the project?

SH:      To create a lighthearted series to bring attention to cat rescue. A great image not only helps get individual cats adopted but also drives fosters, adoptions, volunteers, and donations. It can also create interest in the important work the shelter is doing

Fishman CatHat Slouch hat

LWC:  Was BAA involved with coming up with ideas?

SH:      BAA was not involved in the creative process, they just provided the cats. Ryen and I worked together to come up with a list of hats that were iconic, recognizable and current.

Fishman-CatsHats Maleficient

LWC:  Did you select your models or were they selected for you?

SH:      The shoots took place in the homes of the volunteers fostering cats and kittens. We went to homes that were housing a large number of cats & kittens. This gave us the most variety to choose from so we were able to select the cat that stylistically fit with the hat.

LWC:  Did the cats personalities play into their styling at all? Did you find you had to switch hats or ideas due to your models interests?


SH:      Yes, the coloring of the cats most definitely played into the selection. A few times we choose a cat, but the cat did not want to cooperate or wear the hat. We would then have to choose another one. Or we choose one and didn’t like how the hat looked and would choose a different cat.

The black cat was perfect for the maleficent horns and I couldn’t resist the orange cat for Trump, for the obvious reasons.

Fishman-CatsHats Trump

LWC:  I know that you have done work with animals in viewing your website, how was this foray compared to other experiences? Were the cats/kittens helpful, a handful, or a mix of both?

SH:      I absolutely love working with kittens. Although, there isn’t an animal that I don’t love to photograph. My specialty is photographing animals so I welcome any challenges that come with photographing a cat. You may not believe it but these kittens were all calm and seemingly enjoyed the attention and affection they received during the shoot. On my shoots there is always a plethora of treats, toys and behind the ear scratches. A comfortable and happy cat always makes for a better images.

LWC:  What was the goal with this project?  Has that been realized?

SH:      The goal of the project was to bring attention to cat rescue. Cute pictures always help a cat get adopted. It is always desirable to show the cat at his or her best. The bigger picture is that one great image can bring much needed attention to the rescue group or shelter. The image can help drive fosters, adoptions, volunteers, and donations. It can also create interest in the important work the shelter is doing. Finally, that one great image can change one person’s misconception about shelter animals. Shelters are not filled with bad cats and dogs but rather they are full of wonderful companions of all types of breeds, temperaments, sizes and ages.

Fishman-CatsHats Robin Hood

LWC:  Do you see other opportunities with this particular project in terms of bringing awareness to BAA, adopt don’t shop, and fundraising?

SH:      Ryen and I would like to continue this project. We have lists of hats and head pieces that we would like to put on cats. As you can imagine it is a joy working with the kittens and Ryen and I have fun collaborating.

LWC:  Any projects slated for the future with BAA?

Right now there is nothing in particular. When Ryen and I have the opportunity we’ll be shooting more cats in hats

Fishman-CatsHats Bobby Boy

LWC:  Is there anything additional about the project you would like to share?

SH:      Nothing more in particular about this project. From the start of my career I have always worked with shelters and rescue groups to promote their important work. I always have a project or concept in some stage of production and am constantly searching for the right shelter or rescue group to collaborate with. I’m also working on promoting my first book, Between Two Dogs, in stores now.

To learn more about Shaina and her work, please check out her website, Instagram, tumblr, and her new book, Between Two Dogs

To learn more about Ryen and her work, please check out her websiteblog, and pinterest sites.

To learn more about Brooklyn Animal Action, please check out their website and blog

Cats In Hats
All photos courtesy of Shaina Fishman for the Brooklyn Action Animal’s Cats In Hats project


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