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Cat Docs

Netflix and chill with your cat: a trio of recent, award-winning cat documentaries are must-stream viewing for cat lovers

By: Tracey Tong

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Featured Photos: Mye Hoang

A plethora of incredible cat documentaries have taken over the small screen. These three recent, critically acclaimed releases—Cat Daddies, Cat People, and Inside the Mind of a Cat—all get two (non-opposable) thumbs up. Cuddle up with your feline friends and prepare to be entertained.

Cat Daddies (2022)

Forget the stereotype of single ladies surrounded by cats. The men in director and co-producer Mye Hoang’s debut documentary feature are all proud cat daddies, a diverse group of men whose lives have been changed by their feline friends.

This heartwarming portrait of male cat ownership offers a look into the lives of male cat owners during the challenging early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when people needed hope and companionship. Nine cat dads from all walks of life—a firefighter, a truck driver, a Hollywood stuntman, an ad executive-turned-cat rescuer, a police officer, a software engineer, an actor/Instagram influencer, a school teacher and a disabled immigrant living on the streets of New York City—each shares their story of unconditional love for their cats.

 

Photo: Birdo/Netflix

Hoang—herself a cat lover and owner of six former strays—wanted to demonstrate that being a cat person has no gender. “I’ve always loved seeing images of men holding and loving their cats,” says the L.A.-based filmmaker. “I think a lot of men can love cats but don’t have the personal experience to realize this.”

One of her goals for Cat Daddies was to dispel current ideas of what manliness looks like. Men and cats can have a bond just like a man and a dog, Hoang says. “I think people don’t know just how affectionate, emotional, and loyal cats can be.”

The featured cats also challenge what cats are able to do. Tora goes off-roading in a Jeep in Arizona; Zulu jumps into Hoang’s open car as soon as they meet; many of the cats wear custom creations sewn by their male owners. 

Photo: Robert Bennett

Each duo shares a deep bond. Firefighter Jordan Lide says he doesn’t know what each day on the job will bring but that petting his cat brings his blood pressure down. David Giovanni, who had been homeless for two years, and his cat, Lucky—whom he credits with saving his life—have an especially touching story. “He feels incredibly lucky, even in his situation, because of that unconditional love he has with his cat,” says Hoang. “And the film has attracted even more friends and strangers that love him and root for him.” A police officer who is friendly with the homeless man is a fellow cat dad. The pair find commonality in talking about their cats.

A winner at a multitude of international and indie film fests, Cat Daddies is a crowd favourite. “With the rise of cat conventions and cat video festivals, I knew a cinematic documentary about cats was a great way to bring the cat community together,” says Hoang. “I love the energy when cat people gather. There’s nothing else like it.”

Inside the Mind of a Cat (2022)

Photo: Courtesy from Netflix

They pounce, purr, and play. But what’s going on in those cute fuzzy heads? Do we really understand our cats’ motivations, needs, and desires?

Inside the Mind of a Cat, a feature documentary directed by four-time Emmy Award-winning director, cinematographer, producer, writer, and storyteller Andy Mitchell aims to demystify cats, with experts unpacking everything from their genetics to their history as house pets. The results are riveting. This captivating look at our feline housemates was the No. 7 movie on Netflix in the U.S. and in the Top 10 globally when it was released last August.

A new generation of scientists—experts in feline physiology, behaviour, evolution, and intelligence—are working to uncover the mysteries of the cat, “from their remarkable anatomy, and what gives them their supernatural abilities—to their intelligence and just how well they stack up against their canine rivals,” says Vermont-based Mitchell. “We dive deep into the origin of the human-cat relationship and run a series of experiments to discover just how deep our bond runs.” Spoiler alert: “Turns out, yes, they do love us,” laughs Mitchell.   

Until recently, cats were largely ignored by the scientific community, but in the past decade, there has been a boom in cat science, says the documentary. Every year, new and amazing revelations come to light, in a broad range of areas including a cat’s intelligence and their bond with humans. “New and surprising facts about domestic cats are surfacing that needed to be told,” says Mitchell of his inspiration to make the film.

Photo: Courtesy from Netflix

The documentary was filmed in the U.S., Istanbul, Scotland, Paris, and Japan—the latter where cats are a cultural phenomenon and the No. 1 pet. “Our love affair with cats goes back 10,000 years and I think it’s stronger today than ever before,” says Mitchell. “The whole world has an obsession for cats.”

With the help of experts, the documentary celebrates cats, reveals surprising insights, dispels myths, and answers longstanding questions about cats: Do cats always land on their feet? Can you train a cat? How do they measure up against their canine counterparts? Do cats actually love us? It also weaves in hands-on advice to help cat owners co-exist with their feline friends.

Viewers discover that cats are supernaturally flexible (thanks to an extra vertebrae) and are able to activate 100 percent of their muscles when they jump. Stories of cats through the ages—the origins of their relationship with humans; why they’re associated with witches; how they once went toe to toe with a Pope—fascinate.

“Cats have an ability to survive, to understand, to manipulate, and to love—far greater than most people ever imagined,” says Mitchell. “There’s a reason they’re one of the 10 most successful mammals to ever walk the Earth, and why many believe them to be man’s real best friend.”

Cat People (2021)

Photo: Courtesy from Netflix

Six people from different areas of the world, each with their own backgrounds and unique life experiences, have one thing in common: they are self-declared cat people and the subjects of the 2021 Netflix series. But they’re all far from the stereotypical isolated cat lady. 

In the first episode, Cat Rappers Delight, Cat Rapper Dwayne Molock (@iammoshow to his nearly half a million followers on Instagram), writes songs about how much he loves his five cats. Samantha Martin, a charmingly self-deprecating cat rescuer who also runs a travelling show called the Amazing Acro-Cats and a cat band, The Rock Cats, stars in episode two. And episode three features Sachi, the Japanese artist behind Wakuneco who is gaining fame for her incredibly realistic needle-felted portraits of cats. Her work, painstakingly done whisker by individual whisker, frequently memorializes cats who have passed. [Check out our profile on her incredible work.]

Photo: Courtesy from Netflix

Episode four, Paws for the Cause, shares the story of Sterling Davis, known as the Trap King, a cat rescuer and advocate working to bridge the animal-welfare organizations of the world. In an episode titled Catwabunga!, a Bengal cat named Maverick has a job as an emotional support animal—and surfing buddy.

Each story dispels stereotypes while celebrating the deep love for cats that has dictated fascinatingly unconventional life paths.

This article originally appeared in the award-winning Modern Cat magazine. Subscribe today!

By: Tracey Tong
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