Q & A with Alana Grelyak, Creator of CATastrophes Web Series
When you see a commercial about stray cats or dogs (set to the tune of Sarah McLachlan, of course), what do you do?
Change the channel? Grab your dog tightly and sob into his fur while screaming, ‘Why, world, why?!’ ? (No? Just me, then).
They should make you tune in and laugh. Which is why the adoptable cats in her videos are zombies, time travelers, and the reason you lost your job this morning.
We talked to Grelyak about everything from comedy to filming, and cat nutrition to her special needs kitty, Crepes, the writer of the award-winning blog, CatInTheFridge.com.
The Honest Kitchen: So, how did you get your start in the film industry?
Alana Grelyak: I’ve been acting for a long time, and I’ve been a writer for a very long time. Six years ago, I met my current husband, and he was making films on his own. So, we kind of decided to combine what we’re doing. We started entering film festivals, and then a cat film festival came up, and I had an awesome idea that I really wanted to do for a cat video. We’ve been really involved with Catdance for the last four years. I really just combined my natural love of cats and animals [with filming] and it worked out really well.
THK: Why did you decide to combine comedy with a (normally) serious topic like animal welfare?
AG: Humor is something I do everyday, and it’s always coming out of me. I pretty much make fun of anything, anywhere, at any time. It seemed like a natural thing for me to do. So, I try to make things very light-hearted and humorous to get people to continue reading about rescues, watching, looking, and learning while making them not feel bad about it. I want them to feel good and not run away from it.
THK: Have you seen an increase in adoptions since starting your web series and blog?
AG: I can’t personally track who’s been adopted since I’m not a rescue, but I’ve had rescues say a cat was adopted because of me, because of my posts. They say ‘Your writing got somebody to take this cat home’. And a lot of people have sponsored cats because of my posts, which is the next best thing to adopting one. Overall, what we’re trying to do is get the message [about adoption] out there.
THK: How do you come up with all those quirky scenes for your videos?
AG: My cats. Most of the time, Michael, the director and co-creator, and I are joking around about our cats. The best question we ask is ‘What If?’ and then we run from there. For the most part, we just goof around and tell stories.
THK: Your cats seem so natural at acting. How do you train them?
AG: Well, first of all, we always put the cat’s comfort first. Kittens are pretty easy to handle. If we’re using adoptable cats, we ask the rescues to send us cats with a certain temperament. And they’ll usually bring a foster parent who knows the cat a little bit better and can help us. With my own cats, I write the stories around their personalities. I already know what they’re willing to do, or wiling to wear, where they’re willing to sit, and for how long. Other than that, we encourage them with positive reinforcement…lots of treats and lots of pets.
THK: What drew you to advocate for special needs cats on your blog, Cat in the Fridge?
AG: It wasn’t something I set out to do. But we were fostering Crepes, our special needs, three-legged kitty. Just watching her overcome all these things… it was neat, and an uplifting experience to see a cat, that many people would discard, turn out to be such a cool little friend. It became important to me because I met Crepes. And then Crepes started the blog. She writes it.
THK: Can you describe what it’s like caring for a special needs cat?
AG: I think that answer would vary depending on the special needs you have. We keep Crepes on a good diet. I’m not even lying; Honest Kitchen’s goat’s milk is awesome. For her stump, she has learned pretty well how to get around without injuring it. We do pain management, natural therapies, and keep up with vet visits. It can take a lot of time, but at the same time, if you’re prepared, it’s not that big of a sacrifice.
THK: So cat nutrition and health is pretty important to you?
AG: I’m a raw advocate and a big proponent of natural eating. Is it food? That’s my one question. My cats are carnivores. They don’t need corn and a bunch of junk in their food. The fewer the ingredients and the less necessary to prepare it, the better. Fish oils, probiotics, and goat’s milk—love it. I try to be as natural as what my cats would be eating in the wild—without having to go out and trap a mouse.
THK: It sounds like you have a lot on your plate. What’s your secret?
AG: There’s been a lot going on. I’m still learning how to do it, and I’ve had to tell myself, it’s okay not to get everything done. If I tried to be strict about everything, I’m not going to be happy. And then my writing isn’t good or funny. We try to manage our time efficiently, but at the same time, it’s okay if we skip a day. It’s been a hard thing to learn, but really produces better work in the long run.
THK: Anything new or fun coming up?
AG: I’m excited about refreshing my blog. With spring coming, I’m looking to see if we could do some more fostering since we have a little extra space. We have new scripts for the web series that we’re hoping to put out soon. And I’d like to pick up my Ukrainian language studies again.
Need a good laugh? Check out the video that was the catalyst for the web series here.