What better way to celebrate International Cat Day 2019 than to speak with the man behind the beloved Instagram account, @NathanTheCatLady.
Actor Nathan Kehn has gained a big online following (over 177,000 followers on Instagram) thanks to his hilariously quirky cat-related posts. The account stands not only as an entertaining space for all feline fans, but a testament to Nathan’s prolific creative mind and effortless on-screen affability.
Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge caught up with Nathan to chat about creating content with cats, his previous career as a runway model, doing stunt work for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and much more.
Q: I noticed that your cats only started popping up on your Instagram account in the last year or so. What led you to transform your account into this creative cat-loving space?
A: I started putting my cats on my page more because it really seemed to be what people wanted to see. I was originally only posting my acting and a few skits by myself. But I had two cat videos go viral, and after that they seemed to be the videos that did the best.
Also, whenever I would post without them I would get a bunch of comments asking where the cats were and what they were up to. So one day I decided to just embrace it and change my name to Nathan The Cat Lady, which I was totally fine with because they were already a big part of my life.
Q: Princess, Annie, Ginger and Pickles are the four cats who star on your account. Can you give us insight into their personalities and life living with them?
A: My four cats all definitely have their very own distinct personalities.
Pickles, of course, is the only male and definitely the boss of the house. I can always count on him to wake me up and yell at me when it’s time to be fed. But he has his soft side too, most nights he finds time to come over and snuggle up on my chest on the couch where we can trade pets.
Ginger would definitely be the mom of the house. She is always concerned with what the other cats are doing and checking in on them. She is also the biggest snuggler out of all of them and always insists she gets a good spot on my bed at night when it’s time to hit the Hay.
Annie is the shy one, which is understandable because she was a stray as a kitten and still has that side to her. But over the last two years, she has really turned around and has started to figure out what it’s like to be a part of the family. She follows Pickles and Ginger around to follow their lead and recently discovered her favorite spot in the house is strapped to my knee while I’m sitting on the couch.
Then there is Princess who is just a nut. She is always jumping around or chasing something. But even Princess, when her battery is empty, will come curl up on a lap and start sucking her thumb and purring.
Q: I think even cat critics (yes, they do exist) can appreciate the humour and creativity of your posts, particularly your use of music. What typically goes into a post? Is it a spontaneous or meticulously planned process?
A: Truth be told, when I am coming up with video ideas, often they start out just as a song. I definitely let music influence my ideas, which can often be tricky with copyright and only being able to use 15 seconds of a song.
Usually, when I am coming up with an idea, I will start scrolling through songs and just picture funny things that could be happening to the song. I’m sure people at the gym must think I’m crazy when I get a funny idea listening to music on the bench and start laughing out loud for no reason. That’s usually how it starts and then I have to decide how to shoot it, what I can actually get the cats to do and then the hard part is finding a song to lay over that is royalty free that still gives the same vibe.
Q: Are the cats good co-stars? Or do they take some persuading?
A: The cats always need to be persuaded in some way or another to film.
Pickles and Princess are definitely the easiest of the four when it comes to getting them into character, but even with them when they are done they are done. I usually wait until they seem like they are hungry or in a playful mood before I start filming and then I will use treats or a meat tube. Unless of course I’m playing them like a xylophone, in which case four bowls of tuna goes a long way.
Q: Which Instagram posts are you most proud of?
A: The posts on my page I’d say I am most proud of would probably be Lights Out parody, the Beethoven one, and the Celine Dion singing one.
The Lights Out one is where I awake in the middle of the night to a scary meow to see the shadow of a cat and then when the light goes on its gone. This one was just so much fun to shoot and I really think it came together well.
The Beethoven one with Princess and the bunny ears hat still makes me laugh to this day. Just the fact that I got her to start pulling on the hat at the most dramatic part was priceless.
Finally, the Celine Dion singing with Pickles was just perfect timing. I was on my way out the door to go to an audition and turned on that song which caused Pickles to start yelling at me. I didn’t expect him to pitch in as much as he did while filming but I don’t think I could have timed that any better.
Q: Asides from Instagram, you are a successful actors with notable roles in ‘Grief’ and ‘Then There’s College’. Do you get a different kind of enjoyment out of acting than you do Instagram?
A: Acting on screen or in a commercial is most definitely a different kind of enjoyment for me. I love filming with my cats and coming up with my own content.
That being said, it is also extremely rewarding having to audition and earn a role and then getting to help someone else’s idea come to life. Not only that but filming with a tripod in my living rooming is way different then, for instance, when I shot a commercial for Jurassic World Alive. I was literally the only actor in the scene, we had blocked off a huge section of Echo Park that had gathered a crowed to watch, as well as ten Universal producers watching on screen. There was a giant crane and sun blocker to film the perspective of the T-Rex and it was all very overwhelming – but amazing.
I will always love filming videos in my living room with my cats, but the feeling I get with a full crew backing me up will always be special.
Q: I was interested to hear you were a model during Fashion Week in New York. What memories do you have from that experience and being a model in general? Any fun stories?
A: I don’t think you could be a model in New York and not walk away with a bunch of funny stories. In fact, my whole career as a model is full of funny stories. Whether it was having to take off my shirt in a crowded coffee shop for my new agent so they could tell me all the things wrong with my body, or the angry photographer that was mad I wouldn’t shoot nudes and snapped at me.
Modeling is a job for the thick skinned, and you always had to be willing to laugh at yourself and the situation. I was in New York during fashion week but only did a few runway shows. Runway was always tricky for me because I never liked having that cocky “I’m the shit” look on my face. So I often was smiling or laughing on the walk back down the runway.
At the end of the day, living in New York really tested me more that I could have ever prepared for. To put it in perspective, fourteen guys living in a two bedroom model house, taking the subway to Queens every day to work a part-time job and hit the gym and make castings and still having to eat PB&J four meals a day because your broke.
I’m definitely glad that I went there for a year because I’d like to think I grew from it, but I hope it’s something I never have to go through again.
Q: People who watch your Instagram might not have you pegged as a martial arts badass – but you are. Is martial arts a good release away from your creative endeavours?
A: I have always loved martial arts and weapons training. I don’t bring it up too often because it tends to make people uncomfortable, but I love that side of me. It is definitely a nice release from all the day to day stress and there is a confidence you get from fight training that really carries over into being on camera.
Due to a recent shoulder injury training Parkour, I haven’t been able to fight. But as soon as I’m back to par, I hope to get back to fight training and maybe even pick up some more stunt gigs.
Q: Speaking of stunt gigs, you had one on the popular TV series ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’. What was it like being on that set?
A: Working on Brooklyn Nine-Nine was a really cool experience for me. One thing I love about LA is that one day you can be filming cat videos and the next you can be playing a drug dealer getting tackled by a swat team next to Andy Samberg.
Q: What are your hopes and plans for the future?
A: I have no idea what the future holds for me and – to be honest – I’m just going one day at a time. But in a perfect world I would love to be a full-time actor, whether that means on a TV show or multiple movies every year. It really is the thing that makes me the happiest and I want to do everything I can to make that work.
I would also love to continue my cat page after seeing how many people really do enjoy it. I would hate to lose that connection with people from all around the world.
Finally, as long as I’m being greedy, I would love to use this reach to help animals in some fashion. Open a rescue, or even just use my reach to help grow the rescues that are really doing amazing things to help animals.
Q: And finally, what do you love and appreciate most about cats?
A: I think what I love most about cats is that they are not always easy to get along with. You really do have to learn to read their body language and calculate how to approach them and earn their trust and respect. After a while you really do learn how to understand and communicate with them, which makes it really rewarding when you can get a grumpy or stubborn cat to finally show you some affection.
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