Last Updated on: September 21, 2014 by Ingrid King
Even in an election year, cute pets trump political differences. This past Thursday, hundreds of Congressional staffers and a few politicians gathered in the Cannon House Caucus Room for the annual Pet Night on Capitol Hill celebration, hosted by the Animal Health Institute. Each year, the event features a celebrity cat and dog, and winners of the annual Cutest Pets on Capitol Hill contest are announced.
I was lucky enough to be invited to this gathering for the second year in a row, and as was the case last year, I had a wonderful time.
Of course, the highlight of the event for me was meeting Orion, the cat who plays Buttercup in The Hunger Games movie, and his stunt double, Josh. Yes, Orion has a stunt double! Carol Tresan, Orion’s trainer, explained that the stunt double is used for scenes where the cats are required to sit for very long periods of time. I was absolutely amazed at how relaxed these two gorgeous cats were in a setting that was anything but relaxing. They posed for photos with attendees for two hours. Having a stunt double came in handy, as one cat could get a break behind a screen away from the hustle and bustle of the party while the other continued to pose.
Orion’s guardian, Cain, is clearly very proud of her special boy. Orion is a 9-year-old former show cat, which partially explains why he took being adored by hundreds of people in stride. As for his Hollywood life, Cain revealed that Jennifer Lawrence, the star of the Hunger Games movies, was completely enamored with Orion, and often spent time with him on the set. “Every time she came by, she said ‘can I hold him? I love him!'”, said Cain. According to Cain, Orion is especially good at “down” and “stay.” There’s a scene in the movie where Buttercup sits on a mountain. “When you see him on that mountain, Orion had been sitting there for eight hours,” said Cain. “That’s pretty amazing for a cat.”
Carol, who has trained dogs, elephants and all sorts of exotic animals, said that training cats it the most challenging. She uses only positive reinforcement. “They’re kind of similar to husbands. You have to make them think it’s their own idea,” said Carol.
Even though we’re all about cats, I should mention that the celebrity dog Marti, who plays Sandy in the upcoming remake of the musical Annie, was a very sweet and incredibly well behaved dog. However, the difference between cats and dogs was never more apparent than during the photo sessions: while Marti’s trainer managed to get the dog to look at the camera for almost every single photo, Carol and Cain weren’t quite as successful, despite using copious amounts of treats and sparkly wand toys.
The highlight of the evening for most attendees was the announcement of the winners of the Cutest Pets on Capitol Hill contest. A Scottish Fold cat named Cusco from Rep. Mike Honda’s (D-Calif.) office was selected cutest cat.
Capitol Hill’s cutest dog was Phineas from Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D-Calif.) office, and the cutest exotic animal went to Martini, a six-month-old Dutch rabbit from the office of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
I had a great time meeting other attendees and enjoying the incredible food, but time and time again, I found myself drawn back to where the cats were being photographed. As far as I’m concerned, these two gorgeous Maine Coon cats were the stars of the evening.
About Animal Health Institute: The Animal Health Institute (AHI) represents companies with an interest in veterinary health. Their members develop and produce the medicines that help pets live longer, healthier lives and contribute to safe food by keeping food animals healthy.
Photo credits: photo of AHI president Alexander S. Mathews with Rep. Dina Titus (Dem-Nev) and photo of Cusco courtesy of AHI, all other photos ©Ingrid King
Conscious Cat Sunday will return next week.
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.