Strays

The plot of Strays is based on a totally implausible premise that violates practically every rule of cat behavior. In an opening scene cats mill about an elderly woman who has fed and cared for them and deliberately cause her to fall to her death. They have done this dastardly deed presumable because they are territorial and want the place to themselves. The balance of the film focuses on a sequence of deliberate fiendish attacks by the cats upon any trespassers onto the cats' domain. Shortly after the old lady's demise, a young couple, Lindsey and Paul, buy this isolated country home through Lindsey's sister, Clair, a real estate agent. The couple move in with their three-year-old daughter, Tessa, and their family dog, Benny. When a phone man goes into their basement to repair their phone lines, he is attacked and killed by a pack of feral cats. The couple are unaware that the man is lying dead in their basement, because a tow truck has mistakenly towed away the repairman's car. Benny survives a confrontation with the cats and is taken to the vet's for a few days of rest and recuperation. The family assume Benny has had a run in with a raccoon. While Paul is at work leaving Lindsey and Tessa at home alone, the cats launch their attack in earnest, led by one particularly malevolent male. Lindsey and Tessa are trapped in the house, but Lindsey manages a frantic phone call to Paul on a failing portable phone. Paul arrives to rescue his family and faces a terrible battle with the leader of the pack. The cat loses.

  • Starring: Timothy Busfield and Kathleen Quinlan
  • Director(s): John McPerson
  • Producer(s): Nikki Marvin Productions for USA Cable Network
  • Screenwriter(s): Shaun Cassidy
  • Distributor: MCA Home Video
  • Release Date: Tuesday, March 31, 1992
  • Rating: Acceptable

Featured Animal Action

In contrast to the behavior of the cats in the story, the cat-actors responded to clickers, toys or food rewards. Most action that required a cat to move about was accomplished with food rewards strategically placed. Any action that was potentially harmful to a real cat was shot with either a fake or mechanical cat. Most of the sounds of the cats hissing, growling, etc. was added in post production. American Humane representatives were present at all times when animals were working, including both first and second units, and, in addition, AHA monitored training and preparation of the cats prior to production. In a scene where a rat jumps out at the phone man and onto his shoulder, both a real and fake rat were used. The real rat had been trained to jump onto the actor, and the trainer was behind the actor with a food reward. When the phone man swatted at the rat on his neck, it was the fake rat he was swatting at. While Paul, Lindsey and Tessa are riding in their car, some kind of an animal jumps out and runs across the windshield of the car, causing the car to run off the road and into a ditch. Afterwards you see a cat running off down the road. This scene was shot in cuts with both a real and fake cat. At the beginning of the scene where the phone man is attacked in the basement by the cats, six cats crossed A to B, responding to a buzzer. In part of this scene, the trainer doubled for the actor. When Monty, the lead cat, jumps onto the phone man's shoulder, he's really jumping onto his trainer's shoulder and responding to a buzzer. When Monty hisses, he is responding to a toy that the trainer would shake off camera. To encourage the cats to go for certain parts of the trainer's body, baby food was hidden in strategic places. When it starts to rain heavily, cats run across the yard and down some outdoor stairs into the basement. This was "movie rain". The rain was actually between the camera lens and the cats as the cats responded to beepers and food. As Paul awakens one morning, he smells the strong odor of cat urine. The dominant male cat has supposedly sprayed the bedroom and Paul's clothes in the closet, marking his territory. As Paul jumps out of bed, his bare foot steps upon a dead rat which he carries outside, holding it by the tail, and flings it into the woods. This was a fake rat. The scene where the family dog, Benny, is attacked by the cats, is done off camera, and none of the attack is seen. Benny is discovered outside the house, lying on his side badly injured. The dog had been trained to lie very still and his injuries were simulated with fake blood and makeup. When Lindsey is at home alone with Tessa, she hears some sounds in the nursery and when she opens the door, she sees the child's crib covered with cats and assumes that Tessa is beneath them. She runs to the crib and grabs each cat, throwing it to the floor. To accomplish this scene, trainers had placed cats in the crib and pre-set kibble to attract them to stay there. Some fake cats were also placed in the crib. The actress tossed out the fake cats roughly, but took care, when lifting the real cats, to support them properly and not be too rough. When Lindsey discovers that Tessa was not in the crib, but hiding in the closet, she locks the doors to the rooms, but the cats have them surrounded. They are trying to get in through the heating vent, which is up high on the wall, so Lindsey stuffs the grate with pillows, but you can see a cat's paw clawing through the pillow attempting to dislodge it. The cat had been cued to claw and reach by the trainer. Eventually the cat's dislodge the pillows and jump through the grate and jump onto the bed below. The cats had been trained to jump and were cued by a buzzer, and jumped onto the padded surface of the bed. Lindsey next finds refuge in the bathroom and runs water into the tub, filling anything she can with the water to throw at the cats as added protection. She tries to get out of the house carrying the child. As she runs down the stairs, the most hostile male cat is on top of the chandelier, and Lindsey throws water at it just as it's about to spring. The chandelier was steadied by a trainer, and scaffolding was under the chandelier in case the cat fell or jumped. When the cat did spring and jump, it jumped about three feet onto a platform. The cat had been released by one trainer, and called by another. The cat did all the hissing in response to a fake cat. Lindsey and Tessa run out into the rain and find refuge in an outside shed where they wait to be rescued. In the meantime, Lindsey's sister Claire comes to the house, enters, and goes up the stairs to the second floor where the male cat attacks her. As she tries to defend herself, she crashes over the bannister to the floor below, which she hits very hard and is killed. This scene was shot in cuts. The cat jumped about one foot onto the actress's shoulder, then jumped off immediately onto a table about another foot away. The cat did these jumps in response to a buzzer and one trainer released the cat as another used a buzzer to cue it. When Lindsey sees her sister's car, she leaves Tessa in the safety of the shed and goes back into the house where she is cornered by the cats again and can't get out. This was accomplished with both real and fake cats. The real cats were placed on marks, and cued to hiss with a stuffed toy. Meanwhile, the upstairs bathtub has over flowed and the floor and ceiling are saturated with water. As the male lead cat is attacking Lindsey, and is clinging to her, she grabs the paint roller which is on a long pole, and breaks through the ceiling as water pours down on them. This scene was shot in cuts. The cat had been trained to jump onto the actress's shoulder, a distance of about one foot, and both a real and mechanical cat were used. When the water came pouring down, it was the mechanical cat that was clinging to the actress. Lindsey escapes outside again, but Tessa, in the meantime, has gotten back into the house. Simultaneously, Paul has come home. Paul and Tessa are surrounded by the cats, but Tessa escapes by way of the dog door to the safety of her mother outside. Paul faces the attacking cats on the inside. When one cat jumps onto him, he throws the cat through a closed window. This scene was shot in cuts. A real cat did a simple leap onto the actor's shoulder and a fake cat was thrown through the window. Other cats begin attacking Paul and he grabs a fire extinguisher and assaults the cats with the spray from the extinguisher. To accomplish this scene, many cat handlers were used. Food was placed in strategic areas and dummy cats were also placed around the room. The fire extinguisher was actually spraying whipped cream. The cats had been trained for this scene and ran to predesignated spots out of frame after being sprayed with cream. In the meantime, the leader cat is stalking Paul and attacking him and clinging to him, but Paul manages to grab the cat and throw him into the microwave oven. Paul plans to cook the cat, but the cord is frayed and the oven will not turn on. The cat pushes the door open and springs out at Paul, who then grabs the sparking cord from the microwave and electrocutes the cat, just as it is attacking him. This scene was shot in cuts, using both the fake and the real cat. The real cat did his leap onto Paul, and then was replaced with a fake cat who was "electrocuted" using special effects. Representatives of American Humane were on the set at all times when the cats were working, on both first and second units. All violence was simulated.