Cat from Chatham shelter lands leading role in commercial

Blaze in Fresh Step Clean Paws commercial (Screengrab via Fresh Step YouTube)

A shelter cat from Chatham is proving that he not only has nine lives but a little bit of luck, too.

Blaze recently made his acting debut starring in a national kitty litter commercial while also finding his forever home.

The one and a half-year-old orange longhaired cat was handpicked from Pet and Wildlife Rescue by Melissa Millett.

Millett is a London-based dog trainer who founded the Ultimutts, a live show featuring pet stunts that has been featured on Good Morning America, The Rick Mercer Report and The Family Channel.

In addition, Millett is also an animal trainer for movies, television and commercials. Most notably, Millett trained the cats for 2019’s Pet Sematary and dogs trained at her obedience business, In Dogs We Trust, have been featured in commercials for Tim Hortons, Duracell and the Super Bowl.

According to Millett, her business signed on to do a commercial for Fresh Step Litter that would feature multiple cats, which led her team to Chatham-Kent to find the next leading feline.

“We have a team of really trained cats but at the last second it was indicated that we had to have an orange cat,” she explained. “We didn’t have a trained orange cat so we scoured the shelters.”

Millet said she knew some trainers in Chatham with connections to Pet and Wildlife Rescue who went in to look at Blaze and instantly fell in love with him.

“They thought he was an exceptional cat and I had to agree, he was an exceptional cat,” said Millett. “He’s extremely confident. Ten days later he was on a big commercial.”

When looking for an animal for a TV show or movie, Millett said one of the most important personality traits is that they’re confident as well as food-driven.

She said that she and her team always make it a point to look at shelters when they need an animal for a role.

“Especially with cats. There are so many cats that need homes, more so than any other animals,” she said. “You can find some really great personalities, some really great cats when you go straight to the shelter to look for them. We find really great success there.”

Once adopted for a role, Millett said one of the team members will typically keep the animal. If they are unable to do so, Millett said there is usually no problem finding someone who will.

“Then the cat becomes an actor, a celebrity, has a cool story and that also increases the odds of the animal finding a home,” she explained.

Millett said everyone at In Dogs We Trust instantly fell in love with Blaze and his personality. Her business partner ultimately took Blaze home and Millett said he’s fitting right in.

“He’s super engaging with people,” she said. “He follows the human around non-stop, very, very cuddly, right up on your lap.”

Millett added that it most likely won’t be the last time that the natural-born star will be seen on screen.

“We’ve just pitched him for a big TV show. The TV show ended up getting shut down because someone tested positive for COVID-19 but it was a massive show and he was going to be a big star on it,” she said. “He gets pitched all the time because orange cats are some of the most requested animals, I’m not sure why… but it’s a big ask. Because he’s so talented and confident, there’s no doubt you might see him in something big.”

While every animal that’s adopted might not land a leading role, Millett is hopeful that Blaze’s story will encourage other people to visit a local shelter to find their next pet.

“It’s amazing the animals that you can find at the shelter that are just overlooked,” she said. “You can just find the personality that’s the right fit for your home.”