The Kitten in ‘Keanu’ Was Actually Seven Trained Kittens, Plus More Kitten Trivia

The last movie animal we wrote at length about was Black Phillip the Goat, the breakout star from The Witch. We’re thrilled to now be able to write about the cat from Keanu, the new action-comedy-cat movie from Key and Peele‘s Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. But, actually, we’re not writing about one kitten. We’re writing about seven kittens, as we discovered thanks to The Hollywood Reporter.

The film’s director, Peter Atencio, told THR that “cuteness was definitely the biggest priority,” and that they held specific kitty auditions in New Orleans. Here’s what else we learned.

  • The kitten search was very specific, limited to “brown tabbies and black-and-white tuxedo kittens,” but tabbies won out because, as Atencio said, “They’re extremely photogenic and easy to work with.”
  • Like dogs (and humans), the kittens were trained with food. This is how animal trainer Larry Payne got a cat to kiss Peele’s face — by placing food on his cheek.
  • Whenever possible, shelter kittens were used.
  • The kittens were used as impromptu therapists. “‘If anybody was having a bad day, they’d send them over to the kittens,’ says Payne. ‘Everybody loved the cats.'”
  • Atencio took his own cat to the shoot, because he didn’t want to be lonely after working with cats all day, saying, “He’s my buddy, and I felt like working with kittens every day and going home to an empty house did not seem like fun.”
  • Some of the cats were named Nacho, Jeffe, and Squibword — though they could be misspelling Squidward, from Spongebob Squarepants. 

Watch the trailer for Keanu below. The film hits theaters April 29. Read our review here.