All that purring and barking is just to distract us from what’s really going on, as Steve Pratt discovers.

ONE of the big attractions for actors to voice characters in Cats And Dogs 2: The Revenge Of Kitty Galore, was the chance to make a movie that families could see.

Christina Applegate, who recently announced she’s pregnant with her first child, says: “I wanted to have a legacy of movies that my kids could see, because there’s nothing that anyone under the age of 18 could watch.

“It’s nice to have these movies like the Chipmunks and this to show my kids, so they can see their mum did something kinda cool.”

Beaches actress Bette Midler, who provides the voice of Kitty Galore, also admits looking for a role in a familyfriendly movie. “I wanted to make something a little bit wholesome, not too strenuous, full of laughs and fun,” she says.

“This, I think, is the best example of it. It’s got something for everybody and it’s really well done. I don’t know how they did it.”

As one of the voice cast, Midler simply recorded her role in a sound studio, while the real acting was left to the trained animal cast, often rescue cats and dogs.

“I didn’t see anybody else but the director, the producer and the sound people, it was intense,” she explains.

“You go in there, watch it as a sketch and then they take it away and animate it. I’d never seen anything like this. I was shocked, I didn’t know how things had come this far.”

Things have come even further since 2001, when the first Cats And Dogs movie was released. Many of the animals’ stunts now are aided by elaborate computergenerated imagery (CGI), one of the cast is purely animatronic, and in some cinemas the film is being released in 3D.

Applegate describes how, in the world of Cats And Dogs, the pets have elaborate secret lives – they wear clothes, have their own vending machines and travel by jet pack and rocket car.

“It’s absolutely absurd and fantastic, this whole secret hitech world they have and yet it’s presented as perfectly normal,” she says. “It’s as if all that other stuff they do – like purring and doing tricks – is just designed to distract us from what’s really going on.”

And what is really going? In the first film cat tried to supplant dogs’ place as “man’s best friend”. This time round, the rival Dog and Meows agencies come together to foil Kitty Galore, a rogue bald cat who lost all her fur when she fell into a vat of depilatory cream, while trying to escape guard dogs at a cosmetics lab.

Shunned by her human family, she takes to the streets and is adopted by a magician who dresses her up in a ridiculous array of outfits.

Midler used the sketch of Kitty as a jumping-off point to devise her voice. “Kitty has gigantic eyes and very sharp, pointed little teeth. She seems refined, so I tried to make her sound like a well-bred cat with a bad nature. She was obviously once a star and her stardom was snatched away from her, so she wants revenge.”

Applegate’s grey moggie Catherine is involved in all the big action sequences and even flies with her own bat wings.

“This is a girl who won’t take no for an answer and will kick your ass, so I liked that,”

says the actress, who had to record plenty of action ‘noises’ as well as the dialogue.

“When it all came together, I was like, ‘I don’t hear any of my grunts’ and I spent two sessions on grunts.”

Chris O’Donnell plays the only human, a policeman on the streets of Los Angeles. “It was fascinating watching these animals and their trainers. What they can get these animals to do is amazing,” says the actor.

“But the priority in these takes was the animals, they took precedent over anybody else, so if you’re happy with the dog’s performance, that’s probably the one they’re going to use, so it put a little added pressure on me to get it right the first time.

“They were so focused on their trainer, that there were these explosions going off, the dogs wouldn’t flinch, they wouldn’t be distracted.

“I would not have the discipline to be an animal trainer.”

The father-of-five does have a dog, but admits he hates cats: “We’re buying a house right now and the guy that’s selling it goes, ‘There’s a cat that comes with the house, we feed him’. I said, ‘Excuse me?

he won’t be staying’. I’m a dog guy. How do you discipline a cat?”

Whereas for Applegate, pets can really live together in harmony.

“I have a cat and dog who are best friends, they’re totally in love with each other.

They don’t see race. They play together and do chase games.”