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Stormtroopers with kittens? 'Star Wars' villains show their soft side

"Star Wars" cosplayers pose with cats, dogs, rabbits and even guinea pigs to help encourage pet adoption. CNET chats with photographer Rohit Saxena about his adorkable photo series.

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We wonder if this guinea pig is strong with the fur-ce? Rohit Saxena

Stormtroopers and Tusken Raiders aren't always known for their warm and cuddly sides. After all, these folks either work for Darth Vader or enjoy kidnapping helpless moisture farmers.

But when Canadian photographer Rohit Saxena recently enlisted "Star Wars" cosplayers from Eastern Ontario's Capital City Garrison -- part of the charity costumers the 501st Legion -- to pose with adoptable animals from the Ottawa Humane Society, the results were both geeky and adorable.

Saxena photographed cosplayers dressed as a Stormtrooper, a Tusken Raider and the Imperial informant Garindan holding cute cats, dogs, bunnies and guinea pigs to promote adopting pets.

"To me, the important thing is telling a fun and positive story about what animals shelters are and do, and the animals you'll meet there," Saxena told CNET's Crave blog. "That said, I also love that it worked out that we had more 'Star Wars' villains, and that we got to see their soft and fun side."

Sure enough, a Stormtrooper hugging a guinea pig and a Tusken Raider kneeling down to pet a dog shows that even the most feared masked characters in a galaxy far, far away might want a furry pet of their own -- Banthas don't count.

"Look at the guinea pig craning his head up at the Stormtrooper, or the dog on a leash ready to go for a walk," Saxena told Crave. These "Star Wars" characters "clearly have a rich internal life and have more to their morality than their Imperial affiliation, and the two subjects contrast and play off each other really well."

"Light or Dark -- there are no sides when it comes to helping animals," reads a post that went up Friday on the Ottawa Humane Society website.

This isn't the first time Saxena has featured adoptable animals with a geeky theme. In the past, cats and dogs have also been photographed as "Game of Thrones" characters complete with dogs and cats sitting in their own throne of bones. Saxena has also shot a "Mad Men"-themed series with rabbits and martini glasses.