Advice on softer shadows...
I've used canvas stretchers with a white sheet stapled over it... (works great, about $5)... I've also used plain sheets over a window for lighting, as well as the stretched-sheet in sunlight as a difuser. Another trick is to put a piece of white translucent paper over your flash, that softens it quite a bit. If you are setting up lights, a white umrella in front of it works too, but to be honest, so far my best results have come from natural (or window lighting), with made-up soft boxes using canvas, sheets and tin-foil for reflectors...
As far as the shot goes, this is amazing and wonderful details. I really like how the composition turned out, adding a marvelous sense of drama
killed the cat.