Kate Benjamin is founder and editor of Moderncat.net, the online resource for design-conscious cat owners. The unique collection of elegant accessories and stylish furniture for cats posted at the site gives us an idea of a modern home where every element, made with love and care, works both for you and your pets. Http://www.33cats.ru is very glad that Kate Benjamin kindly agreed to share her vision of cat’s fashion with our visitors.
- What is the focus of Moderncat.net?
- Moderncat.net focuses primarily on finding the most stylish and well-designed products for cats, gathering them all in one place for readers to easily browse and find interesting new items. The site also includes information about do-it-yourself interior design projects specifically for cats, as well as cat health and behavior information and animal welfare. There are also regular giveaways of products on the site and some fund raising for non-profit cat rescue organizations.
- What is the mission of this project?
- The overall mission of Moderncat.net is to help bring useful information to cat owners to make living with cats a more enjoyable experience and to ultimately improve the lives of as many cats as possible around the world.
- When you started in 2007, did you expect such success and popularity of Moderncat.net?
- I never imagined that it would be as big as it is now, but it's not surprising that other people were looking for the same information that I was looking for. I started Moderncat because I couldn't find anything else like it on the internet. I guess there are a lot of other cat owners who are looking for stylish products!
- Do you do all this great job alone or rely on somebody’s helps as the project is growing?
- Other than the occasional guest post, I do everything at Moderncat myself. I recently quit my job to work on Moderncat full time because it had grown to the point where I was able to support myself as a professional blogger.
- Where do you get information about new products?
- I read consumer and trade magazines from the pet industry, plus I spend a lot of time researching on the internet and I attend pet product trade shows whenever I can. I also get a lot of suggestions from readers with wonderful tips and topic ideas.
- What are your criteria to enlist a product?
- In order to include a product on Moderncat, it has to be both stylish and innovative. By stylish, I mean that it must have a clean modern aesthetic and by innovative I mean that the products needs to be original, a new approach to meeting the needs of both the cat and the owner. The product should also demonstrate a good use of materials and craftsmanship, and products must always be safe.
- Are the beautiful things for cats posted on Moderncat.net exclusive or developed for mass-production?
- Many of the products shown on Moderncat are handmade in small quantities by craftspeople, but more and more I'm seeing larger companies introducing well-designed products into mass-produced lines. Of course I like to support the craftspeople, and they tend to use higher-quality materials, but it's always nice to see good design that is affordably priced and readily available to more people.
- Are they available at common pets shop or should be ordered in some special way?
- A lot of the products can be ordered directly from the manufacturer, but some can be purchased through mass retailers like Amazon. I always try to list all the options for purchasing a product when I post it.
- Do all of them belong to elite and expensive category, out of reach for ordinary people? Are there any moderate-price products?
- Many of the products are very expensive because they are usually handmade using natural or sustainable materials, but I try to find more affordably-priced products along with DIY projects that can inspire readers to create their own, less expensive solutions. I also think that seeing the very expensive products can be inspiring, even if we can't afford a lot of it.
- There are no cats’ clothes on your site. Do you find clothes to be unsuitable \ not necessary for a modern cat?
- I've written about a few cat fashion items, like wigs and costumes, but generally cats don't tolerate clothing, so there isn't much out there. Some people who start dressing their cats when they are kittens use clothing designed for dogs, but it is not very common. I think most readers would say that cats are too dignified to wear clothing, especially moderncats, but I always smile when I see photos of a cat like Yoshi in her fabulous costumes.
About pet lifestyle industry
- How old is the trend of growing concern in design among pet owners?
- The focus on pet-related design seems to have started just four or five years ago with some of the original pet-design companies like Elizabeth Paige Smith, Everyday Studio, and Pre-Fab-Pet. There has definitely been a lot of growth in the number of designer pet product manufacturers in that time and even the large manufacturers are starting to change their product lines to incorporate good design.
- Do high-end cat products have other advantages but nice design in comparison with ordinary goods for cats?
- I think the high-end products tend to use better materials and have better quality construction. You will often find natural and sustainable, eco-friendly materials used in the more expensive products, too.
- Does eco-friendly fashion somehow reach pet lifestyle industry?
- Eco-friendly is a very hot topic in the pet industry these days. Lots of products use eco-friendly materials which usually have the added benefit of being healthy for the pets as well. This is a big plus!
- Are high-end cat products in great demand?
- I think there is a small percentage of the population who treat their pets as their children and spend money on them accordingly, but the majority of people don't have a lot of extra money to spend on their pets so they tend to look for less expensive options.
- What kind of high-end goods for cats are the best-sellers?
- Beds are always popular, but climbers and scratchers are so important when creating an active indoor environment for a cat, plus these products, as well as litter boxes, are unique to cats. Beds can function for both dogs and cats.
- What cats accessories or furniture inspire designers most of all? What are there favorite things to develop?
- I think cat beds are the most common item for designers, followed by climbing products and scratching products. Feeding dishes are also quite common. There has been some innovation in the area of scratchers and litter boxes, but I think a lot more could be done with these.
About pet-product designers
- What kind of people are they - pet adorers or cool-minded professionals, doing good whatever they must do? Do they usually have pets or are they just theorist?
- I think that the best pet product designer are pet owners themselves. Of course, there are companies who simply pay designers to develop new pet products based on general research, but you can tell when products come from real pet lovers.
- Who is their priority – the pet owner or the pet?
- I believe that the most well-designed pet products take into account both the owner and the pet equally. There really are two users when it comes to pet products and the owner is the one who makes the purchase decision, so the products had better appeal to the owner, but if the pet doesn't like the item it will probably be returned or discarded.
- Do they test newly created things on pets? How do they know that pets will be comfortable using it?
- In order for a product to be truly successful, I believe that it must be tested with pets in a real-world situation and then modified according to the findings. Most designers who have pets will bring prototypes home and observe what their pets do, then incorporate the research into the next round of changes. If this doesn't occur, the product will probably not be successful.
- What educational background do they have? Are there educational institutions specializing in pet-design preparation?
- More and more pet product designers are trained industrial designers. There are many excellent industrial design undergraduate programs in the US and abroad where students are learning how to incorporate user-center design research into the process of developing new products and the pet product industry is sure to benefit from this approach to design.
About Kate and her modern cats
- Do you have any hobby but cats and design?
- In addition to being a cat lover and design enthusiast I am also a crafter. I have a small art studio where I'm developing some handmade cat products and other things (jewelry for people, not cats; greeting cards; sewing projects, etc.) I've always loved to make things, that is why I've written about so many handcrafted products on Moderncat.
- Could you, please, introduce your cats (names, ages, breeds, characters)?
- Simba, female cream tabby domestic short hair, 10 years old. She can be very sweet but she can also be feisty if you don't do things her way. She has to live up to her name!
- Mackenzie, brown tabby Maine Coon mix, 7 years old. He is a big love bug, typical Maine Coon, but he can also be a big fraidy-cat when people come for a visit.
- Ando, black domestic short hair, 5 years old. He's the only one I've had since he was a kitten and he is my little man (actually not so little at 15+ lbs). He's also in charge around here, and everyone knows it.
- Flora, tortoiseshell domestic short hair, 5 years old. She is tiny and sassy! Flora was rescued from an institutional hoarding situation where 800 cats were found in a sanctuary, neglected and malnourished. She was a little feral when I got her, but now she's sweet and loves pets.
- Dazzler, tortoiseshell domestic short hair, 5 years old. She also came from the same rescue with Flora, but Dazzler has always been a sweetie and she's absolutely in love with Ando -- she never leaves his side! She fell in love with him the minute she laid eyes on him. He tolerates her.
- Sophie, black domestic medium hair, 20 years old? Not sure exactly how old Sophie is, she came to live with me when her owner passed away a few years ago and I don't have any info about her. She's an old girl, but she's strong and can bounce back from anything. All she wants is to have her head scratched.
- What do you like most about your cats?
- There are so many things! They are beautiful and so entertaining. I love watching them play, but I really love it when they sleep peacefully on my desk. There's nothing better than being greeted by everyone when you walk in the door.
- Are you cat breeder? Do you exhibit your cats on bench-shows?
- No, all of my cats came from rescues or shelters.
- What are your favorite goods from the Mordencat.net collection?
- Favorite things: Marmalade Sweet Lounge, Sleepypod, Hepper Pod Bed, Moderncritter scratcher, Urban Pet Haus Curve shelves, Cat Eye Bed, Modern Cat Design Tall Condo, Rondo from Cat-Interiors, wall-mounted feeder from Vurv Design, Smart Cat Box litter box system with safflower seeds.
- What products do you have at home?
- All of the above except the Rondo from Cat-Interiors (which I totally want!)
- What products do you have at home?
- Do your cats use and like them? What are their favorites?
- Dazzler loves the Hepper Pod, Ando loves the Urban Pet Haus Curve shelves, everyone loves the Cat Eye Bed and the Marmalade scratcher, I love the Sleepypod carrier and the Vurv feeder, Simba loves the Modern Cat Design Tall Condo, Mackenzie loves the Moderncritter scratcher, Flora loves the Smart Cat Box - everyone is different!
- Has it ever happened that your cat ignored any of the expensive products designed specially for cats? It’s a common fear of people to spend big money on purchase that will stay useless if a cat doesn’t like it.
- It's always a worry that you'll spend a lot of money on something just to have the cats ignore it, and there's not much you can really do. With six cats, I have a better chance of someone liking a new product, but there are some items that go unused. Usually, everyone checks out a new product at first, but after a while, if it doesn't have something attractive about it, some products are forgotten. I find that putting things away and taking them out or moving them around sometimes renews interest.
- Do you purchase clothes and jewelry for your cats?
- No clothing or jewelry for my cats, they won't have it. No collars either because they never go outside.
- Do you bring them to cats’ beauty salon or make grooming yourself?
- I groom them myself. My favorite grooming tool is the FURminator, there's nothing else like it! Mackenzie has a long thick coat and he loves to be FURminated.
- What is the best thing a loving owner can do for his\her cat?
- Spend time with them and let them know how much you love them by treating them with kindness and love. Always, be gentle, forgiving and understanding. When you see how someone treats a cat, it can tell you a lot about their personality.
Also, since starting the blog I learned a big lesson about the dangers of using clay cat litter. I never knew this and have since stopped using clay litter completely. Clay litter is devastating to both the environment and to your cat's health. Here are the reasons to stop using clay litter:
- Clay litter is strip-mined from the earth, causing terrible damage to the environment
- Clay litter contains silica, a known carcinogen to both humans and cats when inhaled
- Clumping clay litter contains sodium bentonite, a substance that expands to 15 times it original size when it comes in contact with liquid. This happens in a cats digestive system when they ingest the litter while grooming. Anecdotal evidence suggests that cats can die from consuming sodium bentonite.
- Used clay litter is completely non-biodegradable and stays in the landfill virtually forever.
I encourage all cat owners to please look for natural, safe, healthy alternatives to clay litter. There are lots of options including corn, soy, wood, and paper-based litters. I've written about this topic several times on Moderncat. I hope to help spread the word about this to possibly save the lives of cats and help reduce our impact on the environment.