Cat Style Expert & Founder of Hauspanther
If she builds it, cats will come. Cat style expert and founder of Hauspanther, Kate Benjamin combines art and functionality to create cat-friendly furnishings for homes and businesses. Kate designs spaces that are a cat's paradise — fitting their physical and behavioral needs — with eye-catching pieces that cat lovers can also enjoy! In our Animal People interview, Kate tells us about her kitty muses and how they've shaped the course of her life.
How were you inspired to design stylish, cat-friendly home products?
I have an undergraduate degree in interior design and did graduate work in visual communication design and user-centered design research, but it wasn't until I combined design with cat behavior that I realized the full potential of my work. I was working in the children's product industry at a time when parents started to realize that just because they had kids, their house didn't need to look like a daycare center. As I saw beautiful, modern children's products show up on the market, I thought "Why isn't this happening in the cat product industry?" so I started a blog about well-designed products, furniture and interiors for living with cats. This was in 2007 and since then I've seen a huge change in the industry, with companies from large to small offering stylish, innovative things for cats.
I eventually went on to partner with cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy and together we co-authored two New York Times bestselling books on "catification," which is how to live stylishly with cats. I also design my own line of designer cat products in partnership with Primetime Petz and I consult on catification projects, in both residential and shelter environments.
Why is "catification" so important to have in homes with cats?
What's so important about catification is that it shows cat owners both the behavior side and the design side of creating a home for cats. There are many things that cats need to thrive in an indoor environment, like places to climb and hide and scratch, as well as easy access to resources like food, water and litter. Catification teaches that you can have all these things in your home without making it look like a "crazy cat lady" lives there. If people don't like the way something looks in their home, they won't do it, but cats really do need some special considerations to live their best lives.
Who was the first animal to make an impact on your life?
Ando was a very special black cat who I rescued when he was about 5 months old. He was a handful as a kitten but became my soulmate as he grew older, never leaving my side, always staring into my eyes. He was the cat who held everything together; everyone loved him. He developed all kinds of health issues, including diabetes, hypo thyroid and kidney failure, so he required lots of care, even as I was going through treatment for breast cancer myself. I think that brought us together even more. He was a wise old soul and I miss him so much, but I think part of his spirit is present in my boys — Jeremiah Beandip, Horacio Queso and Pico de Gato.
Who are your current pets?
I have 13 cats! Dazzler, 15, is a tortie I adopted from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. Sherman, 12, is a brown tabby and McKinley, 11, is a fluffy brown tabby with white boots — both rescued from the colony outside my design studio in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. Margot and Lily, 8, are calico sisters who also came from outside my studio as kittens. Sylvia (tuxedo) and Bear (black), 9, are siblings who were rescued as kittens from a different neighborhood in downtown Phoenix. Andy, 10, is a grey tabby who I rescued as a kitten down the street from my studio. Monsieur Jacques LeFeet, 3, is a tuxedo cat I trapped outside a restaurant in downtown Phoenix and socialized. He's now our snuggliest cat! Mama Cat, 18, is the matriarch of the community colony at our studio and now lives a life of luxury. And, finally, the boys — Jeremiah Beandip, Horacio Queso and Pico de Gato. Now 2 years old, they were born and abandoned in a warehouse down the street from my studio. They were my first bottle babies.
How has sharing your work with animals enriched your life?
Helping animals live their best lives is incredibly rewarding, plus learning about what cats need to really thrive takes it one step further. As a new cat owner, I didn't really understand what cats needed beyond a litter box, food and water, and maybe a scratcher. Living with cats and doing what I do professionally has opened up a whole new world. Cats are fascinating creatures. You just need to take a little time to learn about what they need. It's important to understand cat behavior in general as well as the individual personalities of your specific cats.
I absolutely love getting to know the personalities of different cats, they are all so unique. The boys, who are siblings who were raised together, are so different from one another. It's also very interesting to observe behaviors that can be explained by the fact that cats are equally predator and prey. This has a significant impact on how you design an environment for cats to live in.
What do cats bring to your daily life?
As cliché as it sounds, I get a lot out of observing how cats live in the moment. They are quick to forgive and forget, and they don't worry about the future. They are excellent reminders to take a deep breath and stop worrying about things.
I had the epiphany, as I think most people who work in animal rescue do, that by understanding and having compassion for cats, or any animal, we learn to have compassion for all life, human as well as nature and the environment. It's all so interconnected and cats have a special way of revealing that relationship.
Learn more about catification and Kate Benjamin's design at hauspanther.com.
Published: November 8, 2021