We’ve said it (more than) once, and we’ll say it again: Pet stuff can be stylish! And Kate Benjamin, the Phoenix, Arizona-based cat style expert and designer behind Hauspanther, is part of the reason why. For decades, Benjamin has been a cat product pioneer, designing scratchers, cat toys and more that satisfy felines’ every need—and that pet parents can be proud to display in their home.
We talked to Benjamin about how she combined her design education with her love of felines to create a fulfilling and thriving business—and how her products can actually save cats’ lives.
Were you always such a lover of cats?
Benjamin: Yes! I grew up in rural upstate New York, and my family had indoor/outdoor cats, who I adored. But it wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I finally got to a place where I could have a cat of my own.
We hear you have 12 cats currently?
It’s true. Twelve cats is a bit of an unreasonable number for a regular person, but I somehow justify it because it’s my business. It’s my life! I took my first cat in, sight unseen, from a friend who was moving and could no longer keep her. Her name was Simba, and she was quite sassy. So I got another cat to be her friend (but she hated him) and then another kitten came along after being found as a stray, and then another when their previous owner passed away. The numbers just kept growing! It’s a lot, but on the upside I’m constantly surrounded by inspiration for the next Hauspanther product.
Speaking of which, tell us about how Hauspanther came to be.
In the mid-2000s I was working as the director of marketing for a startup that designed children’s products. I realized there was a lot of conversation within the mommy-blogger community about modern kids’ toys and other items, and how just because you have kids, it doesn’t mean your home has to look horrible. I thought, “Why is no one talking about this for cats?” So, I started a blog myself about things I felt were examples of good designs for cats—items that were aesthetically pleasing, but also innovative and functional and make your life better.
From there, I began hand-making cat toys with this functional-stylish take in mind and selling them on Etsy. They were so popular that eventually I was able to hire a manufacturer to make them more quickly. My goal has always been to get great stuff into the hands of cat parents, so that the cats will have what they need.
Why is ensuring this harmony between cat and home and pet parent so important?
Because if a product doesn’t fit into a pet parent’s home and life, there’s less of a chance the cat will get it. I learned a lot from collaborating with Jackson Galaxy [cat behaviorist and host of Animal Planet’s “My Cat From Hell”]. We wrote two books together, and I was on his show when he needed someone with an eye for design. I realized that he can tell somebody, “You need to put the litter box over here. You need to hang a shelf there”—but unless that person likes the way the product looks, they’re not going to do it. And if they don’t heed the behaviorist’s recommendations, then the cat is still going to suffer and act out because they won’t have an environment that they need to thrive in. I had a really big “a-ha!” moment when I realized I wasn’t just making pretty things for cats, but I was creating things that would make their life better and potentially save their lives.
The example I always use is, if someone brings home a new cat, and they don’t have a scratching post but they have this beautiful leather sofa, the cat is likely to scratch the leg of the sofa. The new pet parents could be worried about the cat destroying their home, and then what? Do they declaw the cat, or put them outside, or return the cat to a shelter where they might be euthanized?
But if I can show them that there is a stylish cat scratcher that their cat will use instead of the sofa, then maybe I have saved that cat from those things. The power of design to save a life really is tremendous, and that’s what I’m doing here.
You mentioned that your 12 cats inspire your designs and new creations. Tell us about that process.
Absolutely. My husband and I live with our cats in a 1,100–square foot condo in Phoenix, Arizona, so I understand durability, clean-ability and sanitation—all of which you need to provide to multiple cats so they stay calm, reduce stress and all get along to live happy, healthy lives. Living with this many cats, there are different personalities, there are interactions among them, there are different ages. You get to see how things change in terms of the environment and the products that are in it as a cat ages. I’m constantly taking in information from them and letting that influence what I design.
How would you describe the design aesthetic of Hauspanther?
I would say Hauspanther has a mid-century modern, clean look, but honestly, it can fit with any aesthetic, really. When I design toys, for example, I like the idea of having them look like little art installations on your floor—kind of abstract. Our furniture definitely has a modern aesthetic.
What can people expect next from Hauspanther?
I’m continuing to write about the greater cat industry as a whole at our site, and then looking for both big innovations—like, what’s a big idea I can come up with from watching my own cats and seeing what they need that doesn’t already exist—and smaller improvements, such as a new cat bed design or cat toy. I’m always searching for what could be next and what could make the lives of cats better in some way.
Fast Five Questions With Kate Benjamin of Hauspanther
What’s the biggest misconception about cats? That they don’t need anything. You can’t leave them alone for days with a litter box and a bowl of food and some water—that’s ridiculous. Cats need social interaction. They need an enriching environment.
What’s one thing that belongs in every home with a cat? A hide-away bed or semi-enclosed area cats can go in and out of to feel safe. It gives a cat a retreat space to feel safe and warm.
Favorite name of one of your own cats? I have three because they go together: Jeremiah Beandip, Horacio Queso and Pico de Gato—also known as the Three Amigos.
Favorite thing about living with a dozen cats? There’s always someone to snuggle. Cats don’t always want to snuggle, but among the 12, there’s always at least one of them.
Hauspanther product your cats love the most? The NestEgg side table with the cat bed built in. One of our tuxedo cats loves to bury himself under the toys in the center—it’s so funny.
The post Kate Benjamin Finds Inspo for Her Hauspanther Cat Products in Her 12—Yes 12—Cats appeared first on BeChewy.