Meet my cats

These three cats roam around my house all day and night acting cute and inspiring me to create things that will either delight them or make them stop doing things that bug us. While none of them have any major behavioral or health issues, they’re relatively young and they all get along for the most part, there is definitely a balance to be found among all of us living here together. And their personalities are key to understanding their needs.

Cassidy was first. Sometimes I call her the OC, for “original cat.” I like to remind her of this because she allows the two who came after her to bully her a little bit. My sister-in-law Tammy rescued her at a gas station when she was a kitten. She was covered in fleas and had a bee bee under her skin on her side (it’s still there actually). She was obviously neglected and abused in her early months, but she seems to have gotten over it — she’s the most chipper, friendly and outgoing kitty. She knows her name and will respond with a meow when I say it. She returns my eye blinks every time. She loves to explore and climb, both inside and outside. She routinely brings things like lizards and baby mice into the house. She also proudly rounds up all the cat toys in the house and presents them to me with a specific hunting meow. She’s a brown/black fluff ball with fat feet and tiny ears. She just turned seven.

Cassidy has taught me to be patient and pay attention to what she “asks for” instead of trying to force her to conform to my expectations. She’s a tree dweller and is happiest when she is up high away from the other cats.

I brought little five month old Jack home from the SPCA because Cassidy was such an energetic kitten that I thought she needed a playmate. But Jack promptly stepped into the alpha kitten role and hasn’t looked back, much to Cassidy’s chagrin. He has always had a sense of entitlement, confidence and a healthy ego. They did play together a lot when they were little, but now he outsizes her and is a little too rough. But when he’s not being a punk, he is sensitive, intelligent and affectionate. He has a vulnerable, scared side and spooks easily, probably caused by whatever happened to him before I adopted him. He’s one of those cats who knows when you’re sad and need comforting. He likes to snuggle. He also knows how to fetch. He is tall, muscular and gray with a silvery sheen. He has green eyes and an extra long tail. He is six-and-a-half.

Jack has shown me that those who give more love get more love in return. Jack needs a lot of play time so his excess energy is not directed toward the other cats or our ankles.

And then there’s Bug, the little monkey that came with my husband. I stressed and planned how to carefully, gradually introduce her to the other cats so they would all get along, but Brian just brought her over unexpectedly one day and dropped her in the middle of the living room. And that was that. Bug gets along with every man, woman, child and animal. But she does have a mean right paw triple-swat if you do manage to push her to the point of irritation. She was adopted at age two by my husband’s ex from a cattery after she failed to make a good show cat. I would never set out to adopt a pure bred cat when there are so many great cats in need of homes, but now that I have come to love her I can see why people seek out her breed, which is Devon Rex. She is so easy going and laid back, accommodating, not scared of anything, playful and a cuddly lap cat. Unfortunately she doesn’t realize she’s a cat and therefore can’t go outside by herself. She’s not phased by dogs and would probably allow herself to be carried away by a large crow. She’s orange tiger striped and her fur is curly. She has extra long toes, a swishy tail and the loudest purr I’ve ever heard. She turned nine this year.

Bug has taught me that chihuahuas can be nice pets, too. Just kidding. She just needs plenty of attention, 16-21 hours of sleep per day and a little bit of play time to be happy!

Stay tuned for more anecdotes and design solutions geared toward these three that hopefully apply to some of your cats too!

Getting Crafty!

Cats definitely have their quirks. Once you have lived with your cats for years and know them very well, you pick up on some of their funny habits and behaviors. I can’t remember when I first noticed it, but cats I have had always seem to like to sit ON things and IN things. For example, if the entire bed is made and there is a single shirt laying in one small corner of the bed, they sit on the shirt. If there is a folded blanket on the back of an otherwise empty sofa, they sit on the blanket. If you leave a magazine or book laying on any surface, they sit on the magazine. And it seems to also be true that if the shirt or blanket is dark or contrasting in color, they like it even more.

Jack in a box

Jack in a box.

And everybody knows about cats and cardboard boxes. This quirk has been well documented by the antics of the adorable Maru, of course. They become excited and are unable to resist climbing into a new cardboard box to sniff, hide, play or even curl up for a nap. And the tighter the fit, the better! They love to squeeze in, even if it causes the box to bulge. And it’s not just the space inside the box, but the cardboard itself receives a lot of nose rubs and body rubs. I have been known to save cardboard boxes for my cats for them to enjoy. Around the holidays, a box was setting by our door for more than a week, and our kitty Cassidy slept on top of it constantly.

In both cases, I’m sure familiarity and territoriality are factors. Cats think of our homes as their worlds and we are just a part of that. When something is new, like a cardboard box or piece of mail, they are curious about it and instinctively want to explore it and claim it by putting their scent on it. It then becomes familiar to them and is a new addition to their world. The shirt on the bed is probably comforting because it smells like us, and we are a familiar part of their world.

These two delightful kitty-isms played into the design of my new Cat Beds and Cat Mats. My kitty in high school, Switzer, had a permanent “bed” on my bed that was a simple cardboard box lid. She climbed right into it one day and kept returning to it, so I kept it there for her permanently. When I was thinking about what kind of bed to design for my cats, this concept came to mind. If I could give them something like a cardboard box, hopefully they would adopt it as a sleeping spot. Similarly, I thought the idea of making a “kitty throw” or “cat mat” to place on the bed, sofa, chairs and/or ottoman could be a nice way to give them a favorite napping spot all their own that they could return to and find comfort in.

Of course, one of my ulterior motives in presenting them with beds and mats at all was to keep cat hair under control. The kitties seemed perfectly happy sleeping on the blanket on the sofa or in a chair or on our clothing, but those spots were then hairy and even sometimes had kitty litter dust from their feet.

So, after a few experiments, I arrived at a washable fabric cat bed made with two layers of an interfacing that gives it a rigidity that is similar to cardboard. And it really works! Two of the three cats are in them for every nap and all night, and they appear to be blissfully enjoying their time there. I am see lots of bellies showing and noses rubbing the edges. I made them in two different sizes, and found that they loved to squeeze in and curl up in the smaller size (12 inch square) and stretch out or double up in the larger size (14 inch square).

Jack in DK Cat Bed Prototype #2

The Cat Mats have been well received and are working well too. I decided on a rectangle to accommodate stretching out, and it’s about the weight of a quilt. I have several of them in different places and they are easy to throw in with the laundry when they get too hairy. And when they come out of the laundry, the cats have a fun time reinstating their smell on them. Another nice feature is how much easier it is to do a quick clean-up if guests are coming over. Instead of extensively vacuuming all of the furniture, I just pick up all the cat mats and put them out of sight temporarily. Voila!

It is very rewarding to have observed my cats’ behaviors, designed something around that and seeing it work! Have you noticed these or other behaviors in your cats? Have you ever designed something in response to something they did?

What happened to the cat trees?

Most of you are probably here because you are looking for a cat tree. You are wondering where they are, what is with these cat beds and when the trees will be back! I am very thankful for the great reception the Platform C line of cat trees, posts and scratchers got and all the kind and encouraging feedback I still get from cat- and design-loving people each week! But, alas, I am no longer making the cat trees. Last Fall, I reached the decision to stop making them and to transition to softer, more crafty products. The main reason was that the reality of everyday life as a woodworker was not how I had envisioned it when I left my career as an interior designer – it was very hard labor that became unsustainable after two years. I had made the big leap to a new career, but it seems I may have leapt a little too far. After much soul searching, I realized that I loved designing the cat trees and making the prototypes and perhaps the next 20 or so orders, but then it just became too much labor and not enough thinking and creativity. I wasn’t yet ready to take yet another leap into a manufacturing deal, so I put them aside and set about coming up with other cat furnishings that would lend themselves to more opportunities for creativity and variety.

For the duration of the two years I was making cat trees, my mission was to make something that did not scream cat, but was instead closer to the look of other furniture. And as I venture forward with cat beds and cat mats and more things to come, I have the same goal of offering things that can be integrated seamlessly into your household. The reason for this is not design snobbery and I am not necessarily targeting a high end market of people who have endless money to spend on their pets. As I described in the welcome post, I believe that cats have needs (scratching, sleeping securely, etc.) that, when met creatively, make for a pleasant environment for them and us and ultimately a better relationship.

You will also see that I have changed the ordering process for the new products. Everything is now available exclusively on Etsy instead of on the DK Cat website. This change came about because Etsy offers a great community of craftspeople and artists that I want to be more closely involved in and because Etsy’s set-up is more conducive to selling unique, one-off items. The beds and mats are not made to order like the trees were – each one is unique and special with a much wider range of colors and patterns.

New cat beds from DK Cat

One of the best aspects of this business is the community of people I have come to know. I look forward to continued communication and am still eager to entertain your specific requests. More to come soon on the evolution of the ideas for the new Cat Bed and Cat Mat. And if you’re in desperate need of a cat tree, try perusing the many great finds at moderncat.net. Thanks for reading!

Welcome to the DK Cat blog!

Cat climbing wall by DK cat

Creatively integrating cats' needs into the home

I have had cats all of my life – from independent Tom cats and whole litters of kittens while growing up on my family’s farm in rural Missouri to the timid indoor cats that didn’t know much of the world outside of my tiny apartment in downtown San Francisco – and I have always being drawn to them. As a child, I was fascinated by their irresistible fuzziness and playfulness and had fun doing things like dressing them up in doll’s clothing. When I was a teenager, we moved into town and downsized to one aloof calico cat named Switzer, and my brother, sister and I were always in competition for her attention. Somehow my mom always won without even trying. But what an honor it was when the cat did choose me! I really felt special when Switzer adopted a cardboard box lid that happened to be setting on my waterbed (yes, it was the ’80s!) as her new favorite napping place. Of course it was the box and the warmth of the bed she was choosing, not me, but I took it! And I soon learned that if I wanted to be graced with her presence, I had to respect her terms.

Now that I have spent some years as the primary guardian of three amazing and unique cats, I have developed even more understanding and respect for them. I enjoy learning what will please them and how to avoid things that can upset the balance. My favorite quality in cats is the inherent purity behind their intentions and actions. There are no pretenses, games or manipulations, and their affection, fondness or indifference towards us can be trusted. It is this knowledge that allows me to both be patient with them and to recognize and treasure a growing bond.

My husband Brian is a different story however. While he is kind hearted, likes animals in general and admits to loving our cats, he didn’t grow up with strictly indoor cats and does not possess that extreme level of admiration for them that allows a true cat lover, such as myself, to excuse almost any of their so-called “bad” behaviors. He notices and is irked by the kinds of things you would expect – the fact that we keep their feces and urine in a box inside our home, the fact that those dirty little feet go directly from that litter box up onto the kitchen counters at night when we’re not looking, the early morning scratching at the bedroom door and, of course, the cat hair everywhere. Add to that the fact that we live in small quarters in the city, and we almost reach an impasse. Having volunteered at the Humane Society, I know that these are some of the very reasons that people surrender their cats – it just becomes too much.

And that brings me to DK Cat and this blog. In an effort to orchestrate a peaceful living environment for everyone, I began putting my interior design and interior architectural skills to work to do some problem solving. There is a principle in architecture called “universal design,” in which buildings accommodate disabled people as well as able bodied people by integrating accessibility elegantly and cleanly into the design. In other words, wheelchair ramps, handrails and lower counter heights do not look like after thoughts. It is this concept that I believe can also be brought to our homes to integrate cats’ needs and elevate their quality of life and ours.

Key to that is understanding cat behavior. While there seems to be a growing niche of aesthetically pleasing cat furniture and accessories out there (hooray!) as well as excellent resources on cat behavior, I haven’t been able to find a comprehensive resource that brings the two together – design and behavior. With this blog I hope to provide resources for integrating cats’ needs into our homes gracefully and understanding the reasoning, with regard to cat behavior, behind those ideas. I am also very excited about making delightful things for cats that support this mission! More on that later…

Thanks for reading! What is your biggest concern when it comes to living with cats?