Kate Benjamin of Moderncat.net was kind enough to do an interview with me for Floppycats.com. Ever since I started following her site in June of 2009, I have been wanting to ask her questions about her site, which I just love. Kate does it all on Moderncat.net. She designed the logo and all the site graphics. Kate has recently started ModernStudio.com where you can sign-up for the email list to get the latest news. Enjoy the interview and please feel free to ask Kate additional questions in the comment section below the interview.
1. How old were you when you had your first cat?
We always had cats when I was growing up and I loved them very much, but I wasn’t nearly as into them as I am now. I didn’t get my first cat as an adult until I was in my 30s when I finally lived in a place of my own where I could have pets.
2. How’d you come up with the Moderncat name?
The focus is on modern, not traditional or any other kind of design. And it’s all about cats. Moderncat can be used in several ways — to describe the blog, to describe a cat who appreciates modern design (i.e. “a moderncat”), and as my pseudonym on the internet.
3. Was moderncat.com taken and that’s why the address is moderncat.net?
Yes, that is the case.
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4. What was the reason for Moderncat? I have seen another interview of yours (Conscious Cat) where you mention that you used to be the Director of Marketing at a children’s product development company?
As a cat owner myself with an interest in design, I was searching for a single source of information about well-designed products for cats. I couldn’t find anything on the internet so I decided to start my own. At the time I was working as the Director of Marketing at a children’s product development company, Boon Inc. where I managed the social media marketing and worked with hundreds of “Mommy Bloggers.” I learned a lot about blogging from that experience and figured it was the best format for creating a resource of modern cat products to share with others who might be interested in the topic.
5. Moderncat’s Tag Line is “Modern Designs for Living with Cats” – how did you get the idea for Moderncat? How has it changed/developed over time?
The tag line sums up the mission of the blog because it is about finding products and other things that focus on modern design while also creating an enjoyable environment for living with cats. We don’t travel with cats, we live with them in our homes. I started off writing about products, but have expanded the blog to include other information that may be helpful to cat owners, including health and behavior information. I also added the DIY section when readers started sending in photos of projects they had completed for their cats. Two of my favorite ongoing themes are “Mid-century Moderncat” posts which highlight anything related to cats that occurred in the mid-twentieth century, and “Moderncat Sightings” where I spot cats in magazine articles or on other websites that are not necessarily cat-themed, but that focus on design. I’ve added a lot of information about handmade cat products and art, mostly found on Etsy, plus I try to highlight deserving cat rescue organizations whenever possible.
6. Certainly one of the developments has been your Etsy store and your store in Phoenix, right? How are those going? Do you have any more developments in the works? moderndog?
It has been my dream to develop innovative products for cats since I started working in product development and marketing. After having written Moderncat for two and a half years, I decided the time had come. I’ve started by setting up a studio space in downtown Phoenix and partnering with different designers. I launched the Etsy shop with some handmade cat toys that I make, plus a line of felt toys designed by Collin Smith, a graduate of the product design program at Arizona State University where I did my graduate work in design. I’m now working on a line of mid-century modern inspired cat products. This line is being developed with the design team at Juggernaut Design and will launch next month at the Modern Phoenix Expo. Stay tuned!
Although I think all animals are wonderful and I appreciate anyone who loves their pet, my focus is on cats only. There are several others bloggers who are doing a great job focusing on modern design for dogs, including www.pupstyle.com and www.dog-milk.com.
7. What is your favorite kind of product to feature or review?
Anything from a company who obviously cares about cats and wants to create products to improve the lives of cats. I look for products that are designed with the cats in mind, not just aesthetics. You can tell the really successful products because the cats keep going back to them. Usually these products were designed by people who live with and truly understand cats. It think that comes from spending time with the cats and observing them for extended periods.
In addition to products, I also love finding unique art that features cats. But my most favorite kind of post is when I feature a truly outstanding rescue organization that is working to help cats in need.
8. Have you ever been asked to review a product that you simply didn’t believe in? What did you do?
Yes, I’ve had to turn down reviews of some products, especially litter products that use clay or silica. One of the issues that I discovered after starting the blog is that clay and silica litters are devastating to the environment and very harmful to cats and humans. Therefore, I’ve committed to never advertising or reviewing clay or silica litter products. There’s more info about this topic in these posts:
I’ve also had to turn down reviews for products that do not fit the “modern” aesthetic or that I do not think are safe for cats.
9. Are you a one woman show?
Yes, I do it all. I have a background in graphic design, plus I’m a bit of a computer geek, so I do all the graphics and site management myself. My boyfriend Peter Wolf writes guest book reviews and other special topic articles occasionally.
10. Are you ever in the mood not to write for Moderncat?
Sometimes I put off the writing because I’m busy with other things, but every time I sit down to work on the blog I absolutely love it. There is really nothing I love more than working on the blog (okay, maybe playing with my cats!) I don’t usually have posts in the drafts folder, because I get so excited about the post I’ve just written I can’t wait to share it with everyone so I wind up posting it immediately.
11. Do you have any other blogs?
I also run www.catioshowcase.com, but I haven’t been able to work on it in a while, I’ve been so busy. I started it when I was renovating my condo and adding a catio. The blog showcases different outdoor cat enclosures, or “catios.” They are not necessarily modern, but there are lots of great ideas for building a cat enclosure.
12. Of your six moderncats, do you have a favorite? Why or why not?
Actually I have eight now, and that’s like asking someone to pick their favorite child. You can’t do it. I love them all equally, in different ways. Each one is so unique and special, they all amaze me every day. My favorite thing is to watch them playing together or taking a nap on top of each other.
13. Do you think there is a way for a pet product manufacturer to donate to a shelter and have shelters review the product? I really think that would be the true product tester for some products!
Yes, that would be a great idea. Lots of testers in a shelter environment, plus the shelter cats would benefit, too.