How Moderncat's Kate Benjamin and Her Cat Hairball Jewelry Went Viral

Kate Benjamin knows the recipe for internet fame: part cool, part gross, and the wholehearted support of cat people ... everywhere.

She owns Moderncat Studio, an online cat accessory store (with a base in downtown Phoenix) for owners with a modern sense of style. Loose translation: She makes cat accessories that actually blend with normal furniture and toys that don't look like Disney roadkill.

Her latest creation, however, is a bit of a departure from her Moderncat signature; it's an accessory for the cat owner -- that's made from the cat.

Before you ask any questions: Yes, those are cat hairballs (though not the just-hacked-up, semi-soggy variety). And yes, that woman is wearing them around her neck.

Benjamin writes that her venture began as a way to "celebrate National Hairball Awareness Day, in style."


She has a lot of cats, which means a lot of cat hair, and without her Furminator, she'd probably have a lot of half-digested hairballs, too.

But take a big sigh of relief, cat crazies, Benjamin grooms her cats with the poorly named appliance, collects the small heaps of "raw material" (cat hair), and rolls them into balls between her palms. As the hair strands tangle, they become felted together, she writes, and form solid little beads ... of cat hair.

Her friend, and local jewelry designer Heidi Abrahamson jumped on board to string together the gnat traps. A few extra touches and a clasp later, the two wrote a post about their creation, and then it happened: Internet success.

In the 10 days since Benjamin originally posted the accessory on her website, it's been reblogged and written up in the New York Daily News, Today.com, Bit Rebels, Inhabitat, Refinery29, Ecouterre, Discovery.com, Incredible Things, Cult Hub, Neatorama, TrendHunter, MTV Style Blog, MSNBC, New York Magazine, and Today, to name a few.

We assume Benjamin's formula is simple:
1. Find a national holiday no one recognizes.
2. Create something likely to appeal to rich housewives, online-shopping addicts, or creepy fringe types -- they're the ones who will actually fork over the cash.
3. Get your product on any one of the above-mentioned websites and kick back as thousands of trend-hungry Tumblr whores post, and re-post, and re-post ...

Benjamin writes that the cat hair accessories aren't for sale through her website (yet). Honestly, she doesn't have that many cats to harvest, er, groom. She does note, however, that Abrahamson is taking requests and providing details and pricing information through email.

Exclusivity, a limited supply, and increasing demand ... looks like Benjamin took a few economics classes. Plus, we hear she's still holding out for the Daily Show.

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