Phoenix Designer Kate Benjamin on Catification, Her New Book with Jackson Galaxy

Phoenix's own feline designer and cat woman, Kate Benjamin, has created a kitty "cookbook," as she calls it.

This isn't a book full of recipes for your cat or a feline-themed cookbook. Instead Benjamin and Animal Planet's Jackson Galaxy have created Catification, a photo-centric guide, which actually does resemble a modern cookbook upon first glance, full of DIY tutorials, tips for understanding your cat's specific needs, plenty of examples to draw inspiration from, and other essential ingredients you'll need to create a home that is suited for both your feline companion (or companions) and your sense of design.

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"You can 'catify,' as we say, and have it be absolutely gorgeous," Benjamin says. "It doesn't have to look like the crazy cat lady lives there, and everything doesn't have to be covered in ugly beige carpet."

The idea for this book started two and a half years ago when Benjamin and Galaxy first met. Benjamin says that Galaxy had been a fan of her feline-friendly design, previously at Modern Cat and now Hauspanther, even before his show, My Cat From Hell, had aired.

After finally connecting thanks to a mutual friend, Benjamin has been a guest on Galaxy's show about four times over its five seasons, helping cat owners redesign their homes to better fit the needs of both the homeowners and their cats.

And that is exactly what Catification aims to do.

Benjamin says that cats have gotten a bad rap because people just assume that every cat is aloof, will destroy furniture, and is basically self-sufficient. But often times those negative stereotypes are caused by cats lacking certain kinds of stimulation, places to feel comfortable in the home, or other requirements.

"You want to recognize what your cat prefers and do something that accommodates those needs," Benjamin says. "If you take the time to do what we're saying, you actually have a much richer relationship with that cat and an amazing companionship, and they'll be safer and healthier and probably better behaved if they have what they need and they're not fending for themselves."

For this reason, the first section of Catification is dedicated to helping owners understand the specific needs and instincts that their cat has by giving them the vocabulary and tools they need to identify certain behaviors. Benjamin, who owns eleven cats of her own, says the best way to do this is simply by observing the cat.

One key behavioral aspect to note is where your cat feels safe and comfortable. If your cat likes climbing up on high surfaces, it may be a "tree dweller," as Benjamin and Galaxy call it. Otherwise, your cat may be a "bush dweller," who likes to hide down low under pieces of furniture like tables, or a "beach dweller," who likes to rest in wide open spaces on the floor.

Once you understand your cat's tendencies, Benjamin and Galaxy offer suggestions for filling your home with pieces that will give your cat what it needs to be happy, but won't make your house look like you just picked up any generic (and probably ugly) scratching post and cat bed you could find at the pet store.

The co-authors pulled examples from Benjamin and Galaxy's work together on My Cat From Hell as well as ones that fans from all over the world submitted to exhibit how design and kitty functionality can go hand-in-hand.

Due to its focus on filling the pages with large, high quality photos and easy-to-follow, illustrated DIY tutorials (drawn by local graphic designer Catherine Madrid), Catification is like no other book on the market.

"(There are) big, beautiful photos and great ideas so that anybody can really say, 'Oh, I can do that, but I'm going to change this for my cats,'" Benjamin says.

Soon, Phoenix's cat guardians will get the chance to catify their own homes.

Both Benjamin and Galaxy will be in town for a signing and meet-and-greet, sponsored by Changing Hands, on Tuesday, October 14, for the launch of Catification. The event will be held at Hotel 502 as Benjamin says they are expecting a crowd of at least 500 people to attend. From there, the pair will tour around the country with their book, raising awareness of homeless cats.

"If I can show you that there's this really awesome cat scratcher that you will love because it looks like a piece of sculpture and your cats will scratch on it instead of the sofa and through the design of that product essentially saves that cat [from being sent to a shelter]," Benjamin says. "We just want to see no more cats in shelters, no more cats on the streets, responsible cat guardians spaying and neutering."

But Benjamin adds that for every book pre-ordered before the book's release date, the publisher Tarcher/Penguin will donate one dollar to FixNation, a free spay/neuter non-profit for feral cats based out of Los Angeles.

Those who pre-order Catification will also receive 10 percent discount coupons for both Benjamin's and Galaxy's online stores.

And for those who want more catification tips and tricks, don't worry. Benjamin says that this is just the first collaboration for she and Galaxy. So be on the lookout for more ways to enrich your feline companion's life down the line.

Admission to the Changing Hands-sponsored Catification event at Hotel 502, 502 West Camelback Road in Phoenix, on Tuesday, October 14, is free with the purchase of the book, $21.95. Seating opens at 6:15 p.m., with the event beginning at 7 p.m. See Changing Hand's website for more information.

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Evie Carpenter is a visual journalist. Using photography, videography, design, and sometimes words, she tells stories she hopes make a bit of difference in the world, even if those stories are in list form and include GIFs.
Contact: Evie Carpenter