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Behind the Brand: Cat Person

The burgeoning start-up is creating cat food and furniture for modern pet parents.

by Bailey Freeman
May 23, 2021
Cat eating out of a contemporary, design-forward cat food dish made by Cat Person
Courtesy of Cat Person

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Behind the Brand is a series about imaginative people who are changing the pet product space.

It’s not often that a line of pet products is featured in Vogue, but that’s what happened for Cat Person only a year after launching. Co-founders and cat dads Lambert Wang and Jimmy Wu debuted their brand of cat food and furniture in 2020 after some recon revealed that most cat parents said they’d bought goods that were designed for small dogs. With Cat Person, each product is aesthetically and purposefully considered, from protein-rich food and the packaging it’s served up in, to ergonomically designed bowls and colorblocked canopy beds.

What were you doing prior to starting Cat Person, and why did you make the switch to designing cat products?

Wang: I was working on Strategy and Business Development at Harry’s. I’ve fostered many cats over the years and recognized that when I walked into pet stores, it almost felt like walking into a dog store. The cat section was tucked away in the back and the selection wasn’t great or designed specifically for cats. Oftentimes, you end up buying products that are actually designed for small dogs. I saw there was an opportunity for someone to really focus on cats and the needs of cats so I began a conversation with Jeff Raider, co-founder and co-CEO of Harry’s. He jumped on the idea.

Wu: I spent many years in the food industry, most recently at another startup called Freshly, where I led brand marketing and creative. Knowing firsthand how cat owners have been ignored in the industry for so long, and also how important food and nutrition is to health, the prospect of Cat Person really interested me.

lambert wang cat person
Lambert Wang & Granola
Courtesy of Cat Person
jimmy wu cat person
Jimmy Wu & Pebbles
Courtesy of Cat Person

What sets Cat Person apart from other pet (cat) brands?

Wang: We’re putting cats and cat people at the forefront and specifically designing products that address both of their needs. An example would be our cat bed: If you’re looking for a cat bed today, you’ll probably end up buying a small-sized dog bed — and, frankly, many don’t look that attractive. It’s incredibly hard to find a reliable bed designed for cats that will also look great in your home. We built our bed for the physical needs a cat has, whether it’s the shape in which they sleep or the fact that they feel more protected under a cover.

What inspires your design aesthetic? 

Wang: We wanted to offer products that are fully functional for your cat and meet that design aesthetic for the modern cat parent. For example, cat bowls currently on the market tend to be too deep. We’ve designed one that’s shallower, but more elevated in height, so cats can finally eat in the right posture and avoid whisker fatigue. Plus, they come in modern colors so cat parents can feel good about having it in their home.

Who would you say is the modern cat person?

Wu: The modern cat person is first and foremost someone who has a real love for cats and views cats as part of their family. They want to treat their cats to a healthier and happier life and do not see themselves represented in the outdated ‘crazy cat lady’ stereotype. The modern cat person equally values what’s good for their cat and what’s good for them (as a person), and do not want to make tradeoffs in convenience, aesthetics, or design.

cat person bed
Canopy bed
Courtesy of Cat Person

What does the product creation process look like? 

Wang: Being a cat-first brand, we always start with the consumer — which, in our case, is cats and their people — and we get feedback from them to understand what needs they have that are not being addressed. After that, we team up with experts in a particular field to design the product and then conduct extensive testing with real cats — including those on our team. Finally, we find the best manufacturing partners to produce them.

Wu: With our Canopy Bed and Mesa Bowl, we talked to a lot of cat parents and found that there was a lack of well-designed, modern beds and bowls for cats. We worked with a renowned design studio based in London, whose designers had cats themselves. As part of the design process, the designers tested different iterations of the products on their own cats, which ultimately produced the best design. Finally, we found a global manufacturing partner with extensive experience in pet products and with incredibly high-quality standards to help us make them.

Did your own cats serve as the original product judges?

Wu: The cats on our team (we’re up to 16 now!) are our constant sources of inspiration and we definitely take note of their favorites. Pebbles loves her Mesa Bowl. Margo loves our Goodness Blends treats, because it’s like a delicious, healthy savory smoothie. And George’s favorite is the canopy bed since he’s always looking for a cozy hideout.

How are Cat Person’s recipes changing the cat food game?

Wu: Lambert was spending a lot of time cooking food for his foster cats while working a busy job and I was spending too much time searching for the best quality wet and dry food in stores but finding it a confusing experience. It was worth it to both of us, but it was a drain on our time. We decided we could do better — to make it easier for people to care for their cats with products that are nutritionally designed for them and easy to shop and serve.

Cats are carnivores that need lots of real meat to keep them fit. That’s why Cat Person packs its recipes with at least 50% more quality animal protein than AAFCO industry standards. It’s also grain-free & low carb. Our packaging makes it easier for cat parents to understand what’s inside: we use smaller and resealable bags to ensure freshness, and we offer a variety of flavors and textures to keep things interesting.

cat playing with toy from cat person brand
Catnip toy
Courtesy of Cat Person

What has been your most memorable moment or piece of customer feedback?

Wu: Our happiest moments happen every day when customers react to our shipping boxes. Being cat people ourselves, we know how much cats love playing with boxes. That’s why we designed many of our shipping boxes to turn into play toys for cats. We have one that turns into a puzzle box, another a chalet hideout, and another a cat condo. It sounds like such a mundane thing, but it’s been absolutely thrilling for us.

Wang: The most meaningful feedback to me are the stories about how our food changed a cat’s life — whether it’s helping a diabetic kitty manage his blood sugar better or enabling a senior kitty to get her zoomies back.

Last but definitely not least, Lambert, you’re an experienced cat foster dad which is awesome! And Cat Person is committed to helping cats in need. How is the brand giving back?

Wang: Fostering has always been an important part of our business as I’ve fostered many cats and have been a volunteer for Animal Care Centers (ACC) of NYC for many years. In July 2020, Cat Person teamed up with the ACC to donate 20,000 meals and 1,000 toys to cat fosters; at that time, the shelter had received more than 5,000 applications since March 13 from people wanting to foster cats during the pandemic.

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Bailey Freeman

Bailey Freeman lives in Nashville, TN, where she works as a freelance writer, editor, content creator, and circus artist. You didn't read that wrong — when she's not writing about the world around her, she works as an aerialist and instructor (in a circus tent and everything). She's also a big fan of travel, the outdoors, and neon hair dye.