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When the packages from MyZoo arrive at my door, I suddenly feel like I need to bake cookies for the delivery drivers. The boxes are enormous — big enough for a small appliance (or a large child), and constructed out of thicker-than-normal corrugated cardboard. And immaculately packaged in each are modern, sleek pieces of cat furniture — unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
The most iconic of MyZoo’s products is the Spaceship Gamma, a cylindrical wooden cat bed with an entry hole, and a clear acrylic dome over the top. It can be put on the ground or mounted on the wall for your cat to nest in, and it’s constructed of dense, strong wood that’s artfully warped into shape. “When you make a piece out of wood, and you make it round, it just becomes very special,” explains MyZoo founder Michael Hu. Continuing, he said “but everything’s hollow, so it takes up a lot of space during shipping — I can only fit 600 pieces in a container…that’s not a lot.”
Among the company’s constellation of different wooden designs, the Gamma is their north star — a perennial best seller, but also the design that established them as a company and made them a success. Hu told me that the company first got its start, like so many companies do, by putting its logos on mass manufactured products, and back in 2011 that was dog carriers.
But before long, they found they couldn’t keep up with people buying directly from manufacturers, and they decided to move into original designs, originally continuing with the focus on dogs, and around 2015 or 2016 their lead designer figured out that there was an opening in the world of products for cats. With a chuckle, he tells me that dogs “don’t need anything; they just need a big park so they can run around; they don’t need furniture.”
The Gamma came out of those first forays into creating an original and attractive piece of cat furniture — but the initial years of trying to market lux cat perches were rough. The market was just beginning to grow in Taiwan, where MyZoo is based, and Hu explains that they almost went under. Luckily, a Japanese influencer reached out to them about buying their products in Japan, and they sent one her way, which led to an immediate booming success — the company’s first Japanese release sold out in just 40 seconds. And they knew they had a hit.
What really makes MyZoo’s furniture stand out, beyond its immaculate style, is its quality of construction. These things are built well; you can feel it as soon as you pick them up. While they definitely take some installing (as does putting anything on your walls), if you’ve ever done any Ikea construction, you’ll be just fine here. And while the wall platforms may be rated for 33 pounds, Hu tells me they’re tested for much more, and that his team sometimes puts more than 200 pounds on them for days at a time, just to make sure they’re up for the challenge of your pets.
But expanding into the North American market hasn’t been as easy as finding local influencers to work with. Hu told me they were surprised that the products weren’t resonating with people here as much as they were with customers in Asia — what they eventually discovered is that the photos on their sites needed to be changed to better match the new markets.
“Our photo and video style was mainly focused for the Japanese market, so when people from the States look at the pictures, they don’t see themselves in it,” he says. “So we made another website for the USA, and we retook all the photos to make it look like American people.” He continues: “I think all the furniture, which was mainly like we have in Asia, and all the colors that we use, they don’t see themselves in it…we have to take another kind of style for the USA. And once we did that, it became a lot better!”
What’s next for MyZoo, now that they have a foothold in the USA? Hu gave me a quick preview of an upcoming aquatic themed collection that they had installed in his office — including some stunning shelves modeled on manta rays gliding through the water (which I’m intensely excited for and can’t wait to see). So, keep your eyes peeled for that at the end of this year. Hu also hints that the company wants to look at designing larger pieces too, but it remains to be seen if and when that happens.
For now, I’m going to be happy trying to convince my cat that this beautiful wooden crescent moon is actually something she should enjoy, and not to be terrified of.
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Tim Barribeau is a freelance writer, editor, cat dad, and “help your boyfriend buy a suit that actually fits for once” consultant. He was previously the Style and Pets editor at Wirecutter, and has bylines at a bunch of publications that don't exist anymore (and a couple that still do).