In what trend forecasters are calling “either just another meaningless fad, or the beginning of the end for civilization as we know it”, thousands of people across the US are buying kittens designed specifically to reflect the buyer’s personality, interests, and beliefs. These custom-made kitties are available in high-end stores worldwide, but are hugely popular in Los Angeles, New York, and Tokyo.
“Pet owners had been asking themselves for years, ‘sure my pet is cute, but is it enough like me?’” says Jean Tedesco, manager of the SoHo-based pet boutique Le Pette, while unboxing a litter of Packers-colored calicos. “Since these came out I can’t keep enough in stock.”
The demand for personalized kittens first rocketed after Beyoncé was spotted boarding a yacht with a kitten dressed as a cupcake, which is her favorite dessert. Believed to be a present from Jay-Z, Mrs. Carter is apparently so delighted with owning the fluffy-topped, cup-bottomed animal that she bought personalized kittens for her whole crew. “Beyoncé knows I love Michael Jackson, so she got me this kitten that looks like Michael Jackson,” says backup dancer Diana Reyes, holding up a curly-headed tuxedo cat with one white, sparkly paw. “He came with all the outfits, too.”
“It’s so much better than a doll because it’s a cat!” says personalized kitten owner Debbie Giannotti. “I have four: one for each character on The Golden Girls!” She gestures to a small television set with four tiny cats with white perms. “That one’s Rose cuz she’s always in heat!”
Amid concerns from PETA about the ethics of dyeing, shaving, waxing, tattooing, surgically altering, and dressing-up animals, Boston-based personalized kitten breeder Isobel Martin insists that PK cats are just as happy as regular cats. “I don’t think it’s cruel. Some cats care more about their appearance than others. One of the kittens has an eye for style. If anything, it would be cruel not to dip-dye her paws to match my Anthropologie scatter cushions.”
Prices start from $100 for a basic tabby in a vintage fedora, but suppliers insist the possibilities for personalization are limited only by the customer’s imagination: “One woman requested a passive aggressive kitten with cankles as a present for her estranged sister,” says Tedesco, with a smile. “We’re working on it!”