[Weekender] Upscale feline products cater to delicate tastes of cats

By Kim Min-joo

Custom-made cat products target doting owners with deep pockets

  • Published : Aug 4, 2017 - 15:09
  • Updated : Aug 14, 2017 - 17:55

A growing number of South Korean cat moms and dads are willing to go the extra mile to satisfy the delicate preferences of their four-legged companions.

Cat owners used to make do with mass-produced pet supplies, but nowadays, a wave of custom-made feline products are allowing cats to live a life of luxury.

An Instagram photo of social media feline star Ddulggae eating an Alaskan halibut snack received a flurry of comments from some of her 73,000 followers, who expressed avid interest in the product. Despite its high price tag of 15,000 won ($13) per 100g, the all-natural fish snack from Madoros Pet quickly sold out as cat owners sought wholesome food for their pets. 

Ddulggae eats a bespoke fish snack from Madoros Pet. (Kim Young-won)

Brandishing an animal-oriented slogan, “The ingredients used in our food are better than what humans eat,” Madoros Pet was launched in 2014 as a pet food startup specializing in all-natural bespoke treats.

“About a year ago, I began to receive promotion offers from startups whose products range from cat furniture to organic feline snacks. I have a hard time keeping track because so many new ones come in,” Ddulggae’s owner Kim Young-won said in an interview with The Korea Herald.

Cat product startups and small businesses accounted for more than half of a hundred brands represented at Korea’s first cat-focused trade fair held in April this year.

“Even just a decade ago, large-scale manufacturers of pet supplies focused on the mainstay dog products, while engaging in cat supplies as a minor business category,” said Shim Dong-jun, managing director of the trade fair. “However, the increase in the number of cat owners in Korea in the past few years led to more cat-related startups, especially those specializing in custom-made products on a small-scale.”

Shim said cat food requires more attention to detail than other animal food products because cats prefer raw and high-protein food, which require complex handling and production procedures. Despite the high price tags, specially produced cat food is proving popular among Korean cat owners seeking to satisfy their beloved pets.

One of the notable players in the made-to-order cat supplies market is Jungle Kitchen, the first company in Korea specializing in raw food for cats. Its signature additive-free Chicken Pocket made entirely with fresh poultry meat is offered via a subscription-based delivery service starting at about 167,000 won for 100 portions. Despite the steep price, 10 to 20 new subscription requests have been placed each week since its launch three months ago.

Among home amenities for cats, cat trees stand at the forefront of the premium market. Momoute, a startup launched last year, makes upscale hardwood furniture for cats. Momoute’s cat tower set can be custom-ordered according to each cat’s behavioral preferences, with the price ranging between 300,000 won and 700,000 won. The company sold its wooden cat tree suite to 30 customers at the three-day cat trade fair. 

A made-to-order hardwood cat tree (Momoute)

Upscale cat products made with personal care and attention are essentially aimed at a niche segment of cat owners. But the potential of such premium products is big enough to lure more startups. Shim said there were around 400 cat product startups and small businesses currently operating in Korea, and new opportunities abound in the market that goes beyond food and home amenities for cats.

“There’s notable growth potential for niche businesses like medical insurance and funeral or hotel services for cats. In particular, feline-only hotels are in high demand as cats are easily stressed out in shared suites with dogs at pet hotels,” Shim said.

By Kim Min-joo (