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5 Awesome and Adorable Products You Can Get at CatCon

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This weekend, CatCon—the convention for people who love cats—returns to Los Angeles. Visitors will brush paws with Lil Bub, Pudge, and Nala cat, hear from cat behaviorists and other feline-related speakers, adopt kitties, and, of course, buy some really awesome cat stuff. Here are a few things you might want to pick up if you’re at CatCon this weekend (and where you can buy everything if you won’t be there).

1. APOLLO PEAK WINE FOR CATS

Many a cat lover has fantasized about sharing a glass of wine with their beloved feline companions. Now, thanks to Brandon Zavala, they can. He created Apollo Peak wine, an all-natural wine for cats, last year. “It all actually started as a joke,” Zavala tells mental_floss in an email. “I've been known in my group of friends as the ‘cat guy.’ During a trip, I slapped a Pinot Meow label on a bottle of real wine and the idea to make a wine for cats just lit up in my head.” It made sense to him for a number of reasons: “I really felt as though cats just don't get as much of the cool treats as dogs do,” he says. “If you look anywhere in a pet store, most cat toys and treats are boring mice, balls or kibble. Wouldn't it be nice if owners can have an option to purchase a wine-like beverage for their cat? You can actually get a little tipsy yourself on wine while you laugh at your cat getting nip-drunk on cat wine. Plus, cats kind of do look like winos anyway.”

So Zavala got to work. The first step was figuring out what to make the wine out of: Zavala knew he wanted to keep it all natural and pretty basic. “I did lots of research on what ingredients cats love and wouldn't be harmful to them,” he says. He’d include catnip, obviously, but human vino is made of grapes, which are toxic to cats. “I searched around for something that could mimic the grape wine look, but not be harmful to them. Beets just so happened to fit the bill.” Creating the wine involved a lot of trial and error: “The first recipes were pretty darn good, but began to degrade in color real quick,” he says. “It took lots of testing with the recipe to finally get it right and consistent—without using stabilizers or any unnatural ingredients.”

He also made sure to get the feline seal of approval on the wines. He started with his two cats, Apollo and Hades. Despite the fact that Apollo is a bit of a wine snob, Zavala says the wines were an instant hit with his cats and his friends’ felines. “Most cats I had given this to, whether it be at the local cat cafe or sent to friends, showed not only downright enthusiasm, but a hilarious love for the stuff,” he says. “The early videos and pictures were priceless.” Picture your cat on catnip, but even more intense: “It's a concentrated catnip brew, per se,” Zavala says. “What's especially great about it is it's just a very different experience to see your cat drink something and react as they do when they smell catnip. We've seen cats jump around, roll over, even had a little guy humping (yes, humping) other cats … [we] never really figured that one out. It's absolutely ridiculous, but seriously funny. The only negative (if there is any) is that it may likely color their urine if they drink a lot. That's because beet juice is a pretty darn strong color.”

The whole process took around six months and resulted in two flavors: Pinot Meow—“it was a red wine and I'm a lover of red wines myself,” Zavala says—and MosCATo, a yellow wine that came about when Zavala’s partner, Zoe, suggested they use yellow beets. A third cat wine, White Kittendel—which uses Valerian rather than catnip—will debut at CatCon. Can’t make it to the convention? Buy some cat wine here.

2. CURIO CAT LITTER/LOUNGE CABINETS

Ailurophiles obviously love their cats, but they’re probably not as enamored with a requirement for feline ownership: the litterbox. Many would love nothing more than to hide these unsightly poo receptacles—and with CURIO Cabinets, they can hide a litterbox stylishly.

Creating the box was a matter of necessity for CURIO creators Heather and Damian Fagan. “My wife and I live in a small apartment in San Francisco, and our litter box has to be openly displayed,” Damian tells mental_floss. “When we adopted our two cats, Dolly and Chunkers, a few years ago, we were surprised by the lack of design-minded litter box options on the market. Many were just decorative litter box covers that didn't improve upon the litter management aspect and many were very expensive. We felt there was a real need for a functional and stylish litter box that was more affordable.”

The duo spent a year crafting the perfect litter cabinet, and they had a few goals in mind: Their cabinet would be “a piece of furniture, instead of purely as a place for cats to do their business,” Fagan says; it would meet the functional needs of the cat without sacrificing the aesthetics important to cat owners; and it would be “a complete litter box solution that improved upon litter management.” That meant not just creating the cabinet, but the liner to go inside it. “Our Litter Liner is a huge improvement over traditional litter pans,” Fagan says. The box also needed to be affordable and easy to ship.

They went through seven or eight versions of the cabinet, using their two cats as beta testers. “Our lifelong experiences as cat parents have made us very aware of how fickle and unexpected cats can be with their bathroom habits,” Fagan says. “Watching their behavior helped us determine the overall dimensions of CURIO as well as the size and location of the entry hole.” The cats were smitten: “Knowing how fickle our cats were, we knew we were onto something.”

Once the duo was satisfied with their design, they built 20 cabinets—and it wasn’t just Dolly and Chunkers who were fans. “We were amazed at how enthusiastic the response was,” Fagan says. “That was about 18 months ago, and the design continues to be refined.”

These days, Chunkers and Dolly have two CURIO Cabinets, “one as a litter box and one as a cat lounge where they hide their favorite toys,” Fagan says. CURIO Cabinets, which come in three designs and are made with real wood, ship flat and can be assembled with just a screwdriver. Can’t make it to CatCon? You can still get a CURIO cabinet by visiting their website or Etsy shop.

3. KAFBO CAT FURNITURE

You could get a regular cat scratcher, but why do that when you can get one that’s a little more whimsical? Kafbo’s cardboard scratchers are adorable—choose from a whale, a walrus, a rooster, a mouse, and more—affordable, and eco-friendly. If you can’t make it to CatCon, you can still buy one at their website.

4. NOTSOKITTY SUNGLASSES

Wendy Casazza Scruton started making kitty sunglasses sort of by accident. She’d already been making cat hats—her first was inspired by Princess Beatrice's royal wedding fascinator—when she decided to make some kitty looks inspired by pop culture icons. Her initial inspirations were Kanye West and Lady Gaga, which evolved into “Katye West” and “Kitty Gaga” designs. These days, she’s also inspired by things like nerd culture and the holidays, and she offers all kinds of kitty shades at her Etsy shop, NotSoKitty.

Scruton uses lightweight stiffened felt to create the glasses, and initially used her two cats for beta testing. “[They] were the types of old cats that ‘DGAF’ about life and loved me the same whether we were hanging out or staging photo shoots,” she says. “They didn't mind the glasses as much as I thought they would. As you can see in my photos, they aren't freaking out.” (She did reward them with treats after a photoshoot for modeling well done.) The glasses have an elastic band on the back to keep them in place for a quick photo. “I usually have my cats pose in the glasses they can't see through (ie..3D lenses in the 3D glasses, Katye west shutter shades) when they are groggy and waking up from a nap... They usually go back to sleep for the photo shoot and you can't tell in the picture.”

This will be Scruton’s second year at CatCon, and at her booth visitors to this year’s CatCon will be able to pick up a pair of blinged-out Katye West glasses for their felines (as well as other designs). “I'm so excited to be returning!” she says. “Last year I was blown away by the response to my products—particularly the glasses and a few of my cat hat designs. Many of my designs had sold out by the afternoon on the first day! This year I hope I'm better prepared, but we'll see how that pans out this weekend!”

5. KITTY KASAS

All of the proceeds from these durable—and adorable—cat houses go to the ARNI Foundation, a no-kill shelter in Daytona Beach, Florida, that rescues animals from other shelters before they’re euthanized.

The owners of the shelter were inspired to create their own cat houses after going through expensive cat trees on a monthly basis. “The cats would destroy them, fleas loved to breed in them, and they were filthy!” they write on their website. “We decided to design and make our own pet products and ARNI says was born! If we could design products for dogs and cats that could survive a shelter environment- basically they had to be indestructible, totally cleanable, and of course look great, then cats and dogs everywhere would be happy and healthy! … We have tested all our products on our animal ‘team’ at the shelter—not always the best behaved bunch! As well as getting the vet stamp of approval.”

You can grab a Kitty Kasa for your favorite feline here.

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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E
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Art
New Smithsonian Exhibit Explains Why Felines Were the Cat's Meow in Ancient Egypt
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Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E

From bi-coastal cat cafes to celebrity pets like Lil Bub, felines are currently enjoying a peak moment in popular culture. That’s part of the reason why curators at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery—which will re-open to visitors on Saturday, October 14, following a 3-month closure—decided to dedicate a new exhibition to ancient Egypt’s relationship with the animals.

Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt” looks at the cultural and religious importance of cats, which the Egyptians appreciated long before YouTube was a thing and #caturday was a hashtag. It's based on a traveling exhibition that began at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. On view until January 15, 2018, it's one of several exhibits that will kick off the grand reopening of the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries, the conjoined national museums of Asian and Middle Eastern Art.

The Freer has been closed since January 2016 for major renovations, and the Sackler since July 2016 for minor ones. The upgraded institutions will make their public debut on October 14, and be feted by a free two-day festival on the National Mall.

Featuring 80 artworks and relics, ranging from figurines of leonine deities to the tiny coffins of beloved pets, "Divine Felines" even has a cat mummy on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. These objects span from the Middle Kingdom (2008 to 1630 BCE) to the Byzantine period (395 to 642 CE).

An ancient Egyptian metal weight shaped like a cat, dating back to 305 to 30 BCE, on view at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Weight in Form of a Cat, 305 to 30 BCE, Bronze, silver, lead
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

The term “cat” is used loosely, as the Egyptians celebrated domestic mousers and fearsome predators alike.

“The Egyptians were close observers of nature, so they were observing cat behaviors,” Antonietta Catanzariti, the exhibition's in-house curator, tells Mental Floss. “They noticed that cats and lions— in general, felines—have aggressive and protective aspects, so they associated those attributes to deities.”

The ancient Egyptians viewed their gods as humans, animals, or mixed forms. Several of these pantheon members were both associated with and depicted as cats, including Bastet, the goddess of motherhood, fertility, and protection; and Sakhmet, the goddess of war and—when appeased—healing. She typically has a lion head, but in some myths she appears as a pacified cat.

A limestone sculptor's model of a walking lion, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Sculptor's Model of a Walking Lion, ca. 664 to 630 BCE, limestone
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 33.190

While Bastet was a nurturer, Sakhmet—whose name means “The Powerful One”—could use her mighty force to either slay or safeguard humanity. These characterizations are typical of the ancient Egyptian worldview, which perceived the universe in dualistic terms. “There’s always a positive and a negative,” Catanzariti explains.

Contrary to popular belief, however, ancient Egyptians did not view cats themselves as gods. “The goddess Sakhmet does have the features as a lion, or in some cases as a cat, but that doesn’t mean that the Egyptians were worshipping cats or lions,” Catanzariti says. Instead, they were simply noting and admiring her feline traits. This practice, to an extent, also extended to royalty. Kings were associated with lions and other large cats, as they were the powerful protectors of ancient Egypt’s borders.

These myriad associations prompted Egyptians to adorn palaces, temples, protective amulets, ceremonial vessels, and accessories with cat images. Depending on their context, these renderings symbolized everything from protection and power to beauty and sexuality. A king’s throne might have a lion-shaped support, for example, whereas a woman’s cosmetics case might be emblazoned with a cat-headed female goddess of motherhood and fertility.

An ancient Egyptian figurine of a standing lion-headed goddess, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Figurine of a Standing Lion-Headed Goddess, 664 to 630 BCE, Faience
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.943E

While cats were linked with heavenly figures and kings, they were also popular domestic pets. Their ability to catch vermin made them an important addition to households, and owners loved and anthropomorphized their pets just like we do today.

Egyptians often named, or nicknamed, their children after animals; Miit (cat) was a popular moniker for girls. It's said that entire households shaved their eyebrows in mourning if a house cat died a natural death. Some also believe that cats received special legal protection. (Not all cats were this lucky, however, as some temples bred kittens specifically to offer their mummified forms to the gods.) If a favorite cat died, the Egyptians would bury them in special decorated coffins, containers, and boxes. King Tutankhamen, for example, had a stone sarcophagus constructed just for his pet feline.

An ancient Egyptian bronze cat head adorned with gold jewelry, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Cat's Head, 30 BCE. to third century CE, bronze, gold
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

“Divine Felines” breaks down these facts, and more, into five thematic sections, including “Cats and Kings"; “Cats and Gods”; “Cats and Death”; “Cats and Protection”; and “Dogs as Guardians and Hunters.” Yes, there’s also an exhibition section for dog lovers—“a small one,” Catanzariti laughs, that explains why canines were associated with figures like Anubis, the jackal-headed god of mummification and the afterlife.

Did the ancient Egyptians prefer cats to dogs? “I would say that both of them had different roles,” Catanzariti says, as dogs were valued as hunters, scavengers, and guards. “They were appreciated in different ways for their ability to protect or be useful for the Egyptian culture.” In this way, "Divine Felines" is targeted to ailurophiles and canophiliacs alike, even if it's packaged with pointed ears and whiskers.

An ancient Egyptian cat coffin, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Coffin for a Cat, 664 to 332 BCE, or later, Wood, gesso, paint, animal remains
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.1944Ea-b

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