Cat Woman Wednesday: From Burlesque to Cat Toys

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 9.28.25 PMToday’s Cat Woman Wednesday features the stunning and multi-talented Randi Warhol who has led quite the varied life at a rather young age.

She’s the founder of Polydactyl Cat Toys and can be reached at meow@polydactylcats.com (presumably to place a cat toy order!).

************

My name is Randi Warhol, and I love cats.  A lot. I was born and raised an only child in a suburb of Philadelphia, in New Jersey.

Cat woman in training!  Of course I couldn’t resist posing for this picture!

Cat woman in training! Of course I couldn’t resist posing for this picture!

Where did my love of cats come from? My Polish grandmother loved cats very much, and she passed her love of cats on to my father who then passed it on to me. She told me a story one day about how she had grown up poor in Central Pennsylvania. One night as a child, she woke up to find rats on her bed.  This rightly terrified her, so the family adopted cats to keep the rodents away. From then on she valued and adored felines.

Growing up I loved my cats. My first cat was an orange tabby and his name was Redboy, due to his red coat.  Soon after Redboy came into our family, my mother decided I needed my very own cat, so we took in a grey tabby with white paws, appropriately named Mittens.

BFFs: Friskey was there for me, even as a young adult.

BFFs: Friskey was there for me, even as a young adult.

In third grade, my mother brought home my best friend, Friskey.  He was a grey/brown/white mackerel tabby with green eyes. This cat was such a wonderful companion. Friskey was the most perfect cat for any little girl. He could be dressed-up, handled, picked-up and could even climb a ladder!Fast forward:

Fast forward:

2006 was the year I moved to Philadelphia on my own and didn’t bring my childhood felines Friskey and Mittens along (by that time, we’d been reduced to a two-cat household since Redboy passed away when I was 12). I didn’t think it was fair to move them into a new house. It didn’t take long for me to miss having a cat in my apartment, so I visited an animal shelter in New Jersey where I met a polydactyl kitten: my Elliott.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 9.24.33 PM

New Addition: I adopted Elliott from the Animal Welfare Association in Voorhees, NJ. Such a messy boy!

 

Big boy: Elliott is all grown up now! Look at those extra toes!

Big boy: Elliott is all grown up now! Look at those extra toes!

Besides moving to a new city and adopting my sweet little Elliott, 2006 was also the year I began performing in burlesque shows. People always ask me how I really got into it, and the best answer I can come up with is, “It just sorta all happened.” Anna A-Bomb, a veteran burlesque dancer and cat lover, started the troupe Revival Burlesque.

It was my first time ever doing burlesque. So much is involved in a show, and most people don’t even understand what REAL burlesque is!

POP Tart: Many of my routines were Pop Art themed. Naturally I had to pop out of a soup can!

POP Tart: Many of my routines were Pop Art themed. Naturally I had to pop out of a soup can!

It was a labor of love. Each show had a new theme. And of course there was, ”The Pussy Show”!  “The Pussy Show” seemed to be a no-brainer as all the dancers in our troupe had cats. Of course there were the obvious double entendres that seemed to write themselves, but it was even more than that.

Something about burlesque dancing is very feline.  The movements, elongated lines, and feathers- we burlesque dancers enjoy feathers just as much as any cat would!

There was also the unsexy part of it. The pasty glue, wig caps, scripts, music, blocking, sewing of costumes, rehearsals, long nights, heavy props, and bad pizza.

The Pussy Show

Me-ow! Director of the Pussy Show, Annie A-Bomb shares the cover of the show poster with feline Bones.

During the summer of 2009, I went on a beach trip with my artist friends.  It’s rare for me to go to the beach, so when I do venture to the shore, I always feel recharged. This trip inspired me to go into business for myself and make toys for cats.

Just like burlesque, I fell into the pet industry. Now, I’m not the first burlesque dancer to shimmy into the pet industry. The lovely Gypsy Rose Lee toured the United States promoting Voila Gourmet Dog Food. She was an advocate for dogs, especially the Mexican Hair-less breed!

With eight cat toy designs as a work in progress with a Chinese takeout theme, I headed to New York City every week to take classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology. In less than 2 years I earned a certificate in Pet Product Design and Marketing.

Take out time! Accompanying the original eight Asian sauce packets are the newest toys I designed: Window Duck, Fortune Cookies, Eggroll, Chow Mein Noodles, and Wontons.

Take out time! Accompanying the original eight Asian sauce packets are the newest toys I designed: Window Duck, Fortune Cookies, Eggroll, Chow Mein Noodles, and Wontons.

It was about this time that I noticed Elliot was having some anxiety issues. So on my birthday in 2011, I met two-week old Bowie and was given the opportunity to bottle-feed her! By the time she was old enough for adoption, I took her home to meet her big brother.  It didn’t take long for them to get along.  Bowie follows Elliott around like a typical kid sister. She keeps him company and he returns the favor by grooming her.

Love at first sight: As soon as I met Bowie at PAWS in Philadelphia, I fell in love.

Love at first sight: As soon as I met Bowie at PAWS in Philadelphia, I fell in love.

Today:

I incorporated my business in the state of New York in 2013.  Polydactyl, was the chosen name of my company, after my many-toed kitty, Elliott. I design all toys and custom fabric used in production. All our toys are made in the United States. People love the toys and relate to them, and that is exactly what I wanted.

Bowie and Elliott lent me a hand (paw?) when it was time to shoot product photos for my company.  Bowie was definitely a little diva, while Elliott had no problem being in front of the camera.

Smile! Elliott was a natural in front of the camera!

Smile! Elliott was a natural in front of the camera!

We were lucky to have a cat-loving photographer, Patrick Blake, whom I’d gone to school with, and was understanding when I had to smack him (yes “him” as in the photographer!) in the head with a feather wand to get the cats to look at the camera!

Cat in a box: Though Bowie was a little difficult during the shoot, she couldn’t resist this box.

Cat in a box: Though Bowie was a little difficult during the shoot, she couldn’t resist this box.

One of my favorite things about owning this business is connecting with people who love cats. Everyone has a story to tell. I’ve had people thank me for coming out with a creative product, or making a toy their cats love.  One story that stands out was a woman I met who gave one of my toys to her cat. Her cat was adopted and had an abusive past from a previous owner. According to the woman, my toy helped the kitty come out of its shell and play. Moments like that make everything worth it.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
This entry was posted in Cats and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Fascinating story! Talk about breaking the cat lady myth! I’d love to find her toys!

    • Tamar

      I think you can check them out through the link in the upfront of her story! And yes, talk about breaking the myth! LOL!

  • I never knew there was such a thing as a certificate in Pet Product Design and Marketing. that is so cool. I love these toys, they look so real!

    • Tamar

      I know right?! The toys are great! My guys have the egg rolls!

  • I loved this story! It just kind of reinforces my feeling that having a life with cats can lead to all sorts of things. Never a dull moment!

    • Tamar

      So true – you never know where it will take you!

  • Lovely kitties and a great story. Thanks. XO, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo

    • Tamar

      Thank YOU for your readership! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  • Ms. Phoebe’s Mom

    These toys rule and so does Randi!