Japanese Cat Hair Art

A festival celebrates the art of felted cat hair crafts. Hear how they’re made cleanly and cutely.

Some see cat hair as a furry bother while others see fuzzy, crafty cats and dolls. For the latter, enter the Cat Hair Festival in Kawagoe, Japan.

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We’re not talking about pulling out cat hair from kitty and then rolling it into a ball, magically whipping up a cute tchotchke – this cat fur is actually made into felt.

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The felting process presses cat hair fibers together with water and a little soap, cleaning and reshaping the cat hair along the way. (Wool-makers use the same procedure.) Felt can be made really hard – sometimes hard enough for construction purposes – or soft, so pet parents can create many different types of art with this medium.

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“This is an idea that I came up with in 2002, while I was brushing my cat at home to avoid it from swallowing its furball,” says Kaori Tsutaya, the organizer of the festival just outside of Tokyo. “I happened to have some time on my hands one day so I tried it, and it worked.”

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Tsutaya has also published three books about her cat-hair art. “Crafting with Cat Hair: Cute Handicrafts to Make with Your Cat” (Quirk Books, 2011) has been translated to English, and is now available in the United States. The book has received rave reviews from the Los Angeles Times and Neatorama. She says that all anybody needs to turn their cat’s hair into the proper material is three day’s worth of cat hair from gentle brushing and dishwashing detergent to create a clean, soft product.

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One question Tsutaya is often asked is whether you can make art out of dog hair, as well. “It’s not impossible, but dog hair often has odor and they vary, depending on the type of the dog. For example, it would be very difficult with French bulldogs because they have stiff hair.” Tsutaya continues, “Cat’s hair is odorless and it works better.”

If you are in or around Tokyo from Apr. 26-29, stop by the Cat Hair Festival. However, don’t bother trying to get into the finger-doll workshop – it’s already sold out.

Would you try making felt or art from your cat’s hair?

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