A cat product doubles as house decor when it comes from Marion and Dana Perkins of Dresden, who also share a love for the curious animal.
Between owning two cats, fostering others and their work as a stay-at-home mom and Bath Iron Works employee, the couple finds time to make cat trees from real tree limbs, as well as catnip beds, under the name For the Love of Cats.
“It’s not a business,” Marion Perkins said. “It’s our thing we do together. It’s our hobby.”
Last October, Marion Perkins thought about making the beds while volunteering for the Kennebec Valley Humane Society in Augusta. She assists at the shelter’s events, and her family fosters adult female cats and their kittens from the shelter.
“Some of the cats stay there a long time,” Marion said. She thought the catnip beds would bring some happiness to the animals waiting for adoption. “Every cat likes catnip, and that’s what got me started.”
She now sells the beds for $10 each or two for $15. She uses rectangles of fabric, places padding down and sprinkles catnip on top before sealing the bed with fabric glue. All the beds can be custom-made with any fabric a customer would like.
But she recommends that people throw away the bed after a cat has used it for a while, since it is not machine-washable.
Only a couple months later, in December, Marion wanted a cat tree made of real tree branches. Dana thought he could make one with his experience in carpentry.
Once it was complete, many friends and people at the shelter urged them to sell the trees.
“I had friends that were like, ‘We love it. We want one of those,’” Marion said. “And it just took off from there.”
Dana mostly designs and builds, while Marion stains, paints and decorates the trees.
The couple turns the hobby into a family event. Their sons, Douglas, 4, and Dana, 7, help by sanding the pedestals and “testing” them to see how much weight they can hold.
“To us, they’re like a piece of art,” Marion said. “None of them come out the same.”
She said they look for quirky tree limbs “because it makes for a fun tree.” They try to use limbs from fallen trees, instead of those from standing trees.
Their cat trees come in small, medium and large, with white birch and oak commonly used for the stems. The most popular size, medium, stands about 3.5 to 4 feet high, with a base and three pedestals.
The tallest tree Dana has built was about 6.5 feet, but the pair is open to building trees of any size.
They currently have several of each size in stock, stained neutral colors like black, gray and white.
Every tree has at least two toys and rope tightly wrapped around parts of the branches for a scratching post. Marion said both the toys and the rope can be easily changed after a cat uses them for a while.
Everything from the type of wood, the color of the pedestals, the height and the toys can be custom-made to a cat owner’s liking.
There is a $100 deposit for custom orders, Marion said, in case a buyer decides they don’t want a tree anymore. Since the couple does the work as a hobby, they ask for three weeks to complete a custom product.
“We want to make a good product that people are happy with,” Marion said. “It’s so different when you see it in person. You can see the quality of work.”
They will make adjustments to the trees if a cat has allergies or other needs. Dana will even draw a blueprint to show a potential buyer, to make sure their plans line up with the customer’s needs.
“You spend as much time thinking about it as you do building it,” Dana said.
Trees can be picked up or delivered, with a fee for delivery beyond the immediate area.
Cat trees start at $50. The price goes up based on the work required and the size of the tree, but Marion said they will work with customers and “try to make them affordable for anyone to be able to have one that wants one.”
In addition to cat trees, Marion and Dana just started building bird trees as well. Bird trees are considered custom orders because they must be made from apple trees, which will not harm a bird if it attempts to eat it.
For the Love of Cats is open to donating cat trees for fundraisers. They gave one of their trees to the Kennebec Valley Humane Society for an upcoming auction.
To place an order, find For the Love of Cats on Facebook or text Marion at 656-2408.
Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.