Cat Dancer Celebrates 35 Years on the Market
Cat Dancer Products Inc., in Neenah, Wis., recently celebrated its 35th anniversary and 35 years of its signature product Cat Dancer on the market. First introduced in 1983, Cat Dancer is an interactive cat toy that can be used simultaneously by both the cat and a person. Since that time interactive cat toys have grown to represent 54 percent of the total sales of cat toys in the U.S., according to the American Pet Products Association.
Cat Dancer elicits immediate playfulness in cats and delight in their owners, said company officials. It is a simple, inexpensive toy that induces frenetic playfulness in kittens and healthy aerobic exercise in older cats.
Jim Boelke the founder, inventor and company president recently revealed some of the company’s history:
“I first came up with the design while in college because I was too poor to buy cat toys and I had two rescue kittens that definitely needed toys. I lived in a house with several guys, and there was a lot of parties and Cat Dancer would induce my cats to do backflips during the parties to everyone’s amusement and requests for the toys started there.
“I made them by hand, and I gave them away to family and friends that had cats for several years. The popularity of the toy grew by itself through word of mouth in a sort of early viral
manner, until the requests for toys became so numerous that its marketability became obvious.
“In 1983, I had $1,500 saved, and I hired some packaging artists and created the first batch of toys that at that point were all handmade with a tin snips and pliers. The company grew slowly as I had full time employment and did what I could to promote the toy during lunch hours and weekends.
“A strategic partnership with Caley Corporation in 1986, a Neenah book binder enabled us to build the machines that took manufacturing out of the handmade realm and made it possible to supply the network of dealers that I was working to establish. For years I worked for other people until 1989 when the company I worked for dissolved.
“Suddenly, I was unemployed but I stepped up my activity with Cat Dancer. In 1990 I bought an RV and spent the next year traveling the country visiting distributors and stores to establish a network of outlets for the toy nationwide. Many of those I met in that year are still customers and friends to this day.
“Since that time we have added more cat products to our line including the Cat Charmer, Cat Dancer Compleat (now redesigned as the Cat Dancer Deluxe), Wall Scratcher and our line of Chasers.
“The kittens I had when I started the company were from a shelter I worked at part-time and giving back has always been a part of our mission, recently we debuted the Cat Dancer Pro-Model which is the only toy designed to be used by a cat or kitten in a cage.
“Thousands of these have been donated to non-profit organizations. In 1996 we built our building, and in 2016, we added a warehouse with a large solar array on the roof to provide clean power for our offices and factory.
“It takes a whole lotta help to make it on your own and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our vendors, customers and associates for a great first 35 years.”