Graphic Designer Tabei Mina × Dango — A unique curly-haired cat

Mar 19, 2014 / Interviews

photo:Kazuho Maruo Edit&Text:Madoka Hattori Translation: Seth High

Graphic designer Tabei Mina works on advertisements, books and magazines - including the publication titled 'GINZA.' She currently lives with a pet cat named 'Dango.' We asked Tabei-san all about her curly-haired and very charming cat.

Love-at-first-sight for the cat with curly hair

- How did your life with cats begin?

"When I was looking through online pet adoption sites, I came to learn about a breed of curly-haired cat called Selkirk Rex. I've always loved curly haired animals, like Toy Poodles and Wire-haired Fox Terriers. So I fell in love with the Selkirk Rex breed at first sight. I was browsing various sites just to collect images of these cats when I discovered the existence of a Selkirk Rex breeder. At first I wasn't thinking about getting one myself. However, they are so cute that I just couldn't help but visiting their website everyday for about half a year. A bunch of kittens were born, and all them were taken but one - and that was Dango-san."

- I see. But why did you decide to get him?

"Well, I had this feeling that he was left there because he was destined to come to our house. I always liked grayish and mono-colored cats. My husband, however, who is also a cat-lover, he used to have a cat with an inverted-V pattern on its face when he was little, so he fell for him even harder and deeper than I did. So we decided to get him."

- What was he like when he first came to your house?

"He hid away for the first couple of days. Because he was used to the breeder's house, I guess it was natural considering he was suddenly brought among strange people in an unfamiliar house. On the morning of the third day, he was sitting in between books on the shelf when I stuck some catnip out and tried to play with him. He started purring at me. That's when I thought he is okay. I had been worried sick that he may not like our place, so I was very happy to hear him purr."

- Was it your first time to live with a cat?

"My husband had owned a cat, but I was a dog lover all my life - though I was interested in cats, too. We eventually moved into a house that allowed pets and waited for the right moment to meet a wonderful cat."

- What's the difference between dogs and cats?

"I guess dogs are more animal-like, or how shall I put it, I feel a bit of distance with them. They go running around all excited when we play, but cats always stay cool. The way their emotions swing make them seem much closer to humans. Cats have a lot of expressions, especially when it comes to showing their affection. We can learn a lot from them. It's not like we speak the same language, but we're somewhat synchronized with cats. Maybe it's just because Dango is such a friendly cat (laughs)."

- How would you describe your relationship with Dango-san?

"I think he is my superior. When I'm sleeping, he will climb right up on ot the middle of my chest and look down on my face. It's like he owns the place. I don't know any other cats, but I think he is pretty gentle. He doesn't make any messes and is very neat about his food and litter box. Other than that, his little actions - just the way he stands there, for example, is very charming. He always makes me smile."

Love the Flabbiness!

-What is the best thing about living with a cat?

"When I come home, I can pick him up and hold him in my arms. That's the best thing. Cats are so different from dogs in their flabbiness. When I hold him he will curl up in a ball. I enjoy making up songs and singing them to him. He will reply by purring, and that sound that makes me the happiest."

- When we interviewed Hattori Kazunari-san (, you were working at his office?

"Yes, I was. Back then, Hattori-san wasn't living with a cat, either. So I guess he was designing cat patterns as symbolic images. Once you start living with a cat, you will get a very concrete image of what cats look like - then it is kind of hard to make designs based on them. The cat on this tote bag is Dango-san. When I provided a design drawing for an event, I used a cat-motif. I designed it while thinking specifically of Dango-san, rather than imagining some abstract cat."

- Do you think that cats lend themselves to design work?

"Cats themselves might be good design. However, when it comes to goods for cats, there aren't many choices. I can hardly find anything I want even when I visit a pet shop. Some of my artist friends go so far as to build their own cat houses or make homemade catnip. That's something I would like to try someday."

- Cat motifs on CD jacket and book covers generally catches a lot of attention. Is there anything you keep in mind when you make designs?

"I participated an artistic unit called kvina with a photographer, an illustrator and a writer. Once we had this event where we made and sold badges with illustrations of strawberries and cats. They sold out almost instantly. I guess the cat motif is very popular. Maybe because they are less fancy than dogs. Maybe cat imagery kind of reflects the 'tsun-dere' (hot-cold personality) that is characteristic of cats. It is really hard to define what is cute. I think my designs are more simple and light-hearted than others. Some people think this equates to 'unfriendly' design. But when I use cats within a design, I clearly communicate that this is what cute is. I'm sure cats know inside that they are cute. They also know how to utilize that cuteness. That's why they have been loved by many people for such a long time."

  • name: Dango
  • age: 18 months
  • sex: Male
  • lind: Selkirk Rex
  • Tabei Mina
    Graphic Designer Tabei Mina was Born in Saitama Prefecture in 1977. She started working at Hattori Kazunari Incorporated in 2003. Since 2006, she has also created her own work, eventually becoming completely independent in 2014. She actively produces design work for advertisements, CD's, packages, books and magazines Tabei is also a member of atelier 'kvina.'