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Five Questions: Kevin Duck, Founder of DuckyWorld Cat Products

Glenn Polyn//May 8, 2023//

Five Questions: Kevin Duck, Founder of DuckyWorld Cat Products

Glenn Polyn //May 8, 2023//

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Minnesota-based DuckyWorld has generated a name for itself by creating a wide range of quirky catnip-stuffed toys, from sardines to cigars to the ever popular ‘Pollock Fish, which is the brand’s interpretation of the Pollock fish in the ocean if painted by Jackson Pollock. Pet Age recently spoke with the company’s founder/owner, Kevin Duck.


Why was it important for DuckyWorld that its catnip was always organic?

Once I decided to quit the various professions and jobs I had done, I briefly threw around the idea of pet food and treats but decided to sell catnip; and not just catnip, but I decided to sell high-quality, organic catnip. I believed it would be safer for the cats. It was 1997 and organic products were not as prevalent as they are now. I was told it was a fad and that the organic trend would pass. I saw that the catnip products available at the time were limited, and the catnip used was of a lesser quality and filled with some sort of filler and just a pinch of catnip. I knew that once cat owners gave their cats high-quality, organic catnip, they would be back for more.


Why do you think the Chi-cat-a Banana Cat Toy has become your brand’s iconic product?

After selling only loose catnip in the beginning, we had a brown cigar shaped toy. We heard many stories of people waking up in the middle of the night and stepping on the cigar thinking the toy was something other than a toy. Think brown, long shaped and perhaps drooled on. You get the picture. So that is how the Chi-cat-a-banana came to be. Something colorful with a fun shape to bunny kick. We believe it was one of the first really colorful, completely stuffed with organically grown catnip toys on the market when it was launched. It was fun and different.


What have been the benefits of DuckyWorld being a small, family-owned business?

We can make decisions fairly quickly and like to involve anyone who wants to join in on toy design. We celebrate our birthdays bringing in lunch for everyone. Last Thanksgiving and this past Valentine’s Day, we had potlucks. Everyone brought in dishes to share, and we had a feast. It is about creating what we hope to be a fun, safe, good environment where people want to come to work or at least perhaps not dread coming to work. In a recent, bad weather incident, we were able to close the office without much notice and had a snow day. Our employees, and our sewing vendor with whom we work with, have become somewhat of an extended family to us.


How has the cat product sector changed over the past 25+ years? 

People are purchasing more gifts and enrichment items for their cats than ever before. While the category has grown and more products are available, customers are also becoming more discerning and want the confidence that the products they bring home for their pets are safe and healthy while still providing good value and entertainment. This is where we believe our product stands the test of time. All our toys are fully stuffed with our organically grown catnip, encased in durable cotton twill (OKEO-Tex certified) and our toys never have strings, buttons or beads that can accidentally be ingested. We make products with our own cats in mind.


Can you tell us the story behind how Mick Jagger helped come up with the name, DuckyWorld?

Mick and I used to be lovers. [pauses and laughs] No, don’t use that.

In 1994, I got a job as a production manager with a guy in Minneapolis who did concerts. He was lined up with all the good shows. When we got the Rolling Stones show, I needed to get a crane that will lift speakers to the top of the Metrodome. I called up the crane company and ordered the crane, and I asked the guy, “Do you have two cranes? Can I put one on hold and then have one on site?” I had it in my head that something would happen.

While we’re setting up at the Metrodome, the crane is lifting stuff and it blows a gasket. I have an inch and a half of motor oil on the floor in a 30-foot circle. I called up the company and then said, “We blew a gasket. How long would it take to get the other one here?” We get everything lined up, so the show’s gonna happen.

It’s a couple of days before the show. There’s a Minneapolis club called Rogue, an underground bar owned by Nick Beavers. Nick calls and tells me that he’s sitting with Mick, and he wants to sneak in with a couple of guys and play some music at midnight, unannounced. Nick goes, “Can you put together a little drum kit and a couple of amps at my club?” I said yeah. We got the stuff set up and by midnight, there’s a line around the block.

That night was the first time that I talked to Mick. I’m on the phone and Nick goes, “Hold on, someone wants to say hi.” He hands the phone over to Mick, and he says, “Oh, we’re gonna have fun tonight.” He says, “I wanted to ask you. I heard about this lift that blew a gasket.” I told him that I have ESP, and I just had a feeling in my head. And he just blurts out, “You’ve got a DuckyWorld in your head!”