Given the size—and growth—of the pet industry, and the increasingly close relationship humans have with their animals, it's not unusual to see strange new products being launched (I'm looking at you cat soufflé). Not surprisingly, most of the products are aimed at pets that are still alive. But 'cardboard engineer' Mat Bogust and his wife Jane have seen a gap in the market and launched a Kickstarter campaign to try and give their cardboard casket business Rest in Pets a leg up.
Bogust, who contracts to Image Centre Group under his Think Packaging company and has been designing packaging since he was 16, says the idea came about around four years ago after a friend asked him if he had a box lying around that they could bury their pet in. He thought he could put his skills to use and make them something better, and as soon as he made it he "knew it was a winner".
"The whole idea was to build a package to bring friends and family together to unite around this pet. At the end of the day it's a cardboard box, but we've branded it in a way that creates a point of difference ... Everyone remembers their pets as kids, and they remember how they were buried."
He doesn't own pets, but he does remember previous pets being dumped rather unceremoniously (his wife's guinea pig was thrown in the bin). So it is aimed squarely at parents who want to help their kids deal with a departure. As it says on his website: "The death of a beloved pet can be hugely painful, and it’s difficult to plan for such a sad event. But think back to your early childhood memories of pets passing away. Goldfish flushed unceremoniously down the toilet. Guinea pigs and bunnies wrapped in old tea towels, and cats squashed into shoeboxes."
He looked at the options currently available, and while there are already cardboard pet caskets available, "they're not doing it well". Some vets also offer big white boxes, but they're "rank", and other vets either wrap animals up in a white sheet and hand it over or offer to dispose of the animals themselves (often by cremation). But he says there wasn't anything offering "furry friends a more dignified farewell", so Rest in Pets caskets feature illustrations by Beck Wheeler (as part of the Kickstarter pitch, it's giving away 150 signed prints to the big pledgers) and include a photo frame and a plaque to write a message.
He spoke to vets about the idea to gauge the appropriate casket size and there are three available at $20, $40 and $60. It's primarily for smaller pets and cats, simply because dogs are so big and varied, but it does offer a cardboard urn with a pull tab to scatter ashes and if there's demand for larger canine boxes he'll certainly look at offering them. It also offers a custom option where a photo of the pet can be printed on the box.
The large casket is hexagonal because, "at the end of their lives, cats are best farewelled curled up ... maybe remembering one of their many afternoon naps".
He says vets like the idea and many are keen to sell the range. But the big pet store chains have yet to come around to it because "no-one's asked for this type of product before".
"But we say it's because a product like this hasn't existed before," he says. "... 98 percent of the people I speak to think it's a great idea. Or they just like the look of it."
Although he says human cardboard coffins are also available, and there are now many more creative caskets you can lie in for eternity, he's "not out to be the death guy", so he's sticking to pets at the moment.
The whole project has involved a lot of time, around $10,000-$20,000 of investment and plenty of favours (the artwork was done by Curious Design, the Kickstarter video was filmed by Gregoire Aubourg of On Digital and, to get it on Kickstarter, it paid the $800 fee and worked closely with the Debra Chantry from the Icehouse). And while he was the creative side of the equation, he says his wife Jane was the driving force behind turning it from a crazy idea into an actual business.