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In English, we have two identical phrases that could mean two different things: a "cat hat" (a hat one buys to put onto a cat), and a "cat-hat" (a hat that looks like a cat's head.)

Is there a non-ambiguous way to convey the latter? "Кошачья шапка" covers the former, but I'm told "кошка шапка" is incorrect / non-idiomatic for the latter.

In particular, in English, the … adjectivization(?) and alliteration cause the latter phrase to construe a lot of 'cuteness'. Ideally, something 'cuter' than "шляпа в виде кошки" to refer to a beloved object?

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Шапка-кошка is not an idiomatic way of putting it, but it could be if this particular style made fashion.

We do have words шапка-петушок, шапка-пирожок, галстук-бабочка, платье-торт etc. Those are metaphors and not literal descriptions, but the pattern is productive.

For now, шапка в виде кошачьей головы is probably the only non-ambiguous way of putting it.

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... two different things: a "cat hat" (a hat one buys to put onto a cat), and a "cat-hat" (a hat that looks like a cat's head.)
Is there a non-ambiguous way to convey the latter? "Кошачья шапка" covers the former, but I'm told "кошка шапка" is incorrect / non-idiomatic for the latter.

  1. Шапка для кошки. This unambiguously means "a hat for a cat". Almost unambiguously. It could still be used jokingly about the size of some very small human hat or another hat-like object.

  2. Кошачья шапка. While this literally means "cat's hat," it can still be used to denote a hat that has cat-like features if the speaker isn't careful enough to be more precise with their phrasing. Another rather grim — though infrequent — meaning here is "a hat made of cat skins", same as "кроличья шапка" or "беличья шапка".

  3. Шапка с ушками, Шапка с кошачьими ушками, Шапка-кошка These couldn't be used to denote a hat for a cat.

As for making it cutesy, in Russian there are way too many options to go down that "cat hole" and attempt to list them all, e.g. using "ушками" here already adds +2 in cuteness.

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It would be OK, if you put the name/style/image in inverted commas or quotes. I mean the second variant.

Шапка (с ушками) «Кошка».

If you mean something like this:

https://www.wildberries.ru/catalog/8575293/detail.aspx

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I would add the slightly humorous nonce word котошапка. I believe it would be readily understood as cat-shaped hat because they're far more common than hats for cats.

Зайцешапка, волкошапка and тигрошапка are, obviously, even less ambiguous.

But this pattern isn't universal. I wouldn't say бараношапка (овцешапка instead), мишкошапка, собакошапка — it just sounds clumsy. Same with кошкошапка.

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Not my answer, but excellent nonetheless:

Assuming you're referring to this, you can use кошкошапка, which is exactly what I'd use. It may not be quite idiomatic, but hey, even if someone's never heard it, they'll most likely be able to firgure out what it is. At worst, they'll think it's a hat made our of cat pelts, and at best, it'll be funnier than boring old "шапка в виде кошки".

By the way, "кошка шапка" is grammatically incorrect and sounds strange because it's just a sequence of two words with no discernible connector or inflexion. Additionally, you could use "шапка-кошка", but "кошкошапка" sounds way better in my opinion.

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