The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

September 27, 2013

Why Cats are So Difficult to Shop For

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 12:35 am

Anyone got a can opener?

Depending on who you ask, cats are either the first or second most popular type of pet in America.  Although there are more dog-owning households than cat-owning households in America (a survey taken in 2007-2008 showed 45.6 million dog owners compared to 38.6 million households with cats,) the population of cats outnumbers the number of dogs by a considerable margin (the same survey estimated a population of 93.6 million cats compared to 77.6 million dogs.)  Even  taking in to account the crazy cat ladies that might be throwing off the average, households with cats tend to have more of them than households with dogs do.  It’s not hard to see why cats are so popular (among other things, they’re cute, they don’t take up a lot of space, and it’s fun to post videos of them on YouTube)  but in terms of interactivity, they generally fall quite a bit behind dogs.  Typically when cats aren’t either dragging dead and/or somewhat dead things into the house or trying to get you to feed them for the eleventh time today, they are lying around somewhere doing little of consequence.  Trying to take a cat out for a walk tends to be an exercise in futility, and half the time you can’t even get them to chase a catnip-infused mouse on a string (an activity which, at least according to the packaging the thing came in, cats are supposed to find irresistible.)

Because of this, people rarely seem to bother bringing their cats out in public.  Every once in a while you might see a cat or two on a leash somewhere, but you pretty much never see said cats actually enjoying (or even doing much more than merely tolerating) the experience.  On the other hand, in the mind of a dog there are few things that are quite as exciting as the daily walk with its many sights and smells.  Imola and Minardi, my parents’ two Beagles, will jump up and down with excitement rivaled only by that of feeding time if there is even a hint that a leash may be forthcoming.  Under the same circumstances, most cats would run off and go hide behind the couch.  Kaiya, my friend’s cat, is one of the rare ones that will actually tolerate a lot of the stuff most cats will shy away from.   My friend raised Kaiya from a very early age, having bottle fed her as a kitten after she was orphaned.  Because of this, Kaiya has been trained far more than a lot of the cats I’ve dealt with, and tends to be generally be calmer and more tolerant of things than most cats.  Naturally she still has her personality quirks and does occasionally like to misbehave, but what cat doesn’t?

One of the interesting things about modern pet stores is that many of them permit (and in some cases even encourage) people to bring their pets along with them.  Naturally, quite a few people take advantage of this, and on a good day you can see quite a few dogs.  Cats, on the other hand, tend to be in short supply, although you do see them every so often (not that I make a habit out of hanging out in pet stores, especially given the fact that I don’t currently have any pets of my own.)  Nonetheless, being bored last Saturday, we decided to take Kaiya over to the pet store just to let her wander around a bit, and possibly try out some new (and completely redundant) pet beds.

As I’ve noted above, the best case scenario for bringing a cat in public seems to be somewhere around tolerance.  I’m sure if you looked hard enough you could probably find someone who can manage to get their cat to tap dance in the middle of the rodent aisle while wearing an adorable little tuxedo or something like that, but any cat trained that well is probably going to be too busy making movies and signing eight-figure cat food endorsement deals to be hanging out in a random pet store in Bellevue.  Kaiya has been brought to the pet store on a number of occasions now, and on the times I’ve been along for the ride, her response seems to be somewhere between indifference and mild interest (at least until the ADD kicks in.)

Among other hobbies (or whatever the cat equivalent thereof happens to be,) Kaiya seems to be something of a connoisseur of beds.  Having at some point appropriated just about all of the beds in the house for napping purposes (after all, if you’re sleeping eighteen hours a day you want to make sure you’re comfortable during that time,)  she seems to have a particular inordinate fondness for fleece blankets bordering on some sort of odd fixation.  Given the large quantity of pet beds on offer at this store, we figured we might be able to find one to her liking.  She didn’t seem to care too much for this one.

This one came across a little bit better, but not much.  Mostly she seemed to be interested in just hanging out in the cart, which had been conveniently lined with a fleece blanket to provide a nice little spot to ride in.  Based on experience with previous trips to the pet store, we knew that Kaiya would jump back into the little child seat in the shopping cart if given the opportunity to do so.  Naturally, I thought this might be an interesting thing to record.  It took a couple of tries to get it, but eventually she figured it out again.

Then again, if I was a cat, I certainly wouldn’t complain too much about getting carted around the store in (relative) luxury while sitting and watching the world go by.  Actually, if I was a cat, I’d probably complain anyway, because that’s generally what cats tend to do most of the time.

Here we see Kaiya watching the action (from a safe distance, of course) in the small dog petsitting area.  It’s just as adorable (and just as loud) as it looks.

Anyone notice that nobody ever seems to have “Beware of Cat” signs?  You’d think anyone who’s dealt with cats long enough might consider something like that…

With plenty of cat beds still to go and not much time (or attention span, for that matter) remaining, we decided it would be a good idea to try out several at once.

Here’s how that worked out.  I’d call it an action shot, but there isn’t exactly a whole lot of action going on here.  In the end, none of the pet beds in the store seemed to be much to her liking, so we opted for a few cat treats and called it good.  One thing I did notice from this is that bringing a cat to the pet store seems to attract a lot of attention from random bystanders, most likely because you don’t see many of them (at least not compared to dogs, which seem to be a dime a dozen in the store on any given day.)  This is, of course, because most cats in this type of situation would probably bolt from the cart and hide underneath the first conveniently inaccessible shelf they could find the minute they got into the store.  Not sure I’d want to try it with a cat of my own though, unless I was really certain of what I was doing.

January 8, 2008

Is Your Marketing Going to the Dogs?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 9:33 pm

(Note:  This post was crossposted from 

For some reason I have yet to figure out, Beagles seem to run in my family. Although my current situation does not allow me to properly take care of a pet, that doesn’t mean I have to go dogless. My parents own a pair of Beagles, pictured to the left (although that is a fairly old photo now.) Their names are Imola and Minardi (yes, we have Formula 1 fans in the family,) and they are related to each other, albeit from different mothers. My sister and her husband also own one of Imola’s littermates (named Enzo,) as well as an older (and marginally less hyperactive) Beagle by the name of Alpine. This means that I get to go hang around with the dogs pretty much whenever I want, but without having to worry about feeding, training, cleaning up after them or having the house trashed. Grandpuppies, if you will.

Beagles are very affectionate and even-tempered dogs (Imola in particular always seems to want attention,) but this certainly doesn’t make them easy to care for. These two are very high-maintenance, and generally require not one, but two trips to the local off-leash dog park per day to burn off energy and keep them from destroying the house too badly. Even then, they always seem to be getting themselves into trouble one way or another, and can be incredibly hyperactive when they get worked up. They also have a tendency to become incredibly single-minded in their pursuit of an interesting scent (which makes Beagles a popular choice as scent dogs) and tend to bark at just about anything that catches their attention, much to the chagrin of the neighbors. We cannot let them out into the yard unsupervised anymore due to their tendency to escape. Have you ever tried rounding up four escaped dogs running around the neighborhood at once? I would not recommend it.

But I digress. Aside from a convenient excuse to post a gratuitous dog photo, when I was over at my parents’ house this afternoon, I noted this reminder from their vet which came in the mail:

The first thing I noticed was just how far on-demand digital printing has come nowdays to allow something this polished and professional looking to be sent out by a small veterinary clinic (it turns out they have a service to send the cards out for them.) It isn’t just a cookie-cutter postcard with a name printed on it either. It’s a completely customized card with the specific breed and customized information. And it’s not just someone running these off on the office inkjet either, the entire thing looks to have been professionally printed. As impressive as this might look, there’s just one slight problem here:

The last time I checked, none of our dogs could read. Sure, you could have someone slightly more literate and gifted with opposable thumbs take care of this for them, but the result would probably turn out like that old “blah blah Ginger” Far Side cartoon (I won’t link it, but an image search should dig it up.) Even if by some miracle your dog WAS able to read and comprehend the contents of this postcard, what makes you think they would actually do anything about it? You’re talking about creatures that require months of intensive training just to keep them from peeing on your expensive new carpets, I’d have to believe that getting them to set themselves up an appointment to go get their booster shots is probably going to be out of the question. All in all, it’s an impressive effort for something like this, but I just hope nobody over there is wondering why none of the mail they send out is being read by the intended recipient.

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