Thursday, June 21, 2007

Cat Turd Receptacles

On the rare occasion when I sit down and actually watch a little television, it doesn’t take long to be reminded why these occasions are so rare.

I happened to pass through the living room yesterday while my husband was watching a program about Isambard Kingdom Brunel, undoubtedly one of the most innovative engineers to grace the planet (and one whose projects can still be admired in many places in England). That’s the good thing about television these days—with a few spare minutes, you can actually learn something, and the quality of many documentaries is outstanding.

Then came the first advertisement. A woman is scooping litter from her cat’s box. Her expression dramatizes her complete revulsion at having to do the task, as she carries the bag at the end of her arm out to the trash. But wait! There’s a solution!

For a mere 40 bucks or so, you can have not one but two receptacles to hold used litter until you’re good and ready to take it out to the trash! Each container is equipped with a supply of plastic liners (the high-tech equivalent of the plastic grocery bags I use, I guess), and a mechanical closure in each container crimps the top so odors don’t escape.

Now we see the same woman again, beaming from ear to ear, carrying out another bag of cat waste—after some of it, purportedly, has ripened for a week. She looks like it’s her birthday and she’s just spotted the cake! (Interestingly, this second baggie appears to be very much the same size and shape as the baggie in the first scene, leaving one to wonder if her cat sometimes uses the toilet.)

Okay, let’s think about this for a minute.

For years, health experts have been urging people to be more active. We’re encouraged to park some distance from the door at a mall or grocery store so we get a little more exercise going to and from the car. Yet here are several happy customers endorsing a product that, at most, can save them a few steps to the garbage cans. These women (like me) look as though a little bit more exercise wouldn’t do them a bit of harm.

Hurry! Call now!

Good grief.

Who are these people who sit around thinking up kooky ideas for products nobody ever needed and nobody ever will? And who buys these gadgets?

And what would Isambard think about the way some modern engineers choose to apply their intelligence?


Ann said...

"Efficiency-increasing" gadgets, for both people and pets I can at least understand... maybe you really are too busy to clean your catbox every day (which makes one wonder: are you also too busy to keep a cat?). It could work. Maybe. ...

But the things that REALLY get me are the totally superfluous "animal" doohickies that are clearly aimed at people and their anthropomorphic pocketbooks instead. Why does my dog or cat need: a stroller? A bikini? A WATERBED?!

Seriously, people... I know you love your pet, but come off it. Your dog is going to be just as happy chewing on a stick as he is on a $18 brand-name Kong. Your cat is going to be just as satisfied pooing in a $4.99 litterbox as she is in a $149.99 LitterMaid Automated Litter System. Your lizard is going to be just as bask-y on a piece of driftwood you found at the beach and scrubbed as it is on a piece of $12.99 driftwood that someone else scrubbed clean.

I 'love' the mentality that says "I'm happy with the most aspirational products or 'this kind of thing/comfort/perk makes ME happy' - therefore my pet [read "I, in lieu of my pet"] should be, too"!

Repeatedly at work I've gotten talkings-to because of my willingness to recommend "arts and crafts" to customers, i.e. 'look at over-priced product, figure out how to make your own'. Why do you need a $35 "top entry" litterbox when you can go to Walmart, buy a Tupperware for $8 and cut a hole in the top? Why pay $60 for "dog steps" when carpeting a box is going to cost... well, given that you can get carpet squares for free, not a lot? It works. And I like to think that I've made at least a few people happy. Even if my manager is not one of them.

And that was my pet-products rant. Sorry - working at Petsmart has definitely skewed the way I look at the animal-based retail industry.

Citizen Jane said...

I never thought about it before, but I can see how anthropomorphism with pets can quickly get expensive. (Dog steps?)

That reminds me of something I was thinking the other day. (And I'll probably make someone else a million dollars by giving this away.) Why do cat and dog foods have flavors like "Ocean Whitefish" and "Fillet Mignon"? Why not "Mouse" for cats and . . . well, for dogs, you fill in the blank.

Obviously, because it's not the pets who pay!

Ann said... These ones are my favourite. "in a delicate sauce with garden greens". Clearly, because *I* like salad with my White Meat Chicken and Egg Souffle or Turkey Florentine, Muffy should, too, right?

Check it out sometime, though: all those random flavours are mainly in the "grocery" (low-end) foods. The premium, high-end foods tend to be much more demographically (i.e. indoor, senior, hairball, kitten, urinary tract health, etc) focused.