2002.10.02 Cat bored? Have money to waste? Buy it a video

Written by David Green.


Anyone out there have a cat? Let’s see your hands. OK, has anyone fallen for the nationally advertised “Cat Adventure Video?” I don’t blame you for not admitting to it, but over 100,000 copies “are now keeping an ever-growing feline audience entertained while their owners head to work, to play, or simply try to get things done around the house.”

Steve Cantlin, a video producer, noticed that cats responded to images on a monitor while he was producing a video. He began shooting images he thought might appeal to cats. He showed each new segment to the feline Roger Eberts and kept the most promising clips. Four months later, the video was done.

Guilty cat owners have been snapping up the tape ever since. The testimonials in the ad are hilarious. Bunny Hooley’s cat, Nina, “a black six-year-old with white boots and a little black beard, used to get listless every time the weather got chilly...she’d even come and wake me at 4 a.m. to eat.”

I guess it never occurred to Bunny that the cat might be hungry. But now “the video perks Nina right back up,” says Bunny. “She’s enraptured and is her old self again.” Except for never being fed, of course.

Isn’t it bad enough to use television as a babysitter for children, we now have to buy specialized videos to entertain our pets? The ad even has a cartoon of a cat watching the video, remote in one hand and martini in the other. The cat looks happy all right, or maybe he’s plastered.

Thomas M. Byrne, identified as a school psychologist from Rockville Centre, New York says, “Now in addition to my family, I have to wrestle the cats for the remote!”

You’d think a school psychologist would recognize the potential danger that too much television can have on or nation’s pets. I’m really concerned about “Cuppy,” Gloria Soltis’s 3-year-old black cat who didn’t want to leave the TV room.

“When she finally got too hungry, she raced into the kitchen, gobbled down some food, then ran right back to her seat in the TV room,” Gloria reports, adding, “She’s a couch potato now.”

Yes, this video is producing a nation of lethargic pets who only leave the television long enough to eat (or mix another martini). And even worse, all this TV viewing is starting to alter their perceptions of reality.

The ad claims that “Some kittens even jump on top of the TV and try to dip their paws into the televised aquarium to get at the tropical fish.” If you really want to confuse your cat, put your aquarium on top of the TV, then turn on the video.

As dumb as I think this video is, the company selling it has one even dumber, the “Ultimate Fireplace Video.” Yep, a video of wood burning. The ad makes it sound better than that, obviously.

“The next best thing to having your own fireplace,” the copy reads. “In fact some savvy homeowners may even prefer it. No chopping wood. No fancy equipment to buy. No cinders and soot to clean. And no smoky living rooms.” Sounds pretty good so far, doesn’t it?

But then, the marketing department gets a bit carried away. “So realistic you’ll almost be able to smell it. Perfect for relaxation. Adds warmth to family gatherings. Creates a romantic atmosphere for special evenings.” Get real, people. It’s a video of wood burning. Next, I suppose you’ll say it’s so realistic that some humans have tried to roast marshmallows in front of it.

I’m sure there’ll be some buyers for this, of course. Some people will fall for anything. But they may never get to watch the video. At least, not until they buy the cat its own VCR.

    – Oct. 2, 2002 
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