Review: KitNipBox Subscription

While cats don't always like change, they often need the stimulation that it creates.  Indoor cats are especially susceptible to boredom.  A new toy or a shipping box with holes cut in the ends can be the curious new adventure that they need to shake things up from time to time.  That's why we were so excited to try KitNipBox.  It promises a new box of toys and/or treats every month!

There are two subscription levels - $19.99/month and $29.99/month.  The lower priced box includes four or more toys and/or treats each month and the higher, six or more.  You can even specify not to include food treats and they'll replace those with extra toys.  Great, right?  Well, it depends on the goodies.

We placed an order for the lower-priced box and specified no treats because our spokescat, Mina, has food allergies.  The KNB web site at kitnipbox.com is well-designed and the order process went smoothly.  About a week later, we received our first box. 

When we opened it, we found a nice tissue wrapping with some postcards about KNB and the contents of the box.  But then we dug in and saw the actual items.

We got a mini container of pet wet wipes in place of the food treats, a couple of very low quality stuffed toys, a tiny loofah flip flop, and a cheap collapsible bowl.  All of these items seemed like they were leftovers from the discount bin.  At best, they would cost $4-$5 total at the dollar store.

Since the stuffed toys were listed on the postcard as "stuffed with catnip" we took a whiff but didn't smell any catnip.  In the name of research, we performed surgery on the elephant toy.  What we found was most infuriating.  The toy was stuffed with fiberfill.  There wasn't a single flake of catnip inside.  We cut open the ladybug to reveal the same.  Not only were these two toys of very low quality, they were misrepresented by KNB.

In the end, our cats only liked the box, so we can't recommend KNB.  You should definitely spend your cat entertainment budget elsewhere.  In fact, you can make better toys at home from things you already have.  Plastic bottle tops are a favorite in our house, as are paper bags and boxes.  Get creative and you won't have to spend a dime.

The Hazards of Being a TV Cat

There are lots of famous cats, from Morris to Grumpy Cat, and they all have one thing in common - they have no desire to be famous.  They're in the public eye because their human wants them to be famous or make money off them, or both.  This is wrong for a number of reasons, but the worst is that it compromises the well-being of the cat.

I live in Los Angeles, and I've worked on a large number of big budget film and television shoots.  Everything from Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean to Alias and My Wife & Kids.  What they all have in common is extremely high-pressure environments and a serious lack of time.  If you add an animal into the mix, your exacerbate those problems.  Now the animal is expected to perform on cue for grumpy, impatient people who just want to finish the day and go home.  This isn't a situation where an animal will be well-treated.  In fact, despite the claims of the American Humane Association, most animals on set are treated quite badly.  They're transported in cramped conditions, moved into spaces they don't know and can't understand, and then expected to perform on cue.

Cats are especially susceptible to becoming distressed in this sort of situation, unlike dogs who might even thrive there.  Cats are highly territorial.  When taken to an area that lacks familiarity and their scent markings, they can become agitated.  Just how agitated really depends on the individual cat.  Some cope with change better than others, such as Maine Coons, but almost all cats dislike new places the first time they're taken there.  Regardless of personality, their reactions are either to hide from the world or to explore an area that is extremely unsafe for animals.

By the way, "American Humane Association" (AHA) and "The Humane Society of the United States" (HSUS) are different organizations.  The AHA film & TV unit makes a significant amount of money from Hollywood productions that want to have their projects certified.  Despite the AHA film tagline, "No animal was harmed", it seems that a number of animals have been harmed under the AHA's watch.  In 2001, the Los Angeles Times ran an article on the AHA film & TV unit that stated, "the group has been slow to criticize cases of animal mistreatment, yet quick to defend the big-budget studios it is supposed to police."  The article also cites specific incidents where animals were injured or killed on set with no repercussions from the AHA.  (read the entire article here)  The most recent accusations revolve around animal deaths on the set of The Hobbit

Thankfully, CGI animals are becoming more prevalent in today's productions.  I applaud the use of CGI as long as the animals portrayed aren't harmed.  Sadly, dramatizing the violent death or mistreatment of a CGI animal can give some psychotic individuals the wrong idea.

You may be asking what you can do.  Well, the first thing is to stop supporting productions that use live animals in this way.  A film that uses cats is no different that a circus that uses elephants.  Just don't buy a ticket.  If you see an online video where a cat is frightened or tormented, note your disgust in the comments.  We have to make the general public aware that animals are sentient beings and that we won't tolerate their mistreatment for human profit or pleasure.

Review: The Ripple Rug

If you've had cats in your life for many years, you probably feel like you've seen every cat product that could ever exist.  You've tried every toy and your cat has a basket full of fluffballs and feather toys and fake mice.  Then something comes along that's truly unique.  That's our reaction to The Ripple Rug from SungglyCat. 

The basic idea is that you have a reconfigurable cat environment that, in theory, should never become boring.  It starts with a 47"x35" rug with a rubber backing that you place on the floor.  You then add a second rug with holes cut in it and velcro tabs on the back side.  By connecting the velcro tabs to the bottom rug in various ways, you create an interesting, explorable environment for those indoor kitties who need extra stimulation.

We were impressed with the design of the toy, if you can call it that.  The holes vary in size and have small splits at opposite edges to keep anyone from getting stuck.  We also liked the fact that the rugs were made from 100% post-consumer waste in the form of plastic soda bottles.

We tested this product with our 9-year-old spokescat, Mina, and she took to it right away.  The smell of the new carpet was a little offputting, but she eventually climbed in and started exploring.  We reconfigured it a few times and each time, she'd check it out.  Unfortunately, she never found it interesting enough to return, despite our many attempts to get her to play in and around the rug.  We even tried it in different parts of the room, but she quickly became blasé about the whole affair.  This isn't an indictment of the Ripple Rug design.  It has more to do with the differences between cats.  It's easy to imagine a litter of kittens going nuts over this!

The only real downside to the Ripple Rug is its unsightly appearance.  While that appearance might attract cats, it certainly won't go far in a room with designer furniture.  It's more well-suited to a playroom or patio environment.  It's practically impossible to make it look like the messy arrangement of the top layer was intentional. 

We would also have appreciated the addition of a bendable wire frame around the outside of the upper rug.  Sometimes, it was difficult to get it to stay in place in a way that would allow cats to tunnel inside. 

All in all, we give the Ripple Rug an A+ for innovation.  We recommend you give it a try with your cats, especially if they're the sorts who love to tunnel under the bedclothes.

Manufacturer's web site:  http://www.snugglycat.com/

Review: Petmate Looney Loops Cat Toys

We're always on the lookout for cool cat toys.  Most cats can be unpredictable when it comes to the toys they respond to, so imagine our surprise when we discovered that these were a huge hit all around.

If you have a cat who likes to play fetch, this is the ultimate fetching toy.  Its main advantages are that it's lightweight and it's very easy for a cat to pick up with her mouth or bat around the room.  They also make a nice clicking sound that gets a cat's attention...when they're willing to have their attention gotten, of course.  

Petmates makes several variations of this toy, but it's these "Looney Loops" that are the most popular with the kitties.  So much so that they've garnered their own nickname - springy!  Of all the cat toys we've been through over the years, this is one of the ones that's been a keeper.  In fact, we know one cat that has to play fetch with these every single night before bedtime.  Very highly recommended.