Monday, August 10, 2009

Your Cats Will Beg You for this Toy

Seriously. Since when do cats beg? Apparently since they were made aware of a toy called "The Original Cat Dancer". Huh? Yes, I ran across reviews of this toy on when purchasing other cat items, and the reviews were so overwhelmingly positive, to the point of gushing, that I had to check this thing out.

I had no idea what it was. The entry didn't really describe the item very well. And on receipt of it, I could see why. It is ridiculously simple. It's basically a yard-long piece of bailing wire with some cardboard bits attached at each end. If you read about a cat toy like that, would you buy it?

Of course not! At least, not unless you were somehow convinced that it magically attracts cats, like the pied piper attracted rats. So how does it work?

I'd like to know as much as you would. I really have no idea
why our cats go absofreakinlutely insane over this thing. The first time we showed it to them, they went nuts immediately and we had to put the toy away after 15 minutes or so, before they had heart attacks from over-exertion. That's pretty much a first for any toy. With all other toys, they eventually get tired. But not with this one.

And, yes, just as the title of this blog entry says, your cats will beg you for this toy. Ours do. We come home in the evening and feed them, and the moment they have finished eating they start meowing at us and standing in front of the cabinet where we keep
the Cat Dancer. (We have to put it away when not in use or they'd find it and obsess over it and do who-knows-what to it!) They are not satisfied until the Cat Dancer comes out and engages them. And "engages" is a mild term for what really happens. They turn into crazed predators. They run back and forth as we drag this thing across the floor, and they also leap through the air after it if we dangle it above them. They get so involved in chasing the Cat Dancer that they actually pant like dogs from the exertion (and yes, we've had them thoroughly checked by the vet, and they're hale and hearty - no worries about the panting). Even Boo, who is normally tough to motivate with toys, goes wild over this one.

The best part about this toy? It currently sells NEW on for $5.31. Well, when you consider what it's made of, you'll think that's a fortune, but once you see how your cats react to it, you'll think it's one of the best deals ever.

By the way, the boys still love The Bolt laser toy. We turn it on before we leave for work in the morning (and let it shut itself off in 15 minutes).

On other cat topics, I came across a web site, recently, called The Random Cat Project. The site's premise is a truly enlightened idea and makes for touching content. The site's creators have filmed and photographed random cats that they've encountered while walking through London, and they've posted the photos and videos at the site. They are soliciting similar photos and videos of random cat encounters from all over the world. I was so smitten by this web site that I sent the link to, among several others, ModernCat, and they posted it in their newsletter/blog. So now it's my turn. Lovely idea, Neil & Co., keep up the great work, and we'll be on the look-out for random cats to document here in Silicon Valley.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Laser Toys Everywhere

We've been using laser pointers with our cats for many years. We first noticed our dear Mala (R.I.P.) running madly after the small circle of light that reflected off my watch face. But that only worked when there was direct sunlight in the vicinity. Then laser pointers appeared, and we recognized immediately that these pointers would make great cat entertainment! Those early laser pointers really sucked up the battery power, however, and they used unusual batteries (those small hearing-aid type batteries) that were not always very easy to find. But, nevertheless, our cats learned to recognize the sound of the laser pointer as it was being picked up (it had a key chain on it that jingled) - that's how much they loved to chase The Red Dot!

Recently several cat products have come on the market that purport to entertain cats with lasers while the humans get on with other business. This is a bit sad, because half the fun of the laser pointer is to get your cat flinging himself crazily around the house after The Red Dot, and laughing insanely at his silly antics. However, we're pretty sure that a few cases of tendonitis arose among cat owners who went a little bonkers with the laser pointers, and relief from that would be welcome. And sometimes, we have to admit, we just don't have as much time as we'd like to spend a lot of play time with the feline members of our families. So these automatic cat toys were definitely intriguing.

The first we found was the "Ba-Da-Beam Rotating Laser Cat Toy" made by Multipet Inernational Inc. Bit of a mouthful, that. But it looked interesting - it's shaped a bit like a NASA space capsule from the 60s, and it has a lid on top that lifts up to reveal a mirror and a laser. The mirror adjusts to two different positions so that one can direct The Red Dot at the floor or at a wall. Clever! It was $16.99 at PetSmart. Our cats are not as enamored of The Red Dot on the wall as they are of it on the floor, so we used the floor setting. However, the floor setting resulted in a Red Dot that moved languidly in a fairly small-diameter (2 to 3 inches) oval. It stopped every so often and sat for half a second, only to start its weary rotations again. The cats were fairly interested in it at first but seemed to quickly grow bored with it.

We fiddled with the lid/mirror, to see if we could entice it into any positions between "floor" and "wall". No luck. So we stacked a few things under one edge of the "capsule". This did result in some better laser action. The Red Dot actually moved in a larger oval, which interested the cats a bit more. And the Ba-Da-Beam has an automatic shut-off, so we could turn it on and let the cats play, and it would turn off after about 15 minutes. This is not described in the instructions - that makes it a Bonus Feature! The instructions do state that the Ba-Da-Beam may be held in the hand for a more "interactive" experience. We tried that, and Ivan perked up quiet a bit. He looked like he had suddenly acquired a palsy of some sort, his head bobbing in a manner reminiscient of an elderly Katherine Hepburn. Ivan was more interested in The Red Dot when the Ba-Da-Beam was held in the hand than when it was set on a table or on the floor. But that sort of defeats the purpose - it was the "automatic" nature of the toy that was most enticing. However, on the bright side, the Ba-Da-Beam comes with batteries included! That's a rarity.

We saw a review of the Bolt automatic laser toy in the ModernCat blog. We then kept seeing ads for it in our pet insurance e-mail newsletters (through Pet Product Advisor). However, if we ordered it through Pet Product Advisor, we had to pay shipping. So we checked at our neighborhood PetSmart to see if they carried the Bolt.

The first time we checked, they did not have the Bolt, but they did have the Ba-Da-Beam, and that's when we purchased that toy. We checked a couple more times, but no Bolt, until today, when we went into PetSmart to get some cat litter. Voila, there was the Bolt! It's hard to miss once you've seen what it looks like. It looks a bit like a bowling pin with a hole near the top where the mirror and laser are located. It was $19.99. Not including batteries (it takes 4 AAs).

The Bolt, made by FroliCat, is the laser toy perfected. It can be placed on any flat surface - a table, a counter, the floor - and turned on, and The Red Dot moves about semi-randomly. The movement is reminiscent of the movement of the Undercover Mouse toy. Its basic track is a circle (or oval, in the case of the Bolt) but it moves forward and backward along the circle in random motions, stopping and changing direction constantly. That kind of random movement drives cats crazy. Once we set it up and the cats got accustomed to it, even Boo was chasing it, and Boo is fairly difficult to motivate when it comes to chasing things. And, the best part about the Bolt is that the mirror is adjustable, so you can have The Red Dot moving in wide arcs across floors, walls, and even ceilings, or you can have it move in a fairly small arc, to keep it right in front of kitties who lose interest once The Object of Their Interest moves out of their line of vision. The Bolt also has a 15-minute automatic shut-off, so that the cats don't keel over from too much exertion. Truly, that is sometimes a concern with hyper Ivan!

So if we had to choose between the two laser toys discussed here, we would definitely choose the Bolt. For $3 more than the Ba-Da-Beam you get a much more adjustable toy that works well entertaining cats while you go off to clean the bathroom, but it also works as a hand held laser, allowing you to interact a bit more with your feline friends.