Monday, October 26, 2009

Cat-Aerobics, and a Bolt Update

Yes, even cats need some aerobic exercise. Exercising your cat keeps him fit, not to mention out of trouble! Cats who don't get exercise can get bored and develop bad habits. Even though we don't have dogs, and are pretty much bona fide cat people, we watch The Dog Whisperer, and his credo is "exercise, discipline, and affection" in that order. The exercise is important because it provides a natural energy drain. In the wild, dogs and cats would be hunting to live, and that would take up a lot of their time and energy. Domesticated animals don't need to hunt to live, so, unless we provide them some exercise opportunities, they build up a lot of energy that needs to be dissipated somehow. If it is not dissipated through exercise, it is often dissipated through other means, and those means may be undesirable.

This is why we are on a quest for toys that really engage our cats and get them moving. We've reviewed several here already. Another that we recently found is the Cat-Aerobics "Action Toy" and step-by-step aerobics program. Yep, that's what it says on the package! The package contains a toy that is somewhat similar to the Cat Dancer (see our previous blog entry), but improved upon. That is saying a lot.

We were astounded by how our cats reacted to the Cat Dancer. It is such a simple thing: a piece of baling wire with cardboard rolls attached at the ends. Ivan and Boo went nuts over it and even asked us (in their inimitable feline way) to get it out each day. Now they do that with the Cat-Aerobics toy, but even more! Why? Because the makers of the Cat-Aerobics toy have, as mentioned, improved upon the Cat Dancer theme by enhancing it. They've added a wooden handle for the human on one end, and a colorful lure on the other end for the finicky feline.

Also included in the Cat-Aerobics package is a booklet entitled CAT-Aerobics EXERCISE PROGRAM Instructions. This little booklet contains some good ideas for exercising your cat, some as simple as scratching him under the chin to more complex movements of the toy that cause him to jump into the air.

Ivan and Boo went nuts over this toy the moment it came out of the package. They turn into panting maniacs when we drag this toy around the room. The rubber, critter-like lure on the end seems to be the big attraction. Congratulations, SunRae Products, for improving on what we thought was the ultimate cat toy!

We bought this product ourselves and did not receive a review sample from the manufacturer.


After three months of fun, the Bolt laser toy decided to stop working in automatic mode last week. We searched the web for a FAQ that might tell us how to fix it, but instead we found the manufacturer's site and checked the on-line product user guide, which indicated that they would repair or replace a defective Bolt within one year of purchase. Here's the text from the user guide:

If you have questions about BOLT™ or any of our products, please call us toll free at (888) 726-MEOW (6369) to speak with one of our knowledgeable cat-loving staff. If there is ever a problem, FroliCat will replace or repair your BOLT interactive laser toy for one year. Just call our toll-free number.

We called the number, and as we are on the West Coast, and they are in Chicago, and it was late in our business day, we got voice mail for "Sarah". We left Sarah a message, explaining that we'd purchased the Bolt about three months ago, and it suddenly stopped working in auto-mode. We told her we had the receipt for purchase, and we wondered what we needed to do to get the item repaired or replaced, and we left our call-back number. Sarah's greeting indicated that we would be called back on the next business day. The next business day was Friday. We did not receive a call back. Today, the third business day after we left our message, we still have not had a response.

If the Bolt web site had not indicated they would repair or replace, and if Sarah's voice mail had not indicated that we would be contacted on the next business day, perhaps we would not be so disappointed in this crummy customer service. Maye we should have told them that we have a cat product review blog and had already given the Bolt a glowing review. But we didn't. Since then, because the cats have really missed their Bolt in auto mode, we bought a new one. They are $19.99 at PetSmart. That's a bit pricey to last only three months! FroliCat, if you read this review and are interested in repairing or replacing the defective Bolt (or simply refunding us the cost of the replacement we bought ourselves), drop us a line.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Kritter Kondo Lets Your Indoor Cats Go Outside Safely

We were excited when we ran across KritterKondo on Twitter. We checked out their associated web site and discovered that they were developing a cat playpen for cats who live in condominiums, apartments, or townhomes. Space might be limited indoors, but with the Kritter Kondo, kitties could play safely outside.

After a few months, we got word that the Kritter Kondo was finally available for purchase! We contacted Lisa, the owner and mastermind behind the Kondo, and asked if she would be interested in covering the shipping cost to send us a Kondo for review. She immediately agreed, so we saved around $18. We paid only for the Kondo itself, which currently sells for $124.99.

It took a week and a half or so, but the Kondo finally arrived via UPS. It comes with its own padded carrying case that has lots of pockets inside for holding the bag of pins that give the Kondo its structural integrity, plus it can hold lots of your own supplies - pet food and treats, people snacks/water, pretty much anything you like! The case is large, so the shoulder strap on it is a must. It is relatively easy to tote around - from the car to the patio, or from the car to the park or beach - you get the idea. The carrying case measures 30 inches tall by 36 inches wide and about five inches thick.

We first set up the Kondo indoors, to let the kitties get accustomed to it. It's easy to set up. Lay it flat on the ground, with the base frame on the bottom, and lift up the two ends. Then you insert the eight pins and voilá, you're done, and the Kondo is ready for its residents to enter!

Ivan and Boo checked it out for the couple of days that we had it open in the house. Then we made some space on our patio (which is currently pretty well occupied by potted plants, a small table and chairs, and a barbecue grill!) and set the Kondo up outside. It is a perfect fit on our patio! And it is quite spacious, even for two adult cats. They had room to walk around and check things out. They had quite the afternoon in the sun! The fully opened enclosure is 2 feet tall, 2.5 feet wide, and a whopping 5.5 feet long!

Almost every evening we open the sliding glass door that leads to the patio and we leave the screen door shut, and the boys love to lounge in front of the screen. We tried to escape-proof the patio with the plastic equivalent of chicken wire, but we are not convinced that the cats won't find some miniscule escape route, so we rarely let them out, and when we do, it's only for a few moments. However, the Kritter Kondo puts all our fears of escape to rest! We can leave the boys on the patio and go answer the phone or the door, or take a bathroom break, and we know they'll be fine. This is a great load off our minds!

The boys love the opportunity to be outside and smell the smells, hear the sounds, and see the sights. The sun was warm on them today, and they lounged in it. The birds were flitting about, and the boys clucked at them (you've probably had cats who do that!). There were leaves dancing about on the cement of the patio, and the cats batted at them. It was a wonderful afternoon!

The KritterKondo appears to be very well-designed and well-made. It is ridiculously easy to set up and take down. The door opens and closes easily and has a latch to make sure it stays shut when your cats are inside. You'll want to get a zip-loc type bag to store the pins in - the bag of pins will slip right into one of the pockets inside the Kondo storage bag.

There are other companies that make cat "playpens" and outdoor pens, but this is the biggest one at the best price. We haven't seen any other outdoor cat pens of this size, certainly not at this price. And you don't have to live in an apartment to use the Kritter Kondo. We recommend it for anyone who wants their cats to enjoy the outdoors without the risk of them escaping or running away. The Kritter Kondo is available from Kritter Kommunity at Tell them Ivan and Boo sent you.

Please be sure to provide your cats with a shaded area while they are in the Kritter Kondo. Lay a towel over one end of the enclosure, or set it up so that it is partially shaded by a tree. Cats can get sunburned and can even get skin cancer from sun exposure, especially cats who have white fur on part or all of the body.