This year, Americans will spend an estimated $62.75 billion on pet products, some unknown billions of which go to toys. That is a reasonable amount, because pet toys rarely last long. For instance, give your dog a toy — a rawhide chew, a tennis ball, or even this little plush figurine of Donald Trump — and your dog, regardless of political affiliation, will immediately tear it to shreds. Cats, on the other hand, dispose of their belongings by looking at them with such disdain that the toys self-destruct in shame.
Because America’s pets are practically begging for more innovative playthings, I scoured the Internet for interesting pet products — and then tried them out with actual cats and dogs. Here’s what I found.
I’ve always thought that dogs, like children, should be worn like fashion accessories. That’s why I was excited to try out the Puppoose — a crocheted dog carrier that comes in many hues that you can match to your dog’s coat or gender identity.
Sadly, we had only a blue Puppoose to try out on Maya, a six-pound Papillon, which is perhaps why she strenuously resisted stepping into the carrier. But once we got her in there and dangling from my neck, she relaxed.
My neighbors, however, seemed a little tense. As I walked around the block, many people avoided eye contact. I can’t imagine why. Maya couldn’t have seemed more harmless, dangling in the sling-like contraption as if she’d been airlifted out of a war zone by Etsy.
Aside from the social stigma it may incur, the Puppoose offers an excellent option for transporting small dogs that prefer not to walk, such as those that have just gotten pedicures. The crocheted carrier is soft and sturdy, and the dog seemed comfortable, if a bit embarrassed.
The Turd Burglar
The Turd Burglar is not, as you might guess, a device for stealing poop. Rather, it’s a sturdy plastic shelf that turns a regulation hockey stick into a pooper-scooper.
To test it, I took a 30-pound shepherd mix named Toby out for a walk. A consummate pro, Toby quickly produced a picture-perfect poo.
Despite my lack of hockey training, I found it was easy to scoot the Turd Burglar under the poop. Transporting the poop to the garbage proved to be more difficult. To keep the poop balanced on its bright yellow shelf, I had to hold the long, wobbly stick at nearly eye level. “Look how healthy my dog’s digestive system is” is the basic message I was broadcasting. This message was not popular with my neighbors, two of whom glared at me as I walked across the park.
After disposing of the poop, I realized that cleaning the Turd Burglar would be, in a word, disgusting. So I left it in the garbage can as well.
The Licki brush
Ever wish you could groom your cat with your tongue? Me neither. But some innovative (read: possibly high) people in Oregon apparently have, and they came up with the Licki brush — a tongue-shaped contraption you hold with your teeth. According to the product’s Kickstarter campaign (which is rapidly approaching $50,000 in pledges) you should “slowly approach your cat when she is sleeping” to try out the brush.
I followed those directions, tiptoeing toward my cat Turtle as she snoozed in a pile of laundry. When I nudged her with the brush, she woke up, looked at me with sheer terror in her eyes, and fled. I haven’t seen her since, and I hope she forgives me someday.
My male cat, Fuzz, was slightly more into it. After successfully cornering him, I picked him up and “licked” the side of his head. He put up with it for about five seconds before trying desperately to escape.
In summary, the Licki brush is not, in my experience, a great way to bond with your cats. But why not try it out on your partner or roommates? Just be sure to approach them slowly, while they are sleeping.
Cat Exercise Wheel
At nearly five feet high, the Cat Exercise Wheel by One Fast Cat is sure to be a great conversation starter. The conversation you will be having is, “How much did you spend on that?” and also, “Why don’t you just have a baby, already?” (Answers: $199; the cat is my baby.)
The wheel arrived in a large box containing many pieces, but it took me only about 20 minutes to assemble. It took much longer to get my tuxedo cat, Fuzz, anywhere near the thing. After two days of clicker training (in which I gave Fuzz treats for getting closer and closer to the wheel), I eventually got him to stand on it. After a week, he would stand and lean his front paws against the side of the wheel, but he can’t seem to get the thing turning.
I suspect that Fuzz, at 10 pounds, is too light for this particular toy, so I’m now using the wheel as a drying rack. Its unparalleled ability to repel my cats makes it one of the few places in my apartment where clothes don’t immediately get covered in fur.
If you’re a working dog parent, no doubt you feel guilty about leaving your pooch home all day. Puppy Tweets promises to help you stay in touch by tweeting your dog’s innermost thoughts — assuming those thoughts are among the 500 phrases pre-written by Mattel.
Sadly, we never got to find out. Upon unpacking the device, I discovered that it requires you to download software from a website that no longer exists. I had just bought the thing on Amazon, so I called Mattel customer support, and they informed me that Puppy Tweets was discontinued in 2011. They declined to say why, but if I were to guess from online reviews, I bet it was because of the product’s general crapitude.
Dogs are not all that discerning when it comes to food. Eat first, ask questions later seems to be the general canine philosophy, So I was surprised that Bacon Bubbles were not a big hit with our test dog, Toby. He ducked and weaved to avoid touching the bubbles, which, to be fair to Toby, smelled more like acrid smoke than sizzling pork. That magazines-on-the-campfire fragrance still permeates my living room, so I definitely recommend using these bubbles outdoors, if at all.