Off the Leash Pet Products
The availability of pet supplies is as vast as the Universe and the usefulness and (sometimes) relevance of pet-related products is as diverse as all matter in the spectrum combined. Discovering items from useful or healthy, time-saving or clever to ridiculous and all the way to insulting, I scrolled through the available ways to part with my cash for my cats. I had no idea what I'd find and I may give up television to continue my quest. As a pet sitter and the owner of 4 cats, I shop for pet products frequently, so when a couple things struck me as clever and/or ham-sandwich crazy within a couple of days, I had to find out what else I was missing! I've tried to compile a list that could be considered useful, an entertaining read, or in a perfect world, both. Thanks for hanging.
I have to quickly explain that my career background for 25 years was in medical research science and I have a dual BS in Behavioral Science and Psychology. Prior to medicine I spent about 10 years in sales and marketing. My past experiences strongly influenced what happened after I stopped laughing, gawking or admiring some of the latest products available for your Bassadors, we'll call Rose and Blanche.
If your pet has ever swallowed a UFO (or a grounded UO), or refused to swallow reasonably priced pet food, you don’t need to learn how to spend your money on Buttercup and Petals. You know where to drop Benjamins if you sense that Fido needs to channel his inner Phydeaux. It’s fun to spoil our fuzzbuckets with treats, toys, plush seating and such. Your Knight in Furry Armor may even require pricier pet food, age-appropriate pet accessories, or a correct leash for their breed. Then there are our convenience, safety and comfort, which are also important. I thank goodness every day for better clumping cat litter, and as a professional pet sitter, you can bet your bippy I buy poopy pick-up bags that don’t fall apart, and don't skip that chew that'll keep a hyper-active puppy occupied while you shower.
What we don’t do is think when it's easy not to; like about seemingly trivial things that aren't threatening. For instance, spending limits on pet products or where we draw the line between clever help and ridiculous gadget for the lazy or guilt-ridden. Most pet needs are quickly justifiable, the next level we may be aware of something silly, but we're okay with the treat, but then we've arrived at a slippery slope. Our intelligent need to dismiss minutiae lets advertisers fill that space with their ideas. Because they are minutiae, we don't question what seems reasonable and slowly we adapt the suggestions we've heard as our own. This is fear marketing.
Since we don't overthink limits, product relevance, or anything other than what we've heard (and now believe), our spending for pets has created a marketing niche that has expounded into billions of dollars, amazing technology, and in some cases, what might be described as a kind of Munchhausen's by Proxy-lite, or the Munchies. While we're thinking about important things, we're being told seemingly unimportant things that are plausible and not worth our time to validate (like crazy claims on Facebook that people send without fact checking, things become "correct by popular knowledge and agreement" even though they are dead wrong.
It's been suggested to us that our pets will suffer diseases or emotions that we, ourselves fear and strive to avoid. Immediately after this suggestion, a solution is presented in the form of a product. To avoid the anxiety we now have over suffering the aforementioned fate, whether it be loneliness, boredom, hair loss or limb rearrangement, we must have the product that will protect us. We just made a purchase based on an anxiety we didn't even detect over a fear we didn't realize we had that we have now parlayed to our pet. This is the Munchies. You have just started treating your pet for a health or emotional condition that neither of you had until you found out there was a preventable treatment. I am going to call this marketing strategy Fear-of-(Unwarranted)-Suggested-Disastrous-Outcome (FUSDO).
I'm going to tell you this for free; Fifi isn't concerned about current, possible or future hair loss and she isn't capable of that sort of anticipatory concern, no matter how smart she appears. Of note, Rogaine is toxic to pets and should never be used on, or even near them where they might walk through spills.
I started to wonder while looking at products in all price ranges, when is that pet "thingy" we just bought too expensive, extravagant, silly, unnecessary, or... completely irrelevant to pets at all? Inventors of pet products and their well-to-do marketing strategists have learned that our realistically achievable spending threshold (regardless of relevance to our pets) is high. Very, very high.
I looked at a lot of products and this is only a taste of what I found interesting. The opinions here are only mine based on data I’ve gathered from web research unless I’ve seen the product in person, in which case I’ll state that and tell you my live experience. As of right now, no one is sending me products to test or asking for my opinion. If that changes, I will certainly disclose that information. In no special order, my favorites follow.
Three Gallons of Crazy in a Two Gallon Bucket
I think my favorite part about this product that piqued my pet product curiosity, was the constant reference to use on cats. Cats and vacuums, vacuums and cats. Never in the history of speech have these nouns been so closely linked in sentences. The video, however, shows a 2 second clip of a cat with the product and no audible vacuum sound, so you decide. I first saw this on Facebook and thought someone posted it on my timeline as a joke, but it was real. The reviews are passionate and negative saying DON’T BOTHER. If you want to prove me wrong, buy one used for $5 from someone who paid $20 and gave up after learning at an incredibly advanced age that CATS HATE VACUUMS. If you want a laugh, check out how many reviews describe that kitty “didn’t like the noise” or didn’t like being vacuumed. Cat vacuums! Send me the $20 instead… we’ll get some tiny cans of wet cat food and Moo Shu Pork tonight. Cat vacuums…. $19.99
Pet Booze- Cause Drinking Alone with Your Pet is OK-9!
Apollo Peak has solved that pesky loophole about drinking at home alone with cat and dog wine and cocktails! Half of their marketing budget goes toward explaining that there is no alcohol in their pet beverages. They want you to know that they know that alcohol is bad for pets. The product is made of beet juice, cat nip, herbs such as chamomile, sea salt and ascorbic acid for preservation. What is unclear to me is if this is “all” of the ingredients. The label says, “ingredients include”, which to me sounds like there’s room for ingredients that aren’t included. After years working in research regulatory and ethics, I know hear phrases that make me ask more questions. They state that the ingredients are natural, but there is no controlled definition of that word, so that’s just advertising fluff. If these are all the ingredients, and if they are chemical-free, and the product is used as a novelty from time to time, I think it’s harmless. Would I personally give it to my pets regularly, or even more than once after my curiosity was satisfied? Probably not. Cats need water. A little cat nip inside a toy, (so they can’t inhale it), is fine every now and then too. I don’t see the point in a product that makes them goofy for a few minutes and then sleepy. Around here, that’s usually free. If you’re going to a dinner party, it’s a cute hostess gift and they have dog beer too. Bark responsibly. 8 ounces of The White Kittendel is $10.95 at
Strain the Whole Cat Box at Once
Luuup Cat Litter Box- I used this once at a client’s home but only for a couple of days. It seemed so easy, but I have four cats to their 2 and at a glance, their cats are more polite with better bathroom manners. Mine are on a bachelor party camping trip that doesn't end. I bought them anyway.
The concept is that the slatted layers sift clumps, you toss them in the trash, while fresh litter stays in the pan below. You must remember to rotate the sifted pan from the top prior to returning it to bottom because that's what prevents it from becoming a colander. It won't sit correctly placed the wrong way so you have your first clue apparently..
They claim the material is "no stick" but I disagree. Things were stuck and in the slats. No bueno. I like the design of the top that creates a lip around the top for the enthusiastic diggers. I hoped to prevent what I call The Normandy Effect when the litter area goes from clean and quiet to D-Day in moments.
These were advertised at a hefty $49.95 each with a "deal" to get 3 for $90, but with tax and shipping it was still $120 for all of them. Way too much unless they clean themselves, but insomnia and clever inventions are my kryptonite. Start up is hard; believe me, I get it.
I have been using these boxes now for several months. Day one was fine, but we hadn't gone through all the trays yet. On about day 2, I followed the directions, I thought flawlessly, and wound up with one whole pan of litter on the floor. I take the blame myself but I thought I was careful, which means it can happen and I was NOT pleased. I was being really diligent, still eager to see how they worked, so I can't say what went wrong. VERY frustrating to have to clean up the mess early on when I was still in “FOLLOW-THE-INSTRUCTIONS” mode.
The final straw was not having a trash can big enough close by. To be convenient, the box requires a trash can nearby that can accommodate the size of the pan being dumped out. With 4 casual cats and multiple boxes it became necessary to clean the slats of the bottom each time before re-stacking, which is just another step and more handling of cat poop than the previous method. By the end of the week they became very expensive regular litter boxes with a nice lip around the edge that curtails *some* of the sandbar motif I don't crave. These didn't work for me. If I had fewer cats, neater cats or some other life, maybe I'd be thrilled. It's a good idea in theory. It didn't work for my situation. I bet the price will go down exponential when they get their start up costs back, so if you're curious, but skint, hold out a while. they've gone down a bit, but not to any reasonable amount. The list price is now $37.50
Legless Mingle? Stay Date?
The Hotdoll needs little explaining. It's a sex toy for dogs. There was a hole in the market that had to be filled. I pray there aren't instructions. This can be yours for $200
Tiny Home Hunter? Vertical Litter Box? Boom!
Modkat Litter Box is brilliant. I used this recently at a client home and I wish I could use it at my house but it’s better if you have 1 per cat because it’s small. I would have gladly had my 2 Siamese cats share it when I lived in tiny apartments in DC. They barely weighed in at one full cat anyway and despite being genetically, not physically "Siamese", they spent most of their time together anyway. It would have been PERFECT! This is a top-loading litter box that cats jump into! Cats love boxes, so it’s a natural! Once they’re in there, they can go to town on the litter, pee on the removable lining, do whatever they want and when they jump out the smell and the litter are contained in the box! It’s great! You lift the top, use the hanging scoop that’s included to clean, and voila! You have a fresh start and a clean floor even if you have to share the bathroom floor with your kitties. I would have paid anything for this product when I lived in DC. If anyone gets or has this, I’d love to know what you think after having it for a while. It’s not an option here at Harpers Ferry Tails, home of at least 1 20 lb cat, but I think the concept is great. This is $95.97 at
Or Would You Rather Be A Mule?
Clever Pet- An interactive game for dogs (and cats!!!!), whereby your pet learns in steps, to complete sequences of actions to get treats as a reward for the correct behavior. At first Romeo learns that approaching the gadget will activate the sensor, triggering a treat, but that doesn’t work for long. Eventually, Romeo must put a paw on the trigger to release a treat. Over time, he had to wait for a section to light up. Eventually, one section, then another light up, each having to be touched in sequence for the treat to come out until Romeo is playing Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik to get a treat.
I became skeptical when I saw that they are also selling this for cats! Maybe the 20+ cats I’ve lived with over my lifetime and the hundreds I’ve cared for have just been an unmotivated group? I gotta hand it to them tough, it comes with a guarantee for interaction or your money back. Not only that, the reviews are great, and though there aren’t many for cats, the ones available are good! Dog folks are raving about it keeping bored pups busy and about it being nearly indestructible. I love dogs, but there are times I would probably throw some money at keeping a puppy busy for awhile! They are a danger to themselves and others- it's why they have such sweet faces! I saw an indication of good customer service too, which is my thing. Be polite and helpful, it’s all I ask. The price is a drawback and mentioned repeatedly in reviews. Maybe in a year or two we’ll see who still has theirs and if they were still worth it. It’s $299.00 from
Who has Separation Anxiety? Who Does? Good Boy!
PetChatz is a WIFI camera that plugs into the wall at home and connects to an app on your portable device while you’re away allowing you to communicate with your pet and administer treats. You can initiate a ring that your pet is trained to respond to and when Fluffy runs to the camera, there you go; just like the Jetson’s, you’re having a face-to-face with Sox. When your pet rewards you with the highlights of their day, you can reward them back with the pre-loaded treats installed. You can choose this option or have a professional sitter like myself visit your pet in person approximately 22 times for 30 minutes each and personally, not virtually, interact with them. The benefits of a professional pet sitter versus this are too obvious to list. You get it. This is for people. This new social media medium will run you $379.99 at
Your K-9's K-9s are Divine!
I was shopping at MY HAPPIEST place on earth, www.chewy.com and needed a puppy pad my own self when I saw dog toothpaste WITH WHITENING AGENTS! Does it come with a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Agent too?! I hopped on the 24-hour chat and asked if they were kidding! They are so incredible at Chewy, I knew they'd laugh at my asking. We laughed, and they made it seem like a good purchase because they are professionals.
This is what I am calling a giant leap of FUSDO, or Fear-(Unwarranted)-by-Suggested-Disastrous-Outcome (dogs with yellow stained teeth). Hold tight though because they want you, not your dog or his coffee stained teeth! The people making the product for your dog have forgotten all about YOUR DOG, the end user, because dogs don’t shop. This became more obvious as I continued down this cyber aisle of curiosity and learned that pups not only WHITEN their teeth, fight tartar, gingivitis and bad breath (for HOURS!), but they also suffer from plaque as early as puppyhood if you’ll believe the fear that I was loathing to read. While some lucky pets will be brushing (and whitening!) with a paste flavored-beef, peanut butter, liver, chicken, poultry (non-specific yard bird?) or cat butt …ok, I made up the last one, less fortunate pals will be subjected to Vanilla Mint, Vanilla-Ginger, or Fresh vs Cool Mint. They know these are dogs still, right? I challenge that anything this heavily marketed towards humans has any business in a dog's mouth. I'm not against an occasional brushing if pup says okay, but something like Greenies would probably suffice. If you're going to brush though, think about it- WHITENING? REALLY? If your buddy kicked the cigarette habit when C. Everett Cooper announced smoking was bad, save your money.
Best part of the product? The reviews were better than the concept of selling people flavored people products to PEOPLE for their pets! Of course, I’m just jealous. Why didn’t I think of it first? I have mouthwash in the bathroom. I could have been the first to add a tad of tuna juice and 60 parts water and market it for cat breath, but NOOOOOOO! I was too busy doing people science on people to get rich on dog toothpaste! $7.37 + aspirin.
Well, Smack Me Twice and Call Me Sissy!
Now I’m REALLY wondering why I’m not a millionaire! Anyone who has ever been in the presence of a cat knows so well that the wrapper, ribbon or the scissors are FAR more interesting than the gift or toy intended to entertain. If you’re reading this I bet you’ve tried to wrap a present in the presence of a curious cat or left the room to ties your shoes in peace. Alas! Now you can pay for what was free when you used to pay for items to distract your cat! BAGS! NO KITTEN! $2.88 for 2 bags. Yes, bags. I feel like an idiot for not being rich.
The Part Where I Attempt to Wrap it up and Fail
I see lots of pet toys, gadgets and treats and use some myself. I also see the relief of a dog’s face when I come let them out after they're alone for hours. I see excitement when it hasn’t even been long, but they’re thrilled to show me your sock and the cat's happy she can tell that joke she’s been practicing. We domesticated pets (by buying them spin brushes to get every angle of each tooth clean and white) and now they love being WITH PEOPLE. Pets crave want our interaction, not our toothpaste flavors, brain game challenges, porn material, or our identity.
While I read the customer reviews for so many products, I was surprised to see that pet parents were caught off guard realizing their puppy did not enjoy having their teeth brushed with several appliances and mint flavored toothpaste or their cat didn't like the vacuum. I was entertained but slightly disappointed in humanity, when I saw others arguing about the value of a doggy sex toy vs training and neutering as though they had navigated to that page particularly to argue against the product (who has this time and deep need to argue?) There were products I didn’t include, some that were ridiculous, some convenient, but still ludicrous from a pet perspective, and some that received bad reviews from pets that wouldn’t go near the product. That seems unfair since it wasn't tested, but there's social media- pros and cons.
Before you spend your retirement money on some of these gadgets, know this from a professional pet sitter: your dog would rather have mid-day break to pee when you’re at work than a phone app on the wall that dispenses a treat. The cat doesn’t want to be alone for 72-hours between visits during long vacations, only to have a stranger pop in 5 minutes and clean a full litter box, stale water and old food. Your pet babies want a friend they trust, a little exercise, eye contact, pets/hug/rubs, playtime and a cupcake, (my secret word for treats).
If #DisposableIncome isn’t trending at your house, get your pet back to what they really need, not what marketing people suggested to you they need based on Fear-of-(Unwarranted)-Suggested-Disastrous-Outcome (FUSDO). Major Tom Cat will survive some plaque and Pilot won't be mistaken for her mom because her teeth aren't white enough, and Layla was never going to be able to play Mozart, I'm sorry. They need to know that when their bladder is full they can get the relief without suffering, and when they wake up from naps 3, 8 or 10, someone will be there to scratch their butts, play, look them in the eye and tell them how wonderful and beautiful they are.
I love my pets. I'm 54, single and didn't have children, do I need to drive it home or do you get how I feel about my cats? Exactly. Part of loving them is anticipating their needs and mine and keeping things balanced so that we're all happy while remaining pets and humans respectively. I think here at Harpers Ferry Tails Pet Sitting we fall in the average range of "stuff" between Appalachian Trail wilderness and artificial home intelligence management. We are closer to the wilderness side since discovering whitening toothpaste. After learning more and thinking during the writing of this this article, I've gained, what I hope, is a healthy awareness of how and how easily target marketing works on all of us. It's not that we've stopped thinking, but in fact because we are so busy with other important things, that we've been subjected to suggestions (not always good ones in retrospect), that seem plausible and relatively insignificant at the time, thereby sneaking in as truth without data. With crowd agreement, we are further convinced our information is right because everyone is quoting the same thing. Unfortunately, in some cases, we are all misinformed and now, though nearly impossible to dispute, personal actions need to reflect the new and correct data. I might not have a cat vacuum in my home, but believe me, I'm not throwing stones- you could find plenty of unnecessary items several categories! I intend to increase my spending awareness and do a quick relevance analysis prior to any major purchases.
If you find yourself sitting in the living room frustrated because Chanel doesn’t like her Gucci sweater, Sangria hates her spin brush, the hamster stopped eating when you installed the Escher maze, and The Ol' Fluffster won’t use the toilet, despite the nip-stuffed padded seat, stop. It's okay, they're animals and won't remember and you're in the same boat with everyone else, so just pack up the tiny, rose gold circuit weight set... for the Iguana and put it on the yard sale site. You're okay: you were FUSDO'd, it happens.
They are clever advertisers and if I didn't think they weren't trying to sell us stuff even while we sleep (say no to things that live on your counter listening to your conversations and tracking your web browsing history), I wouldn't have tape over every camera in this house. Because our pets don't have wallets, and lack brain development in the area where "what ifs" live, they have to market products to us. It's diabolical when you realize that they are using our neglected reason and logic to influence us to buy products for pets who aren't capable of reason and logic.
Our furry friends will still love knuckle bones, cat nip mice and Frisbees, but in reality they really don’t need much more than attention, exercise, food, shelter, safety and love. I'm not advocating or planning to stop buying pet supplies (I love chewy.com!), I only suggest that we heighten awareness before rewiring house to remotely observe the chubby puppy, and realize prior to purchase that the whole shebang is for the humans, not the dogs, so evaluate logically and think, do I want this? Will it make me happy for some reason that I can verify with real data, not crowd agreement or web searching? If so, that's your purchase. Tedious as it sounds, repeat all day everyday with almost all information because even the things we've determined are too insignificant to challenge or check can be bogus.
Look for quick fixes to anxiety like losing a job, loved one, home, or your hair (Indeed, Match, Prudential, Rogaine), products and companies that will eliminate your fears of death, fire, spouse bankruptcy after you're gone, bad retirement plans (Farmer's, Allstate, Prudential, American Express, Colonial Penn), or prevention from things that are extremely unlikely, rams hitting your car, freak accidents, medical malpractice, rare diseases you wouldn't know of if they weren't on TV telling you they were a possibility (insurance companies, law offices, drug companies). If there's an offer to separate you from your money for a quick fix from something you didn't realize was a concern until they told you it was, start your research. It's probably as unlikely as dogs with tea stained teeth and cavities from not brushing after meals. If the product shows someone older, younger or furry- they are likely selling you the relief from guilt: acknowledge that and work it out before you agree to buy the cure.
Until this all becomes second nature, know that you can still hire a professional pet sitter like myself to walk that chubby puppy and the rewards will be real, measurable, and longer lasting (and not Vanilla-Mint flavored). We don't make anywhere near enough to employ the marketing tactics it would take to manipulate you into anything other than hearing us say what we know, which is that your pets love company, they love to pee when they need to pee, eat when it's time to eat and walk with us when their first choice, you, aren't available. Pretty simple and I think you can easily validate the fact that dogs and cats, in particular, are people-oriented and like interaction.
I purposely left out a series of products that, when seen together, made me sad and angry. I'd like to hope no one has them all and if they do, I bet they also have an ironic vanity license plate. Missing from review are various types of remote doggy fitness trackers (if you're remotely counting your dog's steps, I want to know more about you, ANMLVR1), a desktop laser pointer cat toy so ANMLVR1 can read a book (real example), remote auto-feeder, for when ANMLVR1 can't feed, automatic ball thrower, because ANMLVR1 I've decided can't throw, a self-propelled treadmill for when ANMLVR1 can't walk, automatic water fountains (presumably because ANMLVR1 can't water?) and a GPS/remote tracker for when ANMLVR1 is actually within 300 ft but still manages to lose poor 3PLP, aka, Prennicake (see below.) These were, perhaps, poorly (or not?) placed too close together and now I've conjured up a pet owner who doesn't want any interaction WITH PETS. Boo!
In real life, I won't judge your spending unless you collect Troll Dolls or Hummels, which make me nervous. I've had cats my whole life, so tchotchkes aren't really a thing unless they are high up and cat-proof. Still, I was a little catty about some of the products, so I'm offering a photo chance below for you to laugh at, question judge, or critique. We all do crazy things for and with our pets and let's not the names we call them when no one is listening: I know you call them things in the bathroom that no one else hears! We try to keep the entertainment relationship mutual here, so to entertain myself on New Year's Eve, I put Mardi Gras beads on my cat Extra and posed him in some fresh 2018 photos.
Happy New Year from Suzi Kitchen at Harpers Ferry Tails Pet Sitting- The greatest Job, with the smartest pets, belonging to the best looking people in Jefferson County, WV!