A Bit About Me

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Along with my daily duties as founder and head writer of HumorMeOnline.com, in 2003, I took the Grand Prize in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (also known as the "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night" competition). I've also been a contributor to "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" and the web's "The Late Show with David Letterman". I also occupy my time writing three blogs, "Blogged Down at the Moment", "Brit Word of the Day" and "Production Numbers"...and my off-time is spent contemplating in an "on again/off again" fashion...my feable attempts at writing any one of a dozen books. I would love to write professionally one day...and by that I mean "actually get a paycheck".

06 March 2008

"Pavlov's" Cats

Here's a totally hypothetical situation: You have a cat...everything is well and fine until you make the mistake one day of buying him a nifty little packaged container, which holds about as much as a half bottle of Coke...only what's inside is virtually "kitty cocaine"...the dubiously infamous "cat treat". Now, cat treats are in a league all their own...they come in little magically shaped containers, usually with a little lid on them of some sort and with strict instructions on the package to not feed your kitty more than five to seven of these a day. Honestly, they look like glorified cat food to me...but I'm just a lay person...what do I know of cat treats and cat treat production. Some tout on their packaging they take care of dental decay...others mention tartar control, some are organic, some are eco-friendly, some stimulate the finicky eater, and yes, some seem to nearly stop short of saying they make kitty's breath "kissible fresh". But - they all have one thing in common. A package of these things, which is typically 3-4 oz, will set you back about $2-4 on average. Well, that's a fair bunch of change to chunk down when you realize a bag of cat food on that scale would end up costing (on the average) $48 for a 3 lb bag. When you put it into those terms...it starts all making astronomical sense. Treats are big business.

I have mentioned it before that I have lots of cats...yes, we do...lots. And our cats, not unlike anyone else's cat, love those treats. Just shake that container and they come from the east, west, north and south...they literally crawl out of the woodwork to jockey for cat treat position.

They also each have their own ways of eating these things. One of our cats, Todd, will use the self-serve approach...he will stick his paw into the container and literally help himself. The others are much more demure...they wait until you shake them out to get them. A couple will take them from your hand...most would rather you put them down first so they can retrieve them themselves. One in particular, Barbie, picks them up and swallows them whole. I wonder how much dental cleaning consuming them that way can be taken care of...probably not much.

So, that got me wondering...hmmmm...what would happen if I just kept the nifty plastic treat container replete with lid after it was empty and just toss in common everyday "ho hum...THAT again" cat food in it instead. Yes, ladies and gentlemen...I have, in essence, replaced my kitties' "Folgers Crystals" with plain old ordinary "coffee"...let's see if they notice the difference. Absolutely...let me clear my throat here....a resounding absolutely NOT. My cats scamper around for plain old ordinary "turn my nose up at it otherwise" dry bits of same old, same old, boring cat food as if they have all somehow mutated and were now French pigs rooting for truffles. The only scientific conclusion to all of this: Packaging, packaging, packaging!

It doesn't matter what you put INTO the empty cat container once your cat has been acclimated to having cat treats pouring out from that "canister of happiness"...just seeing the cat canister has them salivating like Pavlov's dogs - and had Pavlov the sense to use cats instead of dogs the booming cat treat industry might never got its paws off the ground. But it has and in a big way. It's not just the isolated treat dotted around here and there, there are large sections of shelves devoted to stocking these yummies...and yes, we still go in once in a great while, when they are on sale...and plunk down a smaller fortune to buy a really good one. A really good container that is...because we will be reusing it for quite some time. Not that cats aren't smart...they know full well the same food from the cat bowl is inside of it...but they also know that you've never made such a fuss and hand-fed them bowl food before...and they are going to surely take advantage of this situation. They are probably laughing hysterically at you when you leave the room..."Can you believe she ACTUALLY pulled them out, one by one, and handed them to us??? What a moron our owner is...look, she's coming back...let's see if we can make her do it again, this is hilarious..."

Luckily the cats and I have this symbiotic relationship with the cat treat container...I would hate for any of us to look the fool...but I am absolutely sure, since I'm the one chucking out money for their food...regardless what container(s) I transfer them into...the cats do rather have the upper paw. Oh well...c'est la vie des chats!


  1. Yep. It sounds like your cats have you very well trained.

    When our cat was alive, we fed her a steady diet of "Fancy Feast" wet food and "Iams" dry food. Through trial and error we discovered this was the combination she was most comfortable with and we settled on it for most of the rest of her life. I honestly can't remember buying special cat treats. Occasionally (more often than I should have allowed) the cat and I would share a midnight snack of thin sliced deli ham. I would tear off a piece for myself, and then hand feed a small piece to her. We alternated in this way until the slice was gone. If I had known how weak her kidneys were becoming, I never would have done it. Ah well, she did live for nearly twenty years, so we must have done something right.

    I know you are a multi-multi cat owner, and I know you can't put a price on the companionship of these remarkable creatures, but just out of curiosity, have you ever sat down to calculate how much it costs per year to maintain all those little lives - food, litter, vet bills, the whole nine yards? Is it ruinous or reasonable?


  2. This is the same process by which men work. We know it's the same woman underneath the naughty lingerie, but by God we sure do like the packaging.

  3. There was an article recently about a study on the effectiveness of generic versus brand name medication. Apparently, the test involved putting a placebo headache medication in a generic package, and the same placebo headache medication in a more expensive brand name package. And the results: you guessed it - people reported more effective pain relief from the placebo in the expensive brand name packaging. The article went on to point out that pain relieving endorphins can be released into the brain with the mere anticipation of taking a dose of medication a person judges to be truly effective. In any case, the conclusion the scientists came to was surprising, if not without merit: humans are at least as stupid, if not stupider than cats. The jury's still out on this one, but I tend to side with the eggheads.


  4. First off, don't get me started on "Fancy Feast" canned cat food. I swear it has "kitty cocaine" in it - it has something they crave and cannot live without. They will turn their collective noses up at anything you feed them after if you get them hooked on that stuff solely. I've done it a couple times now.

    As for the placebo thing - I am certain this happens a lot. People will do this in vodka, coffee, etc., taste tests swearing they can ONLY fathom drinking the higher priced stuff and then they pick the "inferior" stuff as the things they like best - but they will always have an excuse at the ready. Like I would with my Grey Goose preference...but let's not go there. ;)

    I DO know that generic Ambien didn't do diddly for me when they gave it to me in the hospital...then again once in a while I swear they make a "bad batch" of the stuff (and I've been told this by others as well)...because sometimes a whole vial of it just won't "kick in". Who knows. But, if given a choice, I'd have to say I'd pick the brand over the generic medicine based on my experience with a couple generic ones and what I've read about how the mg can vary a lot from pill to pill and manufacturer to manufacturer (just because it says 50 mg - it sometimes doesn't even come close apparently) whereas the brand name it pretty much stays a constant.

  5. Why, you deceptive little.... you realize, of course, that kitty treats are just a gateway to more serious catly addictions. Like kitty porn.