Saturday, November 7, 2009
By Julia Williams
In the wintertime, my cats stay indoors 24/7. I prefer it that way; it’s safer for them and less costly for me. They don’t engage in cat fights that require surgery, or get foxtail stickers stuck up their nose (trust me, removing one of those nasty quill-like stickers from a cat’s nose is a feat best left to the professionals). When it’s cold outside and the ground is covered with snow, my cats curl up on their faux-fur pad by the heater, and snooze the day away. Although they don’t seem to mind doing nothing all day, I worry about them being bored.
While browsing a pet mail-order catalog one day, I came across PetSitter DVDs – videos designed to stimulate and entertain pets while the humans are away from home. They had both Cat Sitter DVDs and Dog Sitter DVDs, each with a variety of sights and scenes that play in a continuous loop for all-day amusement. I was intrigued, but also skeptical that my cats would be mesmerized by the television no matter what it was playing. They’d never shown much interest in the TV, nor had they ever looked at my computer screen when I tried to get them to watch lolcats videos.
So I did what I always do when I want more information about something – I googled it, and then went to Amazon.com to read the reviews. It turns out there are a lot more DVDs for cats and dogs than just the four volumes I saw in the pet catalog. Hmmm. Perhaps I was on to a good thing, i.e., something that could perk up those Rip Van Winkle-like cat forms I occasionally have to poke to make sure they’re still breathing? With so many pet-sitter DVDs available, I thought they must surely provide a modicum of entertainment for cats and dogs. Then too, all those glowing five-star reviews couldn’t be wrong, could they?
I wanted to order a few books anyway, so I decided to throw in one of these DVDs for my cats. They were reasonably priced (from $9.95 to $19.95) and I'd get free shipping if my order was over $25. I settled on DVD For Cats: While You Are Gone for $12.49. My cats could take a virtual walk in the woods chasing butterflies, birds, ducks, squirrels, mice, fish, kittens and more. Then they could engage in fun games with dancing strings and ribbons. In addition to the enticing imagery, the video included soothing nature sounds and peaceful music.
DVD For Cats: While You Are Gone had 18 five star reviews, a smattering of three and four star reviews, and three reviews each with one and two stars. A common denominator for the bad reviews was that the cats were “bored” and that the video looked homemade. But plenty of people claimed their felines were totally engrossed by this Cat Sitter DVD and highly recommended it. The only real way to know what would happen at my house was to try it.
When the package arrived I raced home, eager to show the kitties their special surprise. I roused their furry comatose forms and plopped them by the TV. As the Cat DVD began to play, they briefly glanced up at the television and promptly fell back to sleep. I turned the sound up and jostled them a bit to try to get them more awake and interested in all the fun they were missing on the screen. Alas, my cats were completely indifferent.
I tried again several times over the space of a month, with near identical results. My cats were just not interested in virtual fluttering butterflies and scampering creatures. In fact, I actually enjoyed this Pet Sitter DVD more than they did! Perhaps my cats are just über-intelligent creatures who know they wouldn’t be able to catch those birds no matter how hard they tried. More likely, they just prefer their sleep-induced dreams, where they can be “master hunter of their domain” for hours on end.
If you want to see whether your cat or dog would be entertained by one of these Pet Sitter DVDs, you might check with your local library first. Many large municipal libraries carry a good selection of DVDs you can borrow for free. If they don’t have them, they can often get them for you through their inter-library loan system. Or, just order one online and give it to your pet for Christmas. Who knows – they might actually love it!
Read more articles by Julia Williams