Pet Toys for Allergic Owners

No need to touch your animal. Let a machine amuse him or her.

Every holiday season, there are a slew of pet toys that are marketed with one aim: to let pet owners ignore their pets. This year is no different, as companies clamor for a piece of the guilt-ridden, pet-owning market.

One of this season's new toys is the Cat Attack by Advanced Toy Products (www.advancedpetproducts.com, 800-982-1906), a $25 remote-controlled mouse that your cat chases. In an apparent attempt to assuage lazy pet owners' guilt, the company's Web site describes the toy as a "cat exerciser."

"The Cat Attack uses the latest research in chaos theory and complex systems to emulate the movements and personality of a cat's favorite prey," says the Web site. "This 'virtual mouse' technology utilizes algorithms based on a six-dimensional coupled (map) system modeled on the neural network of a real mouse."

This begs the question, why is it we can invent mechanical mice for cats but we still can't figure out how to make cars fly?

Chicago-based Advanced Toy Products is known mostly for the Bow-Lingual, a handheld unit that translates 5,000 different kinds of dog barks into English ($129; on sale at press time for $39 through the Web site). "We got a lot of publicity for that," says company partner Louis Amoroso. The Cat Attack hasn't received as much press as the Bow-Lingual, but Amoroso hopes it will catch on with the public. He says the company has sold about 5,000 of the toys.

The Cat Attack can operate on both carpet and smooth surfaces and requires five AA batteries.

GoDogGo, also sold by Advanced Toy Products, is a hands-free machine that throws tennis balls for your dog. "Too busy to play fetch with Fido?" asks the company's Web site. "No problem, just get your dog his own personal playmate." GoDogGo costs $150 plus shipping and handling. It comes with five green balls and features a plastic basin, in which your pet can deposit the balls upon retrieval. The toy weighs about 9 pounds and measures 15 by 13 by 17.5 inches. It's powered by six D batteries or by an AC adapter. GoDogGo can be set to launch the balls intermittently between seven and 15 seconds. You can also set the machine to launch the balls to distances ranging from 15 to 30 feet.

The company is taking preorders for the GoDogGo at its Web site (www.buygodoggo.com) and will ship the toy around Dec. 10.

Couch Potato Kitty (www.couchpotatokitty.com , 877-LUV-MY-CAT) is a DVD (or videotape) for cats that features an hour of views and sounds of birds, squirrels, and fish. The purpose of the video is apparently to entertain rather than torment your cat. "Now you don't have to feel guilty when you leave your kitties home alone," says the company's Web site. Florida veterinarian Jennifer Rotruck developed the DVD. It costs $20 plus shipping and handling.

iSeePet is an all-in-one Web camera and feeding device for cats and dogs. Made by Tokyo-based AOS Technologies, iSeePet allows pet owners to view their animal via a Web camera, which is attached to a feeder. With the stroke of a button, the owner can direct iSeePet to dispense food. The wayward owner can also summon the pet by using an electronic sound that emanates from the machine. Hideyuki Yanagimopo, the company's development director, said iSeePet is designed for workaholics and travelers "who want to see how their pets are."

Yanagimopo said that although iSeePet is currently not available in the U.S., he hopes to begin marketing it here soon. For more information, go to www.iseepet.com.

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