26 April 2009

Here kitty, kitty... aka the "Kickeroo" Review

Cats are aloof. Cats are independent. Cats are fickle. Cats are the perfect pet as they are self-cleaning and self-entertaining little balls of purry goodness. Aside from feeding them and cleaning out the litterbox...they pretty much are better than most humans I know. But...they are extremely notorious for enjoying the packaging or bag that any toy comes in much better than the toy itself...which can be extremely frustrating for us cat owners.

Whereas most dogs will play with a favourite toy for eons - cats, in my opinion, are much smarter than dogs and know full well if they walk away snubbing the new toy...shortly soon after, another (usually more expensive) toy will be bought to take its place.

I am extremely guilty of kowtowing to that human manipulation technique of theirs. Walk in any day of the week and you'll no doubt notice my carpet is regularly strewn with all types of toys - and I'm certain it makes them inwardly giggle with delight when I jump a foot or two off the ground after stepping on one thinking if was half of something once alive they dragged inside.

I am also convinced they take some sadistic pleasure seeing me gathering up all the unused toys off the floor, in between cabinets, and under the chairs and sofas...because I commence to vacuum. What's probably more entertaining than even that to watch, is the "toy retrieval ritual". C'mon, everyone with a cat has done this one: You suck up some wayward toy (there's always one hiding somewhere) and then you have to turn it off and dig it out of the dusty vacuum bin. You brush it off and toss it back on the newly vacuumed part of the floor - and true to feline form...they walk right past it, preferring, instead, a squooshed pipe-cleaner contraption my kids made for them.

Why I even bother getting another toy is beyond me - but I do...I'm sure we ALL do.

Oh, sure, occasionally we hit the jackpot - as the "ball in the round tube ring" toy is absolutely captivating to them...for a few bats of the trapped ball inside it. I've even seen them go tandem with the thing - one cat on each side - smacking the ball with complete abandon to the other . To them this is an endless delight...for a couple minutes...but hey, it's also "self-motivated". In technical catspeak that means "they play with it by themselves...no third party human intervention needed." No strings to be pulled, no tossing to be had, no staging to be done...just a one-time set-up - that's all that's involved. Once in a while you change the location - other than that...well, there is no "other than that". That's it.

The laser pointer is also fun - but not all my cats go ga-ga over it - and - without opposable thumbs, it does THEM no good whatsoever. The fun continues only as long as you want to take the time out of your busy schedule...between checking emails, playing back those saved TiVo shows you had to tape, and reading trivial drivel off of Facebook. Even the cats lose interest with the pointer after a bit. Face it - there's only so many times a cat wants to run head-on into a wall at the end of the hall for your sick amusement before they call it quits. Granted, it's a LOT more times than you'd figure - but still...there's a breaking off point eventually.

So, while we were on another mission at Petsmart the other day to find that elusive "perfect toy", I spotted an unassuming candidate. My daughter thought it looked pretty stupid - and to be honest with her...and you...it does. A simplistic limbless, headless Sock Puppet of a thing with a fancy sewed on tail. A small ribbon adorns what undoubtedly should be the "neck"...in necks had no distinction whatsoever from the rest of the body (think of weight-lifters here). These "mock sock" things come in zebra, tiger and giraffe prints, as well, we all know what big game hunters our cats envision themselves. It also doesn't have a fancy package - just a simple folded over placard calling it the "Kickeroo" where it says something about how your cat will love it. Yeah...we're no stranger to THAT line, Bucko...we've seen that saying more times than we have cats...and I have a LOT of cats.

Behold: The totally unassuming "Kickeroo"...made by "Kong"...

But I, having watched countless lion and tiger kills on animal documentaries (and even a few of my cats' own doing, unfortunately) - I knew the beauty of this thing and immediately proclaimed to my daughter, "If this thing does what I THINK it will - the cats will absolutely love it!" And considering the price was less than the majority of my other "mistakes" - it wasn't going to break me if it didn't live up to my mental hoopla of it.

Eagerly I shelled out the $5.00 for it and took it home. It was then I found out it had something the others were sorely lacking: catnip that works! Inside this toy was the Fancy Feast of catnip; the caffeine of catnip, the Holy Grail of catnip! I have innumerable catnip-stuffed things, mind you - you're not dealing with a novice here. I have balls, I have mice, I have things with strings, things with feathers, things with multi-whispy tails, things you open up to put more catnip in; things cats scratch (well are supposed to scratch on) you put catnip on; things you throw; things you pull; things you reel in; things you hang from doorways and doorknobs; things that even dangle from other things. But the catnip inside must be the Miracle Whip of catnip, the generic version of catnip, the lo-fat version of catnip..."catnip lite". What I'm trying to tell you is that the majority of this stuff doesn't work - yeah, the cats might sniff it - but until you see the REAL thing in action, you'll be content, as I was, with their lackluster poking of it. Face it, you don't ever see Consumer Reports doing up catnip ratings - whatever grade of "nip" goes in these things are just not the stuff that "Best Tasting Vodka Brands" are made of.

So, we tossed it on the floor after a couple "massages" of its catnip mid-section and retrieved a cat from the kitchen. Our cat's have the uncanny ability to know when you've just bought canned cat food - how they know this is a mystery to me - but they all flock around when I bring those bags inside. But back to the toy...

We plopped the cat down next to the "Kickeroo" - and without so much as a nudge or shake - he was on it like white on rice. He promptly "killed" it and "kicked" it and "killed and kicked" it some more. He guarded it with his life. No cat was going to take this prey from him...not anytime soon. After killing it over and over - he played with it, then snuggled it...and after a good 15 minutes, passed out with his head triumphantly on top of it. Without a doubt, the combination of design and high-grade catnip works wonders.

And it didn't stop there - all the other cats walking past it - also had to "kill" it. One-by-one they all took a turn kicking and biting it to death before going all sweet on it and then nodding off to sleep in euphoric bliss.

These were definitely some contented cats. I won't tell you how many - but take my word for it. If the "cat ratio" at my house is any indication...this toy will definitely please the masses.

While I have no qualms about this toy at all - for some inexplicable reason I couldn't bring myself to call it by its given name (a fact that annoys my son to the utmost), the "Kickeroo"...sure it provides an instant visual and all...but I automatically dubbed it the "Pony". Again, I have no reason - but it's catchy and it's less syllables to pronounce - and it stuck. I doubt the manufacturer is going to have an issue with this fact.

The only real suggestions I have for anyone contemplating this toy is: Get used to tying the ribbon back on - we tied it tightly, thereby making a real good "neck" on the thing - but the cats are determined to kick it off...and we'll periodically find the ribbon lying in close proximity to the toy. The cats do like the ribbon and the newly formed neck, so I have no plans to toss the ribbon out - plus it's fun to see they don't just play with the thing for our amusement - they genuinely like to play with it when no one's around to watch.

Oh, and if you've got a multi-cat household? You might just want to grab a second one. We ended up going back to get one a few days later just in case they stopped selling or making them - which really would be a sad thing.

So...the cat's now out of the bag, so to speak...and the bottom line is:

As for my review of it, I give the "Kickeroo" "10 out of 10" Production Points. At right around $5.00-$6.00 it's a great value for the money and delivers way more than expected.

Can't find it in any stores near you? Check it out online at CatToys.com
- chances are you won't be sorry.


The Eye Wit said...

I've found that cats have a perverse idea as to what constitutes a "toy".... now I know better than to go around in my robe wearing nothing underneath.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to make your cat purr with my toy!