On January 18, two days before President Biden’s inauguration, I inaugurated a new era at home:
I became a pet parent for the first time in my adult life.
That was the day I brought home two ten-month-old tabby cats from Bideawee, a 118-year-old shelter by the East River in midtown Manhattan.
Despite my first grader’s ideas for Pokemon-themed names before we met the cats, their given names prevailed. Now, bonded brothers Saturday (a tuxedo) and Sunday (all black) live with us in their five-and-a-half-foot tall cat condo that I assembled. I’ve come to call their condo Del Boca Whiska.
The last experiences I had with pets weren’t great. I will spare you. That stretch of mid-to-late elementary school involved guppies, three hamsters, and a disgusting episode of snail reproduction. Unless you’re in the escargot business, please, for the love of Pete the Cat, do not ever bring home live male and female snails.
As a new pet owner, I’ve wondered what influences me given how many products I suddenly needed to buy and no such purchasing history or loyalty. It’s fun to think of it as tabula rasa — the blank slate. That’s not true though. Here’s how I’ve been influenced so far:
The biggest influence wound up being former colleague Anne Hrubala who informed me about Bideawee. Despite knowing many cat owners, my oldest brother included, I can’t think of any recommendation beyond the shelter that relates to brand preference, and my preferences are now quickly getting locked in.
The preferences aren’t really mine, anyway. They’re my cats’ preferences.
Bideawee has potential for outsize influence, not unlike how a hospital sending home a new parent with Pampers can influence a family for years. I checked out the cans of food Bideawee sent home with us, figuring it was some cheap, generic brand, but I was surprised to see Fussie Cat premium wet food went for three times the cost of Fancy Feast. The cats like Fancy Feast more, so I’ll splurge on condo amenities instead, like a shuffleboard court.
It’s a no-brainer to check Amazon, and I tried dozens of generic searches for cat supplies. Amazon is where I got cat-shaped bowls, pet carriers, and an assortment of cat toys. I have no clue what the brand names are for almost anything I bought there, save for the Arm & Hammer lavender spray. Where Amazon unsurprisingly excelled was recommending cat books that I purchased for my daughter, and her aunt sent others over; one of my favorite new photos is my daughter sitting back reading a cat guide with Sunday on her lap.
I don’t remember how I heard of Chewy but figured I’d try it. I knew it had a good reputation. Bideawee would later give me a coupon for it, but I needed some supplies in advance. It could be a good opportunity for Chewy and others to get coupons to potential pet owners as soon as the email thread with the shelter starts. A lot of key purchases happen before the adoption is finalized, not after.
Between Chewy and Amazon, I discovered the Purina Tidy Cats Breeze XL Cat Litter Box System which seemed good for two cats (they’re between 8 and 9 lbs). Chewy was able to ship it faster. I got generic replacement pads for the tray but stuck with Purina litter; it’s all akin to a razor and blade system where you get locked in. I did look at self-cleaning litter boxes, but beyond the high prices for the boxes, the cost of replacement litter and pads seemed insane. Fortunately, I have a great method for cleaning the litter box: make the kid do it.
Local Pet Store
I went to a pet store in my neighborhood that I always pass by. It wasn’t huge and was geared far more to dogs. Prices for cat merch seemed way too high. I bought a few things mainly to be polite but couldn’t justify shopping there regularly, unfortunately. The cat condo rent is too damn high.
I can’t remember the last TV ad I’ve seen, and I don’t know when I last saw an ad for Fancy Feast — maybe the 1990s? I found this one from 1996 that looks like my last time connecting with the brand. It felt like a premium cat food, it was well-reviewed, and the price is consistently reasonable on Amazon, Chewy, and Walmart. The cats love the grilled seafood, so they’ll be getting a ton of that. If only the folks at Nielsen could measure 25-year latency effects.
This was a funny stretch where I made a major life change that I thought about for months and researched for weeks, but I didn’t use social media at all. Only once I got the cats did I start posting cat photos on Instagram and Facebook, and I’m sure the targeting onslaught will begin, along with recommendations from friends.
I asked Saturday and Sunday what they thought of all of this. The cats occasionally look at me as if I am marring the view from Del Boca Whiska while otherwise ignoring my presence. I think that means they approve.
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