Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bonsaikitten.com


Is your kitten too mundane?


            In 2001, a website was created claiming it's possible to not only keep kittens small forever but also to shape them into any form you want, simply by putting them in glass jars! The website described the process of jarring your little kitty and also provided tips and support for aspiring kitten "farmers." The idea was based on the traditional Japanese art of bonsai, which is practiced by trimming a tree's limbs and roots to keep it tiny and manageable, yet mature and beautiful.
Same idea, right?
            When I first saw the website, it seemed obvious to me that it is a hoax. How could anyone believe a kitten would survive in a glass jar? The site was even full of jokes and (seemingly) obvious sarcasm. In the "method" section of the site it even advises that you use young kittens because their bones are soft and springy - perfect for molding. A one week old kitten can even be bounced on the floor! But don't try it. You don't want it to roll under the couch and get covered in unsightly lint.
Don't forget to purchase your Kitten Insertion Shoe Horn!
          You can find this and even more insanity here. Apparently the sight moves around a lot as it is stalked tirelessly by animal rights activists and was officially disbanded after being investigated by the friggin' FBI in 2007 (unless that's also a hoax...) but hopefully that link stays up for a while. It was revealed to be fake soon after it went up, just a stunt pulled by some students at MIT. Though the individuals were never revealed, they did state anonymously that it was meant to be a statement against "the human belief of nature as a commodity."
Oh, PETA...
           I tried to think of reasons why people would take this site at face value and believe something that is so obviously (at least, to me) untrue. Surprisingly, I think there might actually be a viable general idea behind this feline madness. It's this recurring idea that things grow to the size of their container. The Bonsai tree is actually, I believe, a poor example to compare to this far-fetched kitten idea. The website even states "you can't trim a kitten." A better example might be a gold fish. Growing up, I was always told that goldfish would only grow as big as the container they were put in, so if I wanted a little gold fish, he needed to stay in a little bowl. I found out, through a minimal amount of googling, this is probably not true and is most likely very detrimental to your fish, but it does show that something false can be widely believed, even if it is blatant animal cruelty (RIP Mr. Fish).
          An even more extreme example can be found on the streets of China. Vendors have been selling some disturbing key-chains that contain, along with a few ounces of colored water and some festive sparkles, a live turtle. For just a few bucks, you can have your own little buddy to pin on your backpack. Many vendors even claim the turtles live for months, but this is unlikely as the pouches only contain enough oxygen to sustain the animals for a few days. The fact that people sell these shows that others buy them, so maybe not everyone finds them so cruel. While tiny turtle death chambers wouldn't fly on the American market, sometimes cultural differences need to be taken into consideration. Perhaps the same can be applied to Bonsai cats.
Oh, yeah. And you can grow square watermelons in clear boxes...
            I guess the real main concern of many activists was that they felt the site, while satirical, could somehow support actual animal cruelty. Maybe someone exists who is dumb or evil enough to try this at home. I get it, some people are weird. And even after more than a decade of the site being bounced around the Internet, bogus spam petitions still circulate. These petitions, though, are anything but funny, and state the whole kittens-in-jars thing as honest-to-God fact, sparing none of the gruesome details. Maybe if I had been introduced to the hoax in this manner and not from some joke website, I would find it more alarming too.

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