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I Shop for My Cat on a Jetliner: The Cat Products of SkyMall

While flying to New England, I look for a present for Thomas -- and I deface airline barf bags.

Keith Bowers  |  Oct 1st 2014


Try this: Get really dressed up the next time you travel. Get really dressed up for no particular reason other than you want to look good in transit. Dress up because it makes you feel like a million bucks. Dress up because it makes the people you encounter feel like a million bucks. Dress up because you’ll hear from tons of people about how you look. I guarantee it. The attitude is contagious. Holy Toledo, is it contagious.

For a while, I’ve let pragmatism be my travel guide (see: The Dickies Trifecta), but on a September trip to Manchester, New Hampshire, I let “dashing” lead the way. This is my new preferred travel appearance. On every trip, I intend to stand out, to be the best-dressed man on any airplane I board. I embraced this aesthetic when I was younger. I hereby re-embrace it. Below is a still from the New Hampshire trip:

Are you a musician?
Are you a performer?
Are you an artist?
Do you do magic?

Questions like that were common. (The last one really happened, I swear.) I also received truckloads of compliments on the bow tie — including one from a guy wearing a bow tie made from Legos. This is the kind of thing that happens when you dress up for air travel. Guys wearing hard-plastic bow ties come talk to you. I love interacting with fellow humans like this.

Thomas misses his daddy, the Cat Dandy.

My conclusion? Making an effort to look sharp has become mischievous. The norm is baggy floppy drawstring pro-sports logo elastic waistband NCAA flip-flops sweatshirt I HEART PINK. Looking sharp is walking the razor’s edge, as opposed to slouching in the bean-bag chair of the huddled masses.

What does this have to do with cats? It’s about mischief, and cats are nothing if not mischievous. So if dressing up for travel is the new mischief, I was like a cat. So I looked through the SkyMall catalogue for potential presents for my cat Thomas. Here are the results.

The Shadowed Predator

“Hear the call of the wild in your garden,” promises the text beneath the photo. If I were editing this catalogue, I’d change it to, “Be careful you don’t trip over it in your garden.” The small version of this statue stands 10 inches high and is “more than two feet long.” So it’s not that much bigger than Thomas, depending on how you measure. The larger version is 15 inches high and a little less than three feet long. Still not nearly big enough to scare anyone, including a housecat. Small and large are $89.95 and $120 respectively.

The Litter Zone

Now here’s a good idea — a pad for the front of the litter box to stop cats from tracking litter. Daphne and I can easily sweep up what comes out of Thomas’ litter box, but this might work great in carpeted areas where cleanup is more challenging. The pad has “slightly tacky nano cling.” Based on this verbiage I can’t tell whether cats would love it, hate it, praise it, or berate it, but at $37.99 it might be worth a try for someone who tires of dancing with the vacuum cleaner four times a week to erase litter trails.

The Litter Robot

I know cats are curious, and I’ve had cats get inside things where they barely fit, but this one stumps me, and I’m guessing it would stump a cat. In terms of size, this is the equivalent of an airplane lavatory — a lavatory without a door, but with a tiny opening about as wide as your torso. Maybe it works. Maybe it’s ideal. But everything I’ve learned about cats and litter boxes tells me I wouldn’t want to spend $339 to find out.

The Kitty Ball Bed

“Thomas, look what I got you! A sphere!” This is pretty cool. At $99.99 it’s not outrageously priced, and it’s made of some synthetic material that (SkyMall says) withstands kitty claws. It has a cushion that’s machine-washable. What sets it apart (for me) from other cat beds: If Thomas didn’t like it, it’s a cool piece of furniture from which I could fashion an alternate storage or display use.

The Squirrel Tree Climber

Here’s Item No. 1 in “Things that would freak Thomas the hell out.” It costs $34.95. Thomas has an uneasy truce with the squirrels in the backyard, sometimes getting into stare-downs that last 15 minutes. If I put this in the tree he climbs, he’d be baffled. It would be fun to watch.

The Mounted Squirrel Head

Here’s item No. 2. I’d never do this (partly because I’d rather spend $24.95 on a new bow tie or something), but imagine what any cat would do if this were placed on the wall near his food bowl. One possible scenario is, “Sniff it and move on,” which is another reason it’s probably a better in comedic fantasy than reality. But still. Mounted Squirrel Head, right?

More mischief ahead

Traveling provides multiple opportunities for mischief that are also (probably) legal (in most states). For example, I love to “autograph” Gideon Bibles left in motel rooms with inscriptions such as “Looking forward to seeing YOU on the other side! Best wishes, Jesus H. Christ.” The beauty here is leaving such artifacts behind for others to find. I’ll never see the reactions, but I hope the discoverers of my deeds get a great surprise — and as big a laugh as I got doing them. To me, that’s sharing joy more than spreading blaspheme.

When on airplanes, I also love to deface barf bags with red and black Sharpie pens and put them back where I found them. Daphne, who possesses great artistic talent, sometimes joins me. Below are three we defaced on the way to New Hampshire.

The UpChukSak

The Art of Barf

Here’s Daphne’s contribution.

The Retch-Catch 300

Who knew travel could be such fun, right? What most of the world views as inconvenient humiliation I turn into silly good times. This is very cat-like. Think about it: When your cats investigate the same terrain they’ve investigated hundreds of times before, they’re still filled with wonder and awe. A good cat makes the most of mundane surroundings. So does Cat Dandy.

What mischievous acts do you commit in the air? How do you dress when you travel? Have you ever bought something for your cat from the SkyMall catalogue? Have you ever tripped over a fake miniature panther in a garden? Tell me in the comments.

Cat Dandy always travels with style and humor:

About Keith Bowers: This broad-shouldered, bald-headed, leather-clad motorcyclist also has passions for sharp clothing, silver accessories, great writing, the arts, and cats. This career journalist loves painting, sculpting, photographing, and getting on stage. He once was called “a high-powered mutant,” which also describes his cat, Thomas. He is senior editor at Catster and Dogster.