Steve Malarkey was a disgruntled computer technician looking for a career change when his cat leaped forward with an idea.
“I was sitting in front of the TV with my wife, watching a National Geographic special on birds of the Cayman Islands or somewhere,” he said.
“Our cat, Stick, who never even glanced at TV before, came out of his box like a shot and sat right in front of the screen, growling and meowing.”
Malarkey borrowed a friend’s video camera and tripod, scattered birdseed and popcorn in his wooded back yard and recorded the antics of neighborhood birds, squirrels and chipmunks that gathered for a noisy feast.
“When I brought the tape back to the house and showed it to Stick, he went ballistic,” Malarkey said. “He was in front of the TV, behind the TV, on top of the TV, knocking things over and swiping at the screen.”
Malarkey went into the “cat business” in a big way. His “Video Catnip,” a professional, 25-minute version of the same back yard scene, is one of the hottest gift items to appear on pet store shelves this Christmas season.
Malarkey says he’s sold 7,000 copies since his video hit the market in September, 1989, most of them in the last couple of months. Fewer than 10 tapes have been returned on behalf of dissatisfied feline viewers, he said.
Human viewers might find “Video Catnip” boring after a while. There’s just so much excitement in watching a pair of blue jays squabbling or a squirrel snitching a peanut from a bowl.
But Malarkey, who recently moved from this Washington suburb to Morgantown, W.Va., says it’s the purr-fect stocking stuffer for the indoor cat who has everything.
“Steven Spielberg it ain’t,” he said, “but we haven’t gotten any complaints yet from the cats.”
The tape, which retails for $19.95, promises “some cat-a-clysmic fun with no paws in the action.” It starts with this warning:
“While watching this video, your cat may become excited and attempt to get inside your television set to get at the birds. . . . We strongly suggest that you remove all breakables from on top or around your TV set. No kitting.”
The live action is divided into segments titled “Cheep Thrills,” “Mews and Feather Report” and “A Stalk in the Park,” which features plenty of close-up shots of kitty’s favorite creatures cavorting on the TV screen.
Can cats really “see” a TV video?
Veterinarians agree with Malarkey that although cats don’t discern shapes and colors as distinctly as humans, they are acutely aware of moving figures and sounds that excite them.