NEIGHBORS : Mouse Chase : Inventors group honors a Thousand Oaks man for his electric cat toy.


Doren Berkovich has his finger on the pulse of the feline population.

The Thousand Oaks inventor has developed an automated cat toy that he said will keep those purring pets preoccupied for hours and hours.

“If you remember back in February and March, we had a real rainy season, and I was stuck in the house with my two cats, Booboo and Misty,” he said. “I saw them laying around not doing too much. But when we would play they’d want to play longer than I would, with string and stuff.”

Thus, out of desperation and a tired arm, the concept of the electric cat toy was born.

The product, called “Mouse Chase,” consists of a string attached to a rotating pole affixed to an 18-inch-high foundation.


Dangling from the string is what Berkovich refers to as an “exciter,” something for the cat to chase as it rotates in circles.

“There’s the old adage that three things make life go round and round--the challenge, the chase and the capture. That’s the way the toy works,” he said. “Cats will sit back and look at it and stalk it, just like stalking game.”

The speed of the toy is adjustable to the cat’s agility. Suggested retail price: $49.95, but it won’t be in stores for another four to five weeks.

Berkovich’s invention has earned him an award that will be presented at the annual International Inventors and Entrepreneurs Expo, which opens today at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim.

Darrell Metcalf of Ventura also will be honored, for a creation he calls “The Disc Dispatcher,” a device for storing, organizing and dispensing floppy discs.

The expo, which runs through Sunday, is sponsored by the Camarillo-based Inventors Workshop International. This is the 20th-anniversary gathering, and, thanks to the group’s push for global participation, this expo has attracted widespread interest. Participants are expected from as far away as Australia and Bangladesh.


The conference will include an Imagination Fair for children. Any child bringing a poster detailing an invention will be admitted free.

Speaking of large gatherings, the 12-day Ventura County Fair kicked off yesterday, and one of the first orders of business was the goldfish competition--kind of a beauty contest for the little fishies.

And we’re not talking about your common, bounce-a-ball-in- the-bowl, win a goldfish.

We’re talking Orandas and Pearlscales and Bubble-Eyes and Ryukins.

As fair publicist Teri Raley put it, “When you try to pronounce the names, and you don’t know what you’re talking about, it all sounds like stuff that could be cured with penicillin.”

So what do goldfish judges look for?

“We look to make sure there are no spikes coming out of their back, that it’s really smooth. We look for nice bright colors,” said David Lathrop, a pet store owner who came up from Fullerton to judge the event. “And you always like the ones who flirt with you.”

Fish flirt? “They come swimming over and keep opening their mouth, like ‘feed me,’ ” he said.

How laid back are the people of the Conejo Valley?

Well, only 15 of them found the need to sign up for a stress-reduction function sponsored by the Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce.


Because of the lack of interest the picnic-seminar, scheduled for Friday, had to be canceled--which didn’t exactly do wonders for the stress level of discouraged organizer Diane Moskowitz, who had to cancel caterers and guest speakers.

“It would have been a lot of fun,” she said. “But everybody’s so laissez faire around here. Or they’re too stressed out to go.”