Outraged animal lovers around the world are filling their friends’ inboxes with e-mails decrying the Bonsai Kitten, a web site that offers to sell custom-shaped cats.
Inspired by bonsai plants, the web site claims that kittens are raised inside specially-designed glass bottles while their bones are still young and malleable. After months of “shaping”, the final cat is contorted beyond belief and available for sale to upscale clientele around the world.
But it’s all a joke. A cruel joke to be sure, but it is definitely a joke.
Here’s the original e-mail:
This version was collected on Jul 22, 2001:
Subject: Poor Kittens..How Horrible… story
Please save those kittens! You must see it… My god.
In New York there is a Japanese who sells “bonsai kittens”. Sounds like
fun – huh? NOT! These animals are squeezed into a bottle. Their urine and
faeces are removed through probes. They feed them with a kind of tube. They
feed them chemicals to keep their bones soft and flexible so the kittens
grow into the shape of the bottle. The animals will stay their as long as they
They can’t walk or move or wash themselves. Bonsai-kittens are
becoming a fashion in New York and Asia.
See this horror at: www.bonsaikitten.com
Please sign this email in protest against these tortures. If you
receive an email with over 500 names, please send a copy to:
From there this protest will be sent to USA and Mexican animal
protection organizations. If you send this to your friends: Use the copy/paste
method in an NEW email to keep this readable….
The Bonsai Kitten web site, www.bonsaikitten.com introduces visitors to its product matter-of-factly, explaining how the kittens are put into the jars, how they are kept alive, and what the finished product looks like. It’s simple sales page gives folks an e-mail address to contain to order a kitten, and its “Just for Kids” page gives the little ones ideas on how they can play with their kitten.
Those last two features should get visitors’ spider-sense tingling, if hasn’t been overwhelmed by righteous indignation. The site is horrifying, cruel and sadistic … and it has a kid’s page? Unfortunately, the site itself does not offer any hints (other than its outrageousness) that it’s a hoax — for proof, you’ll need to do a little surfing.
- Wired.com: FBI Goes After Bonsaikitten.com: Reporter Declan McCullagh reports how an MIT student created the hoax site — and how a gun-toting member of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals showed up in Cambridge to investigate the charges. That, combined with outraged cries from animal rights activists, brought about the attention of the FBI.
- Humane Society: Web Site Depicts, Encourages Cat Cruelty The Humane Society, as one would expect, is not amused by the joke, but does explain how the site came into existance, and its own efforts to get the site tossed off the net. Of course, it’s efforts — and outraged protests by animal lovers — have only fuel the site’s popularity, and caused clones of it to appear online.
- The ASPCA Speaks Out Against Bonsai Kitten, Presents Steps to Encourage Shutdown of Offensive Website The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is likewise not amused, damning the hoax and encouraging animal lovers to quash the site.
- ZDnet.com: Bonsai Kitten: An obvious hoax ZDnet’s Dr. D. Bunk recaps the hoax, including public reaction to it.
- About.com: Bonsai Kitten: The world’s most hated Website?
A brief write-up from About.com’s Urban Legends Guide about the hoax.