You can either thank or blame this on a start-up called Apollo Peak, which tells the New York Times it’s sold $500,000 worth of catnip-infused colored water at T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and 200 other stores in just the past year. The burgeoning success of “pet wine” has produced at least one big competitor, too — Pet Winery, a Florida-based company whose beverages are now in 40 stores. The two rivals are trying to figure out how to share this market space, a niche that clearly has only a finite number of clever puns: There is already Catbernet, Moscato, and Purrgundy, which can run $5 for about a shot’s worth, or pet owners can splurge on a $15 bottle of Mëow & Chandon, which, at 12 ounces, is basically the cat equivalent of a magnum.
Giving a cat real alcohol is a terrible idea, so these products are just filtered water mixed with catnip and things like salmon oil and organic beet juice. That sounds horrendous from a human perspective, but exactly like the kinds of things cats are supposed to like. It turns out they don’t, according to Times writer Carol Pogash. She put together a tasting, and found the wines’ biggest fans were the owners, who gushed with praises like, “That’s the greatest thing ever.”
Needing to know which brand finicky cats preferred, I asked Ann Dunn, the founder of Cat Town Café, to let me conduct a feline focus group involving six fully awake cats and a dozen who were more interested in naps than liquid refreshments.
There was a surprise: Only one cat, a black-and-white one named Dickie, seriously liked the beverage. He sipped, then groomed himself and got blissful. Other cats lounging in cubbyholes ignored the offerings, though one was briefly interested.
Nevertheless, the cat lovers — even after seeing that the animals did not like the wines — were smitten with the products.
Pogash described it as cat “happy hour,” which no doubt helped — that’s an event no self-respecting cat person can turn down. The café’s owner, though, was a little more blunt about the future of co-imbibing with pets. “You’re imagining this alternative universe in which cats live miniature versions of what you do,” she reminded the paper’s readers. She suggests cat owners just “open a can of sardines.”