They've delivered ice cream; Christmas trees; roses; convenience store items like gum, deodorant, and milk; last week they even started couriering flu shots.
Today, for four hours only, the ride-sharing company Uber is delivering cuteness overload with UberKittens, its annual kitten request service. In honor of National Cat Day, Uber will deliver kittens right to your door. For $30, an Uber driver will come to your work or home with a kitten or kittens for you to cuddle. You get 15 minutes of play time and a break from the midday, midweek doldrums.
Of course, there's a higher cause behind all that cuteness. Uber has partnered with the ASPCA and the cat meme site Cheezburger to raise awareness about cat adoption, and to promote adopting animals from shelters through its UberKittens campaign. As such, 100 percent of proceeds from the campaign go to participating animal shelters in each city, and a shelter volunteer chaperoning the kitten visits can share more information about cat adoptions. In addition, Uber says it'll be matching all donations made to the participating shelters via the Uber app.
Here's how to order your on-demand kitten.
For starters, the campaign only lasts from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday, and delivery is open to users in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Austin, Washington DC, Seattle, and Phoenix. Select the 'KITTENS' option in your Uber app, and New York and DC users can enter the promo code 'kittensnyc' or 'kittensdc' to unlock the option. If there's a kitten available, an Uber driver will ferry the feline to you for 15 minutes of playtime.
UberKittens may be part of a larger industry that allows pet-loving Americans to experience the pleasures of owning a pet without the long-term commitment. In 2007, San Diego-based company FlexPetz began renting dogs to people who wanted the fun and company of having a dog - say, playing fetch, or taking a walk - without the hassle. The company has faced some controversy for attempting to rent out pets, since its opening.
And in Japan, cat cafes are all the rage for lonely urbanites who want some cuddly company -– Tokyo alone has some 40 cat cafes. Typically, patrons pay a cover fee or an hourly fee and enjoy the company of feline companions for a few hours. Cat cafes have now opened around the world with some even specializing in certain kinds or breeds of cats.
It's all part of the larger rental trend in a society that's increasingly rental-trendy. Businesses like Netflix, Zipcar, and Rent the Runway have helped redefine consumerism.
"These are consumers who want the taste of a certain lifestyle or experience," reported ABC News in a 2007 article. People with little time or space can stake a claim in pricey, high-maintenance items such as yachts, exotic cars and small planes for occasional use."
And thanks to UberKittens and other pet-rental services, Uber is also helping redefine pet ownership.