Kittens are Uber's No. 1 customers on Cat Day

AP News
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Posted: Oct 30, 2015 12:41 AM
Kittens are Uber's No. 1 customers on Cat Day

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Uber ride-sharing service promised warm kittens with cold noses, kitty breath and lots of energy for what they called the best 15-minute snuggle available for $30. Then they delivered.

Three Los Angeles shelters — Kitty Bungalow Charm School for Wayward Cats, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles and Heaven on Earth Society for Animals— provided kittens for the snuggle visits Thursday, which was also National Cat Day. The three shelters will split all fees collected.

Two Kitty Bungalow orphans, Smiley and Horvath, were delivered to Warner Bros. Studio for the cast crew, producers and writers of the Friday night comedy "Undateable," which airs live on both coasts. Writer Laura Moran ordered the kittens because she thought it would be fun for everyone.

"They stopped rehearsal to play with the cats. So if anybody forgets a line Friday night, you can blame the kittens," she joked.

Cast members Chris D'Elia, Bianca Kajlich, David Fynn and Rick Glassman entertained the kittens, while one star, Brent Morin, couldn't come to the party because of allergies.

D'Elia and Glassman played "Periscope" with the kittens, using an app that viewers can watch in real time to give followers a good look at the kittens. Smiley was especially attracted to Glassman's shirt, which had several drawstrings.

"We have some cat lovers on our staff so I thought it would be fun," Moran said. "We wanted the cats to come on the set and hang out with our actors, but they wouldn't let them on the set so we had to drive the actors to meet the kittens," she said. They ended up in a studio office building and the crowd quadrupled.

"We were busy. As we expected, demand was high," Uber spokesman Michael Amodeo said. He didn't have a final count on how many visits were made or how many adoption pledges they got.

"We are overrun with cats. We used to have kitten season in May. Now, with the weather we have out here, it is kitten season all year long," said Madeleine Bernstein, president and CEO of spcaLA. She said she jumped at the chance to take part in the Uber snuggle day because "I like to do things that are new and different and 21st Century, remind people we are a shelter, that cats are available and to promote shelter adopting."

The hope was snugglers would be smitten with a kitten, place a hold on it and then follow through with adoption.

But it will take a trip to the shelter to seal the deal. spcaLA has shelters in Long Beach, Hawthorne and Pico Rivera. The kittens still have to be spayed or neutered, vaccinated and microchipped. Adopters also have to fill out an application and pay a $100 fee, she said.

Even though all of the 15-minute sessions were booked and even if all the kittens had a hold on them, Bernstein said she didn't expect them to all get adopted.

"People get to hug and play for 15 minutes," she said. That is enough to make anybody's day, but it may not carry over."

Uber started its four-hour, on-demand service, working with just a few animal shelters, two years ago. In 2014, it increased to seven cities, this year it's 50. Last year, 30 cats were adopted.

For Uber, it was a change of tone from stories about troubles they have faced in court with customers and drivers.

Drivers have taken them to court claiming two extremes — they are independent contractors or they are workers who deserve benefits and protections. And users have taken the company to task over alleged assaults by drivers. Again, the question is who is responsible.