In 2000, a website was started up claiming to sell a special kind of kitten:
A bonsai plant, along with its more widely encountered counterpart the topiary garden, achieves its miniature yet mature form through a long and delicate process of trimming during the formative years of the tree. It is not possible to trim a kitten! However, fortunately the Oriental artists of yore were also expert in the modification of animal forms. Both foot-binding and head-binding were practiced in the Far East, for the purpose of miniaturizing the feet and shaping the head into attractive shapes. This technique is also the principle behind the well-known corset, which is regaining popularity in recent years. By physically constraining the growth of a developing living thing, it can be directed to take the shape of the vessel that constrains it. Just as a topiary gardener produces bushes that take the forms of animals or any other thing, you no longer need be satisfied with a housepet having the same mundane shape as all other members of its species. With Bonsai Kitten, a world of variation awaits you, limited only by your own imagination.
The website goes into detail on how the kittens are shaped, and even gives instructions on how you can make your own Bonsai Kitten.
It’s so obvious that this is a hoax. The premise is ridiculous, and no information on how to actually get the cats was offered on the website. But some people actually took this seriously! Here is an email forward that went around about Bonsai Kittens from snopes.com:
To anyone with love and respect for life: 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 feces 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 live. They can’t walk or move or wash themselves. Bonsai-kittens are becoming a fashion in New York and Asia.
See this horror at: http://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: email@example.com. From there this protest will be sent to USA and Mexican animal protection organizations.
Bonsaikitten.com was a silly hoax revealed to have been started by a group of MIT grad students, but it sparked a lot of outrage amongst animal rights groups, has been shut down by a long list of hosts, and was even investigated by the FBI. The protests and news coverage and a list of former hosts of the site are listed here.
See a list of hoaxes counted down so far after the jump.
100. Bridezilla Freaks Out About Her Hairdo
99. The Joe Schmo Show
98. The Crying Indian
97. Ivar’s Underwater Billboards
96. Well to Hell
95. Great Comics Switcheroonie
94. American Cannibal
93. Nacirema Tribe
92. Indian Rope Trick
91. Eruption of Mount Edgecumbe
90. Republic of San Serriffe
89. Sydney Iceberg
88. Donald Crowhurst
87. Forgotten Silver
86. Procter & Gamble & Satan
85. Mel’s Hole
84. Institute for Human Continuity
83. Taking the Onion Seriously
82. Bonsai Kittens