Not long from now, I imagine that someone somewhere will notice the neighborhood’s standard-issue Crazy Cat Lady hasn’t been seen in four months, and an adventurous neighbor will creep into the two-bedroom apartment she shares with 29 mangy cats. Once inside, they’ll make the requisite ghastly discovery — her desiccated and half-devoured corpse, slumped over in her chair, fingers frozen in claws over her computer keyboard. Upon awakening the computer from its long-dormant hibernation, they will gaze upon dozens of open chat windows, cursors blinking endlessly, all with messages consisting of a single word: meow?

  Clearly, this spinster will have breathed her last while signed into, a website dedicated to animal lovers of all types — but especially an elite, obsessive few, those for whom simply taking photos of their beloved companions and posting them to their personal web pages doesn’t even scratch the depths of their devotion. To truly show their love, these types need to do more. They need to join and pretend to be their pets. There, they can post photos, list their favorite scratching places, favorite foods, toys, tricks, dislikes, and even post blogs — not only about your pet but, incredibly, by your pet.

  Even more cheerfully horrifying, you can log in and chat with other users in the guise of your darling animal. Yes, that’s right: chatting as your pet. In a world where men and women communicate less and less every day: chatting as your pet. From people who already have way too much time on their hands: chatting as your pet. On the internet, where nothing can ever be grossly misinterpreted and blown out of proportion: Chatting. As your pet.

  You just can’t make this stuff up.

A quick glance through‘s current population of members reveals cats, dogs, a frog, a gerbil, a snake, two hamsters (probably best not to let Sammy the Snake drop a quick hello to those two — I’d hate to hear about hamster heart attacks), a goose, even a human being, and a few furry others. The site is growing quickly, and although the entire idea is a little creepy, it’s also strangely endearing as well. I found myself thinking of Durka, a cat that once, not too long ago, briefly allowed me to care for him. Looking through the photos of the various animals, I was hit with a sudden sense of nostalgia for my mouser, wondering where he is now, and sighing almost wistfully as I contemplated what it would be like to log in and chat with another pet as the spirited Durka (full name: Durka-Durka-Mohammad-Jihad).

  I am jerked back to reality by the realization that if Durka had gotten wind of what I was up to, he would have gone for the eyes and not stopped until they were shredded out of my skull. Furthermore, if he had possessed the ability to speak, he would have reminded me, in hissing cat tones, “You do not need to be talking to anyone who has to pretend to be their goddamned pet to have a conversation on the internet.” And he would have been absolutely right.

  If, however, is your cup of tea; if you are already in the process of registering Sir Antonious the Bulldog so that ‘he’ can start chatting immediately with Toni Dancer the Pomeranian, sending her sniffs and licks, inviting her to chase cars, dig for bones, and bark at the moon, simply remember this: It’s okay to pretend to be your pets, and to love your pets. Just don’t love your pets.