Wednesday, June 3, 2015

I Have Become A Crazy Cat Lady (In Virtual Life)

I have been trying to blog about serious (or semi-serious) things in Second Life. I should be writing about the wonderful architecture and landscaping, Rockcliffe University's educational game about global warming, events that raise money for real-life charities, or even about the installation that includes a fast-food franchise in Hell.

Instead, I will tell you about my virtual cats. I have pictures. People who don't like cats can leave now.

It started, innocently enough, when I was first wandering around Second Life and one of the newcomer-friendly freebie sites had free cats.  Being a sucker, I took one. I soon learned that there is no such thing as "a free cat."

KittyCats, the major cat breeder in Second Life, has a wonderful business model.  The cost of the first feline may be very modest, but as time goes on you find that there are additional expenses. If your cat or kitten hasn't been fixed (made into a 'Perma Pet') it will need to be fed or it might run away or get sick.  KittyCats sells food, provides vet assistance, and helps locate lost animals. If you want to make the cat a "Perma-pet" so that it doesn't need to be fed, then KittyCats will sell you the elixir to do that.

There are, of course, many related items you can buy -- cat clothes, pillows, scratching posts, and even a small house. I actually lived in the Cattery Cottage for a short while after I accidentally deleted a new 'people' house I had bought. The Cottage is comparable in size* to Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond.

This is one of the more expensive things you can buy for your cats.  (About 50cents, US). 

The first cat I got was Victoria. She was too old to have kittens, so she didn't eat as much as a cat who was still kitten-bearing age (7 to 121 days), but I paid to have her made into a 'Perma Pet'.

Then came Desdemona. I think I bought her so that Victoria would have a friend.


Then came Feliz - he was a free kitten given away to celebrate Second Life's 9th birthday.

Feliz, wearing his party hat. (I took it off after I took the picture).

At some point I was given two kittens still in the birthing boxes, and they were still in my inventory over two years later when I returned to Second Life. I was surprised to see that the kitties were all still 'alive', and even more surprised when, shortly after the two new kittens were 'born' I got a message saying that a new update was available. A few clicks later, and all five felines were up to date, and had learned a few more tricks. (Wish that worked with my computer software.)

Kittens will ride on your shoulder, if they are in the mood.
(The floating text after their names reflects their status.
 You can set it to show all stats, or none.)

Now, KittyCats in Second Life are more than pets, raising them can, with luck and skill, be an income source.  The kittens come with seven genetic traits that can be passed on to their offspring: eye shape, pupil color, whisker shape, body shape, ear shape, shade, and tail type. Careful breeding can suppress 'ordinary' traits, and encourage the 'better' traits in future litters. Breeders keep careful track of their cat pairs (breeding involves nothing naughty, you just have to make sure the future parents get the proper food and care, and are close to each other) and then wait patiently for the female cat to 'drop a box'. Kittens with valuable traits may fetch high prices at auction, and their owners are in high regard in the large community of KittyCats breeders.

Cats are not the only 'breedable' pet you can buy in Second Life. Amaretto horses are very popular, as well as meeros, fennex, dragons (large and small), garden fairies, and many other creatures. For me, the KittyCats are the best because their designers keep adding new features. The Main KittyCats store is also fun to visit, with constantly-changing displays and new breeds of kitties.

In doing research for the blog I picked a random dealer from the 'approved' list published by KittyCats. I went to FelinesKittys, a virtual business which offers space to merchants who sell felines and related merchandise. This was set up like a large street fair, and I was very impressed by the ingenuity of the stalls.
I think this merchant sold software to make it easy to publish your cats' pedigrees.
I had told myself that buying virtual accessories for virtual pets was really frivolous, but I did buy an automatic feeder so that the new kittens wouldn't starve when I was away. 

I find them very amusing. Perhaps I am too easily amused. Certainly they have most of the good traits of real cats, and few of the bad.  Real life cats can cause complications. (Digression to RL now). For example, we are responsible for two semi-feral cats, and have installed a cat door so that the cats can come in at night. This morning my husband found a skunk making itself comfortable in the living room. Fortunately, it seems to have left peacefully. Darn cats!

*Thoreau's house was, I believe, 10 feet by 15 feet. The Cattery in Second Life is larger, but proportional since Second Life avatars need more room to move around.

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