Bonsai trees are tiny and cute. So are kittens. What could be more cute than bonsai kittens? That was the thought behind Bonsaikitten.com, a website launched in late 2000.
Bonsaikitten.com purported to raise cute little kittens, hermetically sealed in glass containers. As the kittens grew, they would conform to the shape of the container. Once removed from their constraints, the kittens retained their refined shape.
“You no longer need be satisfied with a house pet having the same mundane shape as all other members of its species,” the site declared. “With Bonsai Kitten a world of variation awaits you, limited only by your own imagination.”
The site contained “fun facts” about kittens, such as “if you take a week-old kitten and throw it to the floor, it will actually bounce!” It also offered instructions about how to create one’s own bonsai kitten, with such tips as supergluing plastic tubes to the animal’s hind end for waste disposal while it is in its glass container: “as the kitten’s body is still developing, a natural rectal diverticulum will soon form around the tube.”
As it turns out, the website was a hoax. It was created by a bunch of bored students at MIT, but the joke was lost on countless animal lovers. The Humane Society of the United States was just one of the many animal rights groups that expressed outrage.
Despite evidence of the website’s intent to create parody, the public reaction and indignation only intensified. In February 2001, the FBI got involved. After an exhaustive investigation, it concluded there was no evidence of any animal having been harmed, nor were any bonsai kittens actually offered for sale.
Public outcry continued, even after the FBI investigation. MIT finally bowed to public pressure and removed the website from its servers. This prompted a series of restarts of bonsaikitten.com, finding a home on rotten.com, and then shorty.com. As of the time of this writing, the site resides at https://www.ding.net/bonsaikitten/, but it is stripped of some of much of its original pictures.
Read about more hoaxes that fooled the public.
Read more fun facts about cats.
Read about more antics by MIT students.