Today is National Cat Day. This wouldn’t be America if some entrepreneurial company didn’t find a way to exploit the internet’s love of kittens.
It was thus not that surprising that the private taxi service Uber sent out an email notifying its customers that “Uber is delivering kittens on-demands in Seattle, New York, and San Francisco!” from 11am to 4pm.
It seemed too good to be true, and it was. 11 am came around, I chose the “kitten” option, and I got this. Rinse and repeat roughly 40 times over the next three hours.
A cursory check of Twitter confirms demand is far outstripping supply -- after initial excitement, those who actually attempt to get a kitten end up angry. A lucky few managed to get a delivery. I checked with ASPCA, the Uber kitty partner in New York, to confirm this wasn’t just a stunt. Sure enough, a spokesperson confirmed that kitten visits were, in fact, happening. “And just so you know, they’re all up for adoption. AND they’re all being accompanied by shelter volunteers to make sure they’re okay all day. We’re also swapping them out when they’ve had enough fun”, she said.
But she wasn’t able to confirm just how much of a shortage there was, so I had to do some math. Here’s my estimate:
Currently, there are about 10 tweets per minute referencing the Uber kittens.
Roughly one of those is a tweet about trying and failing to get a kitten through the app in New York.
Let’s assume that a frustrated kitten hunter has a 20% chance of tweeting their frustration. Then if there is one frustrated tweet per minute, that means there are five frustrated kitten hunters per minute, or 300 frustrated kitten hunters per hour.
ASPCA has 37 kittens up for adoption in NYC, according to its website.
Based on the photos, the kittens appear to be traveling in groups of 2-3. Assuming only half to a third of the kittens are out at one time to allow for swaps, let’s say there are five groups of cats on the road at a time.
Assuming that the 15 minute appointments don’t go over, and assuming it takes 30 minutes to break down, move offices, and set up again, that’s 7 kitten visits per hour in total. (Which is in line with the 20 cupcakes per hour that Charm City Cakes says it provided for the event.)
Which means that your chances of getting a kitten are roughly 7/300, or about 2.5%. To put it another way, if Uber wanted to meet today’s kitten demand, it would need a pool of about 1,600 kittens to ferry around the city (not to mention about 250 ASPCA volunteers).
The thing is, this probably wasn’t much about meeting the demand for kitty cuddling at all: it was about getting us to talk about, and tweet about, Uber all day long. And maybe download the app if you haven’t already (which I did).
(Uber has not yet returned requests for comment.)