As comedian Jerry Seinfeld once observed, if aliens saw dogs doing their business and humans picking it up with their hands and carrying it away they would think the dogs are the higher species.
The same could be said of cats, given the amount of time and trouble to which owners go to keep their felines' lavatory spaces clean and smelling fresh.
Now, thanks to the ingenuity of some entrepreneurs, dealing with animal poop is entering the 21st century.
One of the most high-tech approaches is LitterFree, billed as the first cat toilet that flushes away all cat waste without its owner ever lifting a finger or struggling with 50-pound bags of kitty litter.
The self-washing cat box costs $299 but eliminates hauling, scooping, dumping or cleaning of the litter box and ends all contact with kitty litter or waste.
"We use plastic pellets instead of kitty litter and with a push of a button once a day for one cat -- twice a day for two cats, or a timer can be set -- the entire plastic kitty litter is cleaned and flushed with water and cleaning solution and then air dried," Ady Simchoni, president of Pet-Centric Inc., of San Diego, told UPI's Animal Tales.
"The machine needs to be connected with the cold water, a drain and electricity similar to a washing machine or dishwasher."
LitterFree, available in neighborhood pet stores and retail pet chains, uses a cleaning solution that must be replaced every 60 days. The machine can be used in a utility room or bathroom where the waste can be flushed into the toilet, Simchoni said.
"It took five years of research and development to create LitterFree and to have it tested," he said. "We think that in the next 15 years most houses with cats will have something like LitterFree -- already architects are calling us asking how they can incorporate LitterFree in a new house."
Simchoni added that several nursing homes that have cats are considering installing LitterFree because of the ease of disposal and the elimination of kitty litter dust and litter box odors. He said he is working on a similar machine for small dogs, although so far there is nothing on the drawing board for large dogs.
Holly Riddel and Jill Gizzio, who run DogToys.com and CatToys.com, also think the time has come for more innovative solutions to pet waste problems.
"We think that in the next decades will have a room, next to the utility room would be ideal, where animal waste will be dealt with easily for the pet and the owner," Riddel told UPI's Animal Tales. "We're in the process of designing some features ourselves."
Meanwhile, for small dogs, there is the "Puppy Go Potty Condo Kit," a plastic dog-sized litter tray, patented litter, a training guide manufactured by Absorption Corporation of Bellingham, Wash., which is supposed to be ideal for dogs in apartments, working couples or small pets of the older variety. It sells for $49.99 and is available at independent pet stores nationwide, selected PETCO stores, the Drs. Foster and Smith catalogue and through e-commerce sites.
When it comes to birds of any size, FlightSuits, available at birddiaper.com, deals with "emancipation from poop" and "thinking outside of the cage," as characterized by its designers.
"We don't like to use the word 'diaper' because it's laden with negative connotations -- messy, smelly, constricting," Mark Moore, president of Avian Fashions, in Stafford, Va., told UPI's Animal Tales. "We call them FlightSuits -- they are specially-sized vests for each type of bird that contains a unique, patented V-shaped extension 'poop pouch' that keeps bird dropping away from the bird and its owner."
The FlightSuits, fashioned after military pilot flightsuits, are made of Lycra, the same material used in swimming suits, and is available in a rainbow of colors and can be washed by hand and dried.
Sizes range from petite, Parakeet size, to colossal, Macaw size, as well as special sizes for pigeons, doves, and crows. Small birds, even those that have been potty-trained, make droppings every 15 minutes, or about one to two hours for potty-trained larger birds.
"I was in the U.S. Navy and because we had to move around so much we got birds as pets for our children and we liked to interact with the birds outside of their cages so my wife with the help of a seamstress designed the FlightSuits to deal with the droppings," Moore said.
"Later we added the disposable liners. They worked well for us when we were in San Diego but then I was transferred to New York and we used the FlightSuits on the birds as we drove across America. At rest stops, motels, parks, people wanted to see the colorful FlightSuits -- the reaction was very encouraging -- so 'on a lark' we had it patented."
Moore's birds have their wings clipped and there is a detachable lanyard and Anchorline leashes to help keep birds grounded, but the FlightSuits do not constrict a bird from flying.
"Bird safety has always been our priority and after selling thousands of FlightSuits we're glad to say not a single feather has been harmed," Moore said. "In addition to the colorful, exotic-bird-like FlightSuits, we have other avian attire such as Uncle Sam, Santa Claus, Biker Bird using imitation leather and tuxedo with tails for formal occasions."
There is even a similar product for ducks, geese and chickens.
"We have found that there are people who keep fowl indoors so we've added that," Moore said. "The pigeon and dove FlightSuits are popular with magicians because bird dropping are an occupational hazard."
FlightSuits are $19.95 each and are also available at select pet stores.
"Our birds sit with the children when they do their homework and they're nearby when we eat dinner," Moore said. "The FlightSuits have made it possible for them to be very much a part of our daily lives."
These and many, many more products will be highlighted at the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association Inc.'s 45th Annual Pet Products Trade Show, to be held Feb. 26 to 28 in Atlanta at the Georgia World Congress Center.