When Bad Things Happen to Cloud-Based Cat Feeders

An outage at Amazon’s cloud-computing unit caused internet-connected cat feeding machines to fail.

The Wall Street Journal



I missed the 4:30 train and so didn’t arrive home until 6:30. You would have thought–if you’d heard the caterwauling that greeted me as I came in the door–that a feline axe murderer was on the loose.

“What’s up with you guys?” I said as affably as I could to Okie–a grey tabby who is known as the feline Cary Grant of the neighborhood–and Rocco, his younger brother who is better-known for his bumptious charm. Some have compared him to a relative who you don’t trust, but who still talks you into buying a mink-oil franchise as part of his pyramid scheme.

“What’s up with you?” Rocco asked, and his tone had extra starch in it.

“I missed the 4:30 train so I’m just getting . . .”

“We know that,” Rocco snapped. Have to admit his irritated tone was justified. I’ve said many fatuous things in my life, but announcing that I’m home to people in my home is a bit like Yogi Berra responding “You mean now?” when asked for the time.

“We’re starved!” It was Okie this time. He’s not big on self-analysis, but he does recognize the symptoms of hunger.

“Is your cloud-based kibble feeder on the fritz?”


“Apparently,” Rocco said, with more than a trace of sarcasm.

“Huh,” I said, and began to fiddle with the contraption, which had set me back $80 for the two-tray model at Pets ‘n Stuff.

“There’s no time for that now,” Okie said, with an uncharacteristically grumpy tone. Usually he scoots over life’s bumps in the road with a placid attitude that betrays his low scores on cat aptitude tests. “I’m hungry.”

“For god’s sake don’t try to call a 1–800 help line,” Rocco snapped.

“I would just like to know what went wrong, so I can prevent it from happening again.”

Rocco gave me a pitiless look, knowing the declining progression of my cognitive skills, and the rudimentary level of tech knowledge I started from before I hit three score and ten years.

“You aren’t really going to try to fix that . . . are you?”


Okie cleared his throat. “We heard it on TV.”

“Which one?” I asked jokingly. My wife, a self-proclaimed “news junkie,” has a television in every room, which makes our home look like a Best Buy outlet.

“The one in the kitchen,” Okie continued. “Amazon’s cloud-computing unit broke down.”

“Huh. Okay. Well, I guess I’ll check my, uh, Carbonite. Or Google Chrome. Or iCloud.”

Rocco watched me, his cheeks puffing out. Then, when he couldn’t restrain himself any longer, he broke out laughing. “You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about–do you?”

“No, that’s not true. We have a cloud at work and, uh, I’ve got one at home.”

“Are you sure you’re not confusing it with bitcoin?”

“No, that’s something entirely different.”

“He’s never really progressed beyond the fax machine,” Rocco said to Okie, who nodded knowingly.


“At least I’m not as dumb as Paul Krugman . . .”

“The Nobel Prize winning economist who predicted that the internet would have no greater effect than the fax machine?” Rocco asked. He keeps track of Nobels in the hope he’ll someday win . . . if they ever create a category for wisecracks.

“The same.”

“Isn’t that setting the bar kind of low?” Rocco asked.

“Just because the Nobel Committee screws up at least once a year is no reason to . . .”

“Are you going to feed us or not?” That was Okie.

“Sor-ry.” I put down the cloud-based cat feeder and went to the pantry, where the available choices were Iams Low-Cal dry cat food and, as a back-up in case of nuclear war, one (1) can of Fancy Feast Tender Beef and Chicken.

“Please can we have wet food for once?” Okie begged.

“All right–I guess you guys have had a hard day. But you have to promise me one thing.”

“Anything!” Okie pleaded.

“Next time you’re about to upchuck chipmunk guts, do it on the wall-to-wall carpet, not my Oriental rugs.”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”

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