To the makers of Ultra Pearls, The Ultimate Cat Litter:

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I really do appreciate how light and airy your product is—clearly you, too, have strained arms and spirit carrying 20-pound cardboard suitcases of traditional clumping kitty litter home from the supermarket and up three flights of stairs (yes, my new apartment has an elevator and things are different now and I’m a much happier person ever since I switched to decaf, but on rainy days I still feel an aching in my inner elbows, a friendly reminder of all those years of litter-fueled hyperextension). And I simply adore the amazing way your crystals absorb moisture and stink, transforming fresh shit into completely desiccated jerky. Also the photo of the kitty on the front of your bag is slightly cute.

But! I am never, ever going to use your product again, not even if it means letting Marbles the Cat start pissing in the bathtub again. In fact, I am throwing away a fresh, $8 bag of your brand in favor of going out, actually leaving the house, to buy an $11 bag of Fresh Step Crystals Cat Litter, your direct competitor.

Why? It isn’t that I prefer the kitty emblazoned on their bag (a painterly rendering of a brown kitten thing with a knowing smile). And it isn’t performance: When it comes to minimizing the stench of urine and whatever ass butter my cat churns up, both products give me the same level of deep satisfaction. No, it’s your format that I object to, object to so strenuously that I’m sweating as I type these very words. (These too.)

I think I understand what you were going for with the tidy ball-bearing configuration you chose as the mold for your crystals. Filling a cat’s box with them does bring to mind one of those rooms packed with colorful balls that people deposit their children in at amusement parks. It certainly looks a lot nicer than the jagged-rock approach taken by Fresh Step. And clearly it informed the “pearl” portion of your product’s name, Ultra Pearls. But did you ever stop to consider how such a sphere might behave if it ever broke free of its brothers and sisters? On, say, a linoleum or hardwood floor? That it might roll? All over the fucking house, maybe?

I’ll admit that Marbles is a vigorous digger. The sounds that emanate from her box whenever she retreats there to “work on a project” do indicate some fairly major excavation. Yes, she has extra toes, and perhaps because her paws are more paddle-like, she kicks more pearls free than your engineers’ calculations may have anticipated. But still, even cats who fall short of Marbles’ high-spirited nature will jar a few balls loose, or at the very least get one or two wedged between their toes, thus releasing a blight in your customers’ homes on par with the walking Chinese snakehead.

Just try sweeping them into a dustpan. They roll in, then roll out. Roll in, roll out, roll in, roll out, like miniature Sisyphusian boulders. No matter how hard you try, a few always go missing, rolling quietly away to hide somewhere and wait. Months later, you’ll be stepping from the shower and look down to see one clinging mysteriously to your leg, sucking at the water on your body as though it were the urine it was designed to absorb. Or you’ll be walking across your kitchen and catch one under your heel. If you’re lucky, you get only the sickening crush, like an insect smashing. But sometimes you’ll catch it just right and your foot actually rolls, launching your reluctant body into some sort of hellish physical comedy routine.

Now even the sound of them sends chills down the backs of my thighs. A whole kick’s worth of the horrors hitting the floor—a sound very much like the breaking of a precious beaded necklace—is bad, but it’s the sound of a solitary Pearl that makes me wish the world would open and swallow me whole. Deep in the middle of the night, one will fall from some hidden perch (yes, they climb ... I wouldn’t be surprised if they reproduced), and the ominous “bounce ............ bounce ......... bounce ...... bounce ... rolllllll” echoing through the darkened apartment will wake me from the deepest sleep. And leave me awake, the sheets bunched up in my damp claws, for hours.

So surely you can see why I’m more than willing to spend the extra three American dollars on your competitor’s product. I wouldn’t use Ultra Pearls, The Ultimate Cat Litter, if it was free. Not if you paid me, even. The only way you could maybe get me to consider using your product again is if you included a coupon for a free roll in the hay with Owen Wilson. And even then, he’d have to be wearing a tight tee shirt, and jumping out of a giant cake. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting.

Please let me know if you manage to rustle that up. Otherwise, this is goodbye.

I mean it! —Evany Thomas