Bonsai Kitten

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Bonsai Kitten
Type of site
Hoax website
OwnerDr. Michael Wong Chang
Created byDr. Michael Wong Chang
RegistrationNone needed
LaunchedDecember 22, 2000; 22 years ago (2000-12-22)
Current statusDefunct

Bonsai Kitten was a hoax website that claimed to instruct readers how to raise a kitten in a jar, so as to mold the bones of the kitten into the shape of the jar as the cat grows in the same way as a bonsai plant. It was made by an MIT student going by the alias of Dr. Michael Wong Chang.[1] The website generated fury with many people taking it as serious and complaining to animal rights organizations. The Michigan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) stated that "while the site's content may be faked, the issue it is campaigning for may create violence towards animals". Although the website is now shut down, petitions are still circulated to shut down the site or complain to its ISP.[as of?] The website has been debunked by several organizations including[2] and the Humane Society of the United States.

Concerns about the website[edit]

On October 30, 2000, was featured as a "Cruel Site of the Day" on the website When this attracted complaints, removed its links to Afterwards, however, when links to the website then spread across the world, many concerned animal lovers sent complaints to the Animal Welfare Institute and the Humane Society of the United States. Animal welfare groups made statements saying that bonsai kittens were not real. The URL drew criticism, which caused the initial host, MIT, to remove it.[1]

Description of the spoof[edit]

Cube watermelon. The cube watermelon was later said by the site creator to be influential in the creation of Cube watermelons are grown in jars so as to form a square shape.'s pictures show kittens in jars, presented as real examples of the "lost art" as described on the Bonsai Kitten web page. The spoof, according to "Dr. Chang", is that the world increasingly sees nature as a commodity, so such a site may well be in demand. The spoof came to large-scale attention as the "cruel site of the day" for December 22, 2000, was continually heavily condemned by animal rights organizations, and after hundreds of people complained daily to them,[who?] they stated that even if Bonsai Kitten was a spoof it "encourages animal cruelty".[1][3][4]

The webpage being featured on the website was significantly controversial and it was quickly removed. Initial humane society statements decrying the website as "encouraging abuse" caused local investigation, along with an FBI announcement that it was to investigate the hoax. The prosecution of the site by the FBI was welcomed by animal activists, but decried by web authorities. The FBI backed up its investigating of Bonsai Kitten by using a law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1999.[1] The attacking of the website had the effect of displacing the website, which found a new ISP two more times, before being permanently hosted on servers. Because the website is still kept on some mirrors, it continues[needs update] to receive complaints from animal activists.[5][6][7]

The furor over the site triggered by animal rights organizations has been offset by their continued statements that the site itself is a fake. They have been stating this since 2001.[6][8]

Groups such as the Animal Welfare Institute and the Humane Society of the United States received hundreds of complaints. Animal welfare groups declared the site as fake but stated they did believe it was potentially harmful. Other animal rights groups stated that the site creates an atmosphere of cruelty to animals. There is no evidence that the site was anything more than satire. Numerous authorities have advised people to stop sending complaint forms via email.

The original is mirrored by many sites. The nature and presentation of the sites content is such that many animal rights activists still take issue with the context of the website. Bonsai Kitten has been further updated from other servers, but infrequently and slowly, with recent[as of?] additions to the site being research indicating that cat litter causes brain damage. The website states that this enhances the Bonsai Kitten art form's practical value.[7][2]

The controversy started soon after the creation of the website.[7] It was the object of numerous spam email pleas.[9] These pleas relied on the audiences, often not knowing English, to spread them.[2] Consequently, these petitions were often spread via the internet in non-English-speaking countries.[2] Blues News also provided a link, which was shortly thereafter removed from the site, as complaints against the website's existence and its content began to surface.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Declan McCullagh (9 February 2001). "FBI Goes After". Wired News. Archived from the original on 16 March 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d MIKKELSON, DAVID (January 13, 2003). "Are 'Bonsai Kittens' Real?". Snopes. Archived from the original on September 28, 2021. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
  3. ^ Jennifer Jacobson (21 January 2001). "Created at MIT, a 'Bonsai Kitten' Website Stirs Animal Lovers' Passions". The Chronicle. Archived from the original on 11 February 2008.
  4. ^ Joe Salkowski (19 February 2001). "Animal Lovers Aren't Laughing at kitty-contorting web spoof". Dispatches Ground Zero. Archived from the original on 10 March 2005.
  5. ^ Linda Fuoco (8 August 2001). "Pet Tales - Monthly Column". Pittsburgh Post Gazette. The Allegheny County district attorney's office launched an investigation after receiving complaints about Bonsai Kitten. Within minutes investigators learned the kitties were a hoax.
  6. ^ a b Janelle Brown (2001). "The Internet's Public Enema No.1". Salon. Archived from the original on 2011-10-16. Retrieved 30 October 2010.
  7. ^ a b c Smith, Andrew (10 February 2001). "FBI goes Bonsai Kitten hunting". The Register. Archived from the original on 2017-08-10. Retrieved 2017-08-10.
  8. ^ Theo Emery (2001-02-22). "Animal Lovers Not Laughing at about joke Internet site "Bonsai Kitten"". Associated Press.
  9. ^ Mikkelson, David (2003-01-13). "Are 'Bonsai Kittens' Real?". Snopes. Retrieved 2023-08-24.
  10. ^ Smith, Andrew (26 January 2001). "Bonsai Kitten craze sweeps online world". The Register. Archived from the original on 2017-08-10. Retrieved 2017-08-10.

External links[edit]