Like any good denizen of the Internet (and, as some might dare say, any good human being), I have a soft spot for adorable pets. I prefer cats, but I can appreciate just about anything you could own as a pet. Even some of the really bizarre choices, like ferrets, emus, bobcats, fennecs, and capybaras. I, a near-30-year-old male, will totally melt into a puddle of warm goo when presented with an appropriate vessel of cuteness.
With so many people that feel exactly the same way I do, it’s no wonder that you can buy literally anything with a picture of a kitten or puppy pasted on it. Calendars, notepads…yes, decks of cards. A recent trip to Goodwill netted me two such decks, and the Pixel Cards review the other day made me remember that I owned a third. So, on to business, with the newer ones first. Because the older ones are special.
The first deck in a pair of two by a company called Umbra (which, if I’m not mistaken, seems to be better known for stylish home furniture?) comes in a plastic box in the shape of an oblong purple cat. All 54 cards in this deck bear unique paintings of different breeds of cat, ranging from various domestic shorthaired and longhaired variants, to more exotics and show-level breeds like Abyssinian, Devon Rex, and Ragdoll. While the reason I noticed the deck in the first place was the cat theme, the second reason I noticed it was the bizarre oblong shape. Sure enough, Umbra’s cards very much tend towards this unusual oblong style, but this one has cats on it. And, honestly, for $1.99 at Goodwill, how could I argue? Because the cards are very narrow, they’ll actually take up very slightly less room than an average poker-sized deck…but you’ll have to pay extra care to keep the piles as straight as you can, because it only takes a few degrees of rotational error for them to get all up in each others’ grills. (I’ll do my best to avoid using that turn of phrase again…short of getting a deck full of famous rappers, that is. Fingers crossed.)
The second of the pair, again by Umbra, contains a lot of dogs. A unique breed per card, even on the jokers, covering everything from the popular golden retriever and pug to the more show-oriented breeds like poodles, shih tzus, and collies. Admittedly, I’m a bit less of a dog person than a cat person, but I’m pretty okay around dogs as long as they’re not too hyper. That aside, this deck is in exactly the same form factor as the cat deck, and if I’m not mistaken, was probably also painted by the same artist (though I’m unable to find any credits, from cursory searches that wound up getting me pages about Magic: The Gathering cards called “umbra” instead of what I was actually looking for).
So both the dog and cat decks are of acceptable build quality, and I have no complaints about the materials. What’s left to do with them?
Since they’re of identical shape, why not merge them together and play a double-deck game like this Klondike variant, Kosynka (inspired by Sergey Ryzhkov’s MS-DOS shareware game of the same name). Two decks, nine or ten piles (or eleven, because my adorable niece was distracting me while I was dealing it), one-card deal, great fun. But also a demonstration of how difficult it is to grab lengthy piles of cards at once. I feel like if these cards are going to be used, it’d be easier to play them in competitive games like poker or Crazy Eights, where you don’t have to mess with piles. (Plus, the idea of playing poker with dogs is a brilliant reversal of the classic kitsch painting.) Their dimensions being longer and narrower would certainly help with fanning.
But we’re not done yet, of course, as I still have one more deck to show you. I present to you: the 3-D Cat Cards, from Kikkerland.
At first glance, this poker-sized deck is a fair bit less interesting than the Umbra decks above, since it doesn’t have any weird shape gimmicks, and the cats are photographed and not painted. On the other hand, these cards have a gimmick of their own: they are all lenticular 3D images. Tilting the cards just slightly presents you with either a zoomed in image of the cat, or the cat in a different pose. Some of these cats don’t look especially happy (get a load of the 8 of Spades up there, yikes), but it is still fun to play with the cards a little bit.
That said, though, the lenticular nature of the cards makes them difficult to bend, making shuffling much harder. As if that’s not bad enough, the cards are also slightly thicker than a typical deck. That can be forgiven, though, as the cards feel very solid and durable. If you can just figure out how to shuffle them properly, they’ll serve you well. In spite of everything, they’re very readable, and there’s something for every kind of cat lover in this deck. Fluffy long-haired breeds, skinny Siamese and Sphinx cats, smooshy-nosed Persians, they’re all here. My favorite bit is the front of the box having a small hole in it, so you can place whichever card you want on the front of the deck to be visible. And, rather amusingly, the two Jokers of the deck are a pug and a poodle. (Apparently, the 3-D Dog Cards – which I don’t own – have two cats as jokers, completing the circle.)
So, pet lovers, if you really just wanted a deck of cards with cute little kitties and puppies all over them, these decks are the ones you want. I’m sure there’s tons of others, too; you might spend a lifetime collecting just those if you were so inclined. Either way…I wonder if any of my cat-loving friends (do I even have any of those?) know how to play Texas Hold’em.