Cat and dog mugs (£12, utilitydesign.co.uk). Porcelain bowl with handle and integrated interior statuette.
Miaow do you like your tea? One sugar, one hellish surprise?
OK, so these cups are less a gadget, more an eccentric prank to play on nervous houseguests. On one level they’re very simple: each houses a little porcelain cat or dog figurine, which is uncovered as you drink the contents of the cup. On another level, well, it’s odd, isn’t it? That’s before you take a closer look at the figures themselves, blank-faced wraiths who seem destined to drag you to hell. They call to mind Japanese yūrei, or the eerie, aquatic sculptures of Jason deCaires Taylor, sitting impassively amid acres of white space like ghosts in snow.
It doesn’t feel right to tip boiling liquid over a cat’s head, so let’s do it quickly. I immediately locate another problem, which is that 600ml is too much tea. It’s like filling an aquarium with PG Tips, and it’s heavy. It’s the quantity of sugary tea one might press into the hands of the recently bereaved, except you probably wouldn’t, because halfway through drinking it they’d be confronted by the emergent head of a supernatural dog. Another discovery – it changes the flavour of tea to know there’s cat in it. As I sip, her ears rise from the sinking tide to meet me. It should be cute, but isn’t.
Owning too much (any) whimsical pet merchandise tips this same balance. Hefting the massive mug with both arms like Atlas, I’m treated to a glimpse of my probable future: a fringe person living with an array of mogs, called things like Chairman Miaow, Pussolini and Hair Kittler.
Which isn’t to say I don’t like the mugs. Frankly, I’m worried by how much I like them. The website describes their design as “classic Scandinavian”, which I take to refer to the latent strangeness, and existential fog. I adore animals, and they’re underrated qualities in a cuppa. But no more – all back to mine…