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New Pet Craze or Just Plain Crazy?

"Americans are expected to spend nearly $48 billion on pet products this year, a number that has continued to rise despite the recession.

Where do we draw the line?

I may have found that boundary.

Rear Gear
Source: etsy.com
Rear Gear

Here is my Funny Business Product of the Week! It's called "Rear Gear", described as "butt covers for your cat or dog."

Yes, that was my reaction, too.

Rear Gear hangs from the tail of a dog or a cat and covers up your pet's behind (good luck getting it on a cat). The products are "handmade in Portland, OR" —nice! — and come in various designs, including a disco ball, smiley face, and sheriff's badge. They cost $5 each on Etsy, but the site claims it only has one package left.

Apparently this isn't just a gag gift.

In a blog called "No more Mr. Brown Eye," Amelia Glynn writes in the San Francisco Chronicle that she saw "a real-live pooch sporting one (in the disco-ball design) at Delores Park."

I'm always amazed and inspired by people who come up with audacious product ideas and equally audacious marketing. It's hard to top Rear Gear for targeting an area a lot of us never considered a problem!

Sure, other things bothered me more this week than my dog's backside, like this promotion someone sent me for an American Standard toilet. The ad says more about the deficient parenting of the little boy than it does about the merits of the toilet.

Or there's this really disturbing idea from a chef who's making cheese out of his lactating wife's unused breast milk.

Culturally speaking (get it?) this is not something marketable in America.

"No whey!" responded reader Jeff J. when he heard of it. He even came up with stomach curdling names like Momzarella and Ched-HER.

Stiff competition, indeed, for my product of the week.

In the end, however, I had to go with Rear Gear. The product is actually selling, and that's a fascinating commentary about Americans as pet owners.

Update: I heard from Rear Gear creator Lauren Shumaker, who sells the items directly to consumers at www.reargearstore.com.

"I came up with the idea as my roommate's cat insisted on jumping on my laptop while I was working on homework," she writes. "I'm an engineering student, so I do this a lot, and (the cat) turned around, showing me all her business. It got me thinking that, well, pretty much all cats do this, they love to show you their butt. I also have three dogs."

Shumaker created Rear Gear as a novelty gift for a few laughs. So what happens when a pet is wearing one and has to answer nature's call? "Rear Gear would gravitationally hang away from the pet, but it if does get messy at all, it can be easily rinsed off, as it is made of a durable plastic."

Did I mention she was an engineering student?

She says she's sold around 400 of them so far, recouped all of her costs, and is over $2,000 in the black.

Which has me now wondering, why didn't I think of that?

Questions? Comments? Funny Stories? Email funnybusiness@cnbc.com