CANFIELD Will you please sign here, Mr. Cat?
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CANFIELD -- He'd probably choose the credit-card design with leopard spots.
After all, he is a cat.
Maynard Ungar, the 13-year-old cat who lives off Shields Road, has been receiving mail since he moved in as a kitten.
The striped feline gets offers for credit cards, jobs and education programs.
And all four branches of the military have tried to recruit him.
This feline would make an adept prowler or crawler. And, guess what? This is one cat who likes water. (Proof: He takes showers.)
"I think he'd make a nice Navy SEAL," said owner Barbara Ungar.
But just what would a cat do with his free pair of Army boxers, an Army gym bag or an Army radio?
Reason: Maynard's owner said her feline has been getting mail since she had her phone number listed under his name -- in lieu of hers -- in the Ameritech white pages. Ungar lives alone and said she uses the cat's name for safety reasons and to screen for calls she does not want.
"Anybody who knows me knows my cat," Ungar said. "When someone asks for him, I say he has a rat in his mouth and can't come to the phone right now. It works."
Maynard is known throughout his neighborhood as a friendly, mischievous cat with a big appetite.
He once took a package of Oreo cookies from Ungar's counter and hid with them in the basement. Another time, he snatched a Burger King Whopper from inside a neighbor's parked car. Workers at a nearby construction site began bringing Maynard his own lunch because he was constantly eating their food.
Maynard likes roaming outdoors and visiting neighbors. Ungar initiated a 10 p.m. curfew after Maynard spent the night at one friend's house. Now, the neighbor walks him home when it gets dark.
"He's extremely friendly," Ungar said. "He loves people. He thinks he's a person."
And so do the marketers.
They even think they know the age of Maynard -- about 20.
About three years ago, photographers wanted to take senior pictures of this multi-colored cat with a white face and paws. And now he gets mail generally aimed at college students: credit-card applications, military recruiting and educational programs.
A career cat: One mailing came from a firm that recruits college students to become knife salesmen. "Dear Recent Graduate," it reads. "Your name has been referred to us as someone interested in summer or career work."
Ungar is not bothered by the mail Maynard gets -- at least three pieces each week. She is a bit irritated, though, that he can get pre-approved credit and she can't.
And she does question how so many marketers got her address. While her number is in the phone book, Ungar's address is unlisted and she has no idea how Maynard's address made it into the hands of marketers and recruiters.
Ameritech spokeswoman Blair Klein said the company does sell lists of customer names and addresses to marketers. Customers are notified of the policy annually and customers can request that their name not be sold, Klein said. While names of customers with an unlisted number are not sold on the lists, those with a listed number but unlisted address would remain on the list, she said.
"Maynard has his name listed in the phone book and marketers would assume someone who has their name listed in the phone book is a human being," said Patricia Faley, vice president of ethics and consumer affairs for the Direct Marketing Association, a trade organization based in New York City.
Marketing prospects: Marketers are always looking for new prospects for products. When names appear in the phone book, they are considered new prospects, Faley said. Companies that sell lists of names and addresses to marketers can easily match a phone number to an address by using reverse directories available in public libraries. Maynard's age was likely guessed using the time at which his name entered the phone book, she said.
Dana Cilluffo at Capital One, a company that has sent Maynard four credit card applications this year, said this is the first time she's heard that the company is soliciting a cat.
"It is different, I'll tell you that," she said.
Capital One often buys lists tailored to specific products: Plates that picture animals might be offered to names culled from pet store registries, for example.
Army of one: Army recruiting spokesman Douglas Smith said Maynard's name most likely landed in the hands of the military on a high school senior mailing list. Names on those lists come from driver's licenses, and commercial vendors, such as class ring, yearbook or photography companies.
The military list generates 3 million to 4 million names annually. And Maynard is not alone -- recruiters send mailings to about 15 pets each year. Smith said pet names could end up on mail lists easily. If anyone used a pet name to enter a contest or respond to any offer, it would end up on a marketer's list.
"I don't know how Maynard got in," Smith said. " ... I doubt there's any way we could worm our way backward and find out."
Ungar could request to have Maynard's name taken off the military list. "Otherwise," Smith said, "Maynard's going to keep getting offers for T-shirts."