1558: Vet

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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It's probably for the best. Since Roombas are native to North America, it's illegal for Americans to keep them in their houses under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Title text: It's probably for the best. Since Roombas are native to North America, it's illegal for Americans to keep them in their houses under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.


Roomba is a brand of domestic cleaning robots manufactured by the company iRobot. The robots are designed to automatically vacuum floors. Although these robots are controlled by a quite simple software without any artificial intelligence, some owners tend to humanize them in the same way that others humanize their pets. There are several other comics related to a Roomba.

Megan presents a pet carrier to Cueball the veterinarian assistant. She says that her "dog" is “crawling around eating dirt”, which sounds like certain types of behavioral problems one encounters in dogs, but is precisely what Roombas are made for. (However, the vacuum bag may need to be cleaned.) The vet then comments that it is a Roomba, to which Megan responds that the device (which has nothing to do with an animal) is a cross-breed, and agrees that there probably is “some Roomba” in it. She thus acknowledges the existence of Roombas, but still treats them as if it were an animal. It's common to talk about domestic dogs this way, but cross-breeding dogs with machines is impossible.[citation needed] The vet then goes on to say, with endless patience, that a Roomba is not a pet. This is taken by Megan as if the doctor said that her Roomba-like device is a non-domesticated animal (like a monkey, a fox, or the birds referred to in the title text) that can but should not be kept in captivity. In the last panel she consequently releases the vacuum cleaner and it whirs to its 'freedom'.

The second customer, Hairy, has his dog on a leash, but is also carrying a pet transporter for the dog. Most likely he has arrived with the dog in the transporter (perhaps using public transportation) but has now taken it out so it can walk for itself, making the carrier much lighter.

The Migratory Bird Treaty act from the title text contains a list of over 800 bird species that are not allowed to be captured or killed. If the Roomba were to be classified as a native American bird and were added to the list, keeping them as pets would constitute capturing and would be considered illegal. This, of course, shows how confused Megan is. She previously stated the Roomba to be a dog and now apparently believes it is a bird, even though dogs are not birds[citation needed] and neither is the Roomba.[citation needed]


[Megan arrives with a pet carrier, Cueball stands at a desk as a veterinarian, and Hairy is waiting behind a rope, standing next in line with a dog on a leash and a pet carrier.]
Megan: There's something wrong with my dog. He keeps crawling around eating dirt.
[Cueball takes out the contents of the carrier, revealing a Roomba, and Megan waits for Cueball's input. She is standing behind the desk with the carrier on the desk.]
Cueball: This is a Roomba.
Megan: Well, he's a mix.
Megan: Probably some Roomba in there.
[The Roomba now lies on the table next to the carrier between the two.]
Cueball: A Roomba is not a pet.
Megan: You're right. It's wrong to keep a beautiful creature like this in a house.
[Megan is outside left to a tree, arms up in the air, encouraging the Roomba to drive away.]
Megan: Go!
Megan: Be free!
Roomba: Whirrr

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ct4Rl4VrMp8 11:20, 31 July 2015 (UTC)

"There is something wrong with my dog" and "The Migratory Bird Treaty act" is really messed up. Roomba might be produced in US, but a dog is not a bird so Megan must be really confused. Except for just a few species, birds can fly and the last Roomba that flown got help from its owner into a wall for being a walking hazard. Or could Megan mean that among the dirt is feathers (from pillows maybe) that got stuck in the wheels and therefor ascends directly from birds and dinosaurs. Aquaplanet (talk) 13:06, 31 July 2015 (UTC)

That whoosh sound was the joke going way over your head. 14:39, 31 July 2015 (UTC)
Bird dog..? 06:32, 1 August 2015 (UTC)

It looks to me like this is a vet at a big-box pet supply store; that would explain the lack of a separate waiting room. 15:02, 31 July 2015 (UTC)

I was going to say that maybe it's just a returns counter or complaint department. Are there actually vets at Petsmart-or-others that operate like this? Vet being a desk that you just queue up for? TheHYPO (talk) 19:36, 31 July 2015 (UTC)

The pet of the second customer fits into the carrier, because it apparently is HALF-dog (head and a pair of legs). (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

"...Perhaps he has another small dog in there..." Actually, he may have arrived by bus or car, with the dog inside the carrier during the ride (for safety and convenience) but walking into the clinic with the dog on a leash because, hey! carrying even a smallish dog inside its carrier is a lot more work than getting the dog to carry himself, while carrying the much lighter carrier in the other hand. NoniMausa (talk) 01:38, 1 August 2015 (UTC)

Reading the explanation about dog being too big, I got another idea: the second person is going to complain about the dog not fitting in the carrier (because it grown, likely) and would want the vet to do something with the dog to fix it. -- Hkmaly (talk) 12:43, 1 August 2015 (UTC)
I cannot see why the drawn dog should not fit into the carrier. I have changed the explanation using some of the ideas from this discussion page. --Kynde (talk) 10:55, 6 August 2015 (UTC)

So, note that a Roomba was introduced into Questionable Content[1]] back in 2006. Hannelore named it "Spot" (so thinks of it as a pet). Eventually it escaped into the wild, found a mate, and started producing offspring. (Then it disappeared from the story.) Nitpicking (talk) 14:09, 8 January 2022 (UTC)

Add discussion of what would really happen when she released it into the wild

Would it be able to move on the ground outdoors?

Start trying to vacuum up the dirt under it and just dig itself into a hole?

Get stuck due to inability to move on a surface that isn't horizontal?

Eventually, it's going to "die" because the batteries run out, but what happens until then. 13:29, 1 August 2015 (UTC)

Well, if it finds a mate to reproduce with, and quickly enough to raise the young Roombairns to maturity before it does expire... Evolution! Maybe the race of Roombae will develop to inhabit an unused ecological niche, and proliferate! Or, because there rarely are unused ecological niches, become an aggressive 'invader', causing the decline or even extinction of the existing wildlife in that footprint.
As the Roombakind's main ability is moving dirt, I predict that it will be the two major large-scale creatures who move dirt who may be effected. The beaver, and humanity.
Good luck, Homo North Americanus! Unluckily for you (but luckily for us, across the ocean) the Roombae are currently not well suited for travel over or through water. But maybe by the time they develop the means to do so (perhaps by cooperatively forming "Roombacraft", coming together in a group and selectively reversing their airflow to create a cushion of air to first cross the Panama Canal and the gaps between the ice sheets over the top of the Arctic, whilst some tilt to provide thrust, and perhaps even ultiamtely the oceans themselves....), humanity in Europe, Asia, Australasia and elsewhere will have found a developing natural predator of this potential planetary scourge.
And then we can but only hope that this natural predator, whatever it might be, does not itself evolve to become an even worse threat to humanity's existence!
...You will of course find my logic to be faultless, throughout this entire speculation. 16:36, 1 August 2015 (UTC)
"Unluckily for you (but luckily for us, across the ocean) the Roombae are currently not well suited for travel over or through water."
May not be a problem much longer ...
--RenniePet (talk) 10:53, 3 August 2015 (UTC)
Order of explanation

Actually, what I was going to write was that I think the explanation needs some shuffling. Currently it's "What a Rhoomba is; Other comics mentioning Rhoombas; The details of the comic (in the light of the knowledge of Rhoombas); The details of the title-text." To be consistent to the general form, it seems like it needs to be "The details of the comic (albeit without over-assumption of pre-knowledge concerning Roombas); What a Rhoomba is; (And add why it wouldn't survive 'in the wild', if you wish.); Explain the title-text; Conclude with the links to the other comics." Or similar. But that'd need a hefty re-write for forward/backward references. 16:46, 1 August 2015 (UTC)

Releasing appliances into the wild: The idea of releasing a Roomba into the wild reminds me of a (barely remembered) story I read back when I was 8 or 9 (1977 or 78) about some (intelligent) household appliances that had been forgotten or abandoned and they travelled to find their owner or something like that. There was a self-propelled vacuum cleaner (which was how they all travelled, the toaster and others rode on the top of the vacuum). I think a car battery was wired up for power. Anyone here have ANY idea what I'm talking about? I'm curious to know the story, now that I've remembered some of it. The only other detail that comes to mind was that the vacuum would run over its own cord when it was anxious or depressed. 00:11, 4 August 2015 (UTC)

Migratory Bird Act

The Migratory Bird Act reference may have been inspired by http://www.loweringthebar.net/2015/04/chillin-with-a-owl-followup.html where, among other things, it is pointed out that not all listed birds are migratory. Randall may be taking this point to the extreme. What If question 96 came from the author of Lowering the Bar, so the degree of separation between the two is definitely one. 08:18, 4 August 2015 (UTC)

Releasing appliances into the wild:

The Brave Little Toaster (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Oh, god! What did I do? All the other comments are gone! (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

(The above by an unsigned poster, who wiped the entire Comments at the same time.) (Note to the unsigned poster @ Don't treat it as an "delete everything you're not replying to" forum reply. If your error wasn't accidentally selecting all before typing your reply.) (Actually, it's nice to see someone who does clean up their replies, but this is not the place to do that.) 15:26, 4 August 2015 (UTC)

Tamagotchi Effect:

Perhaps we could relate it to the Tamagotchi effect. Check Wikipedia. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Rolled back the edit that placed citation needed tags on the phrases "dogs are not birds" and "roombas are also not birds" as the link to the roomba wiki page should be citation enough for the latter phrase and I don't feel it's normally within the scope of this wiki to cite an example regarding the former. I feel the citation needed tag on the phrase "dogs cannot cross-breed with robots" is dubious as well, but it has been in place longer than the other two and would like to hear other opinions on its necessity before removing it. 09:56, 15 April 2016 (UTC)

Well, not far off: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-60084347 13:17, 22 January 2022 (UTC)