It seems tablets are not just a hit with humankind. Cat lovers are using the iPad to entertain their furry friends ... yep, there are iPad apps for cats. Here's a look at what's out there for those brave enough to try dispensing feline diversions of the digital kind.
Game For Cats is free and like most of these cat-apps, it engages your cat's hunting instincts, in this case by chasing a laser-pointer-dot as it darts about the screen in a random fashion. When kitty manages to whack the dot, it makes a noise to reward the capture. There's - you can see it in action in this video.
If your cat's hunting instincts aren't piqued by a laser-pointer-dot, Game For Cats also offers virtual rodent chasing as does Catch the Mouse. For $1.19, Cat Toys extends the prey selection to rats, frogs, spiders and that long-time natural enemy of the domestic feline - the ping-pong ball. Check out Cat Toys being put through its paces here.
In the spirit of involving the owner as well as the cat, there's the $1.19 app called Enjoy with Cat. Via a "finger-pad" in the corner of the screen, it gives you the ability to control the movements of the cat's prey, be it mouse, a fish or butterfly. Otherwise it is essentially the same as the others.
Some cat-apps entertain not the cat so much as the owners. Cat Piano Jr for example, at 99 cents is a real laugh. It is a one octave, virtual piano keyboard with large black and white keys. As the cat steps on a key, instead of a piano sound, the iPad emits the sound of a cat's meow at that precise pitch. In effect, it sounds like a cat walking across a regular piano except with cat noises, but it is very funny.
Strangely, the app does not have an option to switch it to a simple piano sound that does not annoy cats and can be quite intriguing for them as you can observe in this video. So, if you want to entertain your cat rather than you, then it may be better to download a regular digital piano app.
By far the most curious app is Paint For Cats for $2.49. It is the usual, "hunting" style game but each time your cat strikes the screen, a virtual, multi-colored paw-print appears in that struck position thus creating what the game euphemistically refers to as "a cat painting" (sic!). At the end, users have the option of saving their new "artwork" or sharing it on Facebook ... just don't expect too many "likes" from your friends.
Digital pet-sitter?While leaving your iPad switched on to entertain your pet might seem like a really cool idea, there are one or two drawbacks to abandoning an expensive piece of hardware to your kitty. A number of these games have a "menu" or "exit" button in a place that is easily accessible to your cat's random taps. With a few misplaced whacks of the screen, the cat could find itself logging on to your Facebook account or sending a jibberish email.
If you're brave enough to let your cat whack your iPad about, it would be very wise to invest in some protection for it first. Unless your iPad is fixed to the floor or desk, chances are that your cat will not only hit the screen, but thump it around the room (and possibly down the stairs) as well.
All of these cat-based games for the iPad are very much in their infancy and we can no doubt expect some refinements. Until then it might be wise to keep Tiger away from the iPad ... and perhaps settle for the low-cost, low-tech (but arguably just as effective) ball of string.
By Kent Sutherland and Max Sutherland