Tablet apps let cats play in cyberspace

A cat named Maxine plays “Game for Cats” on an iPad in Valencia, Calif.

LOS ANGELES — When Laura Fritz’s felines play with her iPad, her fat cat loses the urge to eat, her scaredy-cat loses his fear and her youngest just loses interest.

Try turning your table over to your tech-savvy cat. Every cat app, no matter the maker, has something for felines to electronically track, stalk or hunt, such as mice, bugs or laser dots.

“Cats are attracted to things that move, and that is the ‘magic’ for most of the apps,” said Dr. Bonnie Beaver, a professor at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.

“The motion in most apps is jerky and quick, much like an insect,” she said, adding that any sound component would quickly be eclipsed by the draw of movement.

Every cat is different, but if they are like two of Fritz’s, they will love pawing the screen to catch critters, which breaks anxious Maxie out of his shell and gives hefty Mr. Brutus a way to exercise, said Fritz of Waltham, Mass. But they may be like her youngest, Pansy Rose, who couldn’t care less.

Three popular apps created by T.J. Fuller and Nate Murray’s Los Angeles company Hiccup feature a mouse-chasing game called “Game for Cats,” a monster-crushing game dubbed “Catzilla” and a cat-painting game called “Paint for Cats.”

There are several cat apps on the market. “Pocket Pond” for Android tablets allows cats to follow fish or dragonflies with their paws. Friskies’ “Cat Fishing” also taps into the fish theme for Android and Apple devices.

Some people worry about damage to the devices, but claws won’t hurt the screen, said Fuller, who ran many tests. But nobody has tested for teeth.

Even cats at shelters are joining the tech trend.

When the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles received a couple of used tablets two years ago, the shelter decided to see if any of the cats were hiding inner artists.

Two of them, dubbed Pawblo Picasso and Frida Catlo, created abstract art that looked like fuzzy circles, and the organization turned it into notecards that were sold.

Those trading up to a newer model tablet should consider donating used devices to shelters, said Ana Bustilloz, spokeswoman for the organization.