Now watch cats play - remotely

Last Updated: Fri, Nov 30, 2012 08:50 hrs

Washington, Nov 30 (IANS) It's the purr-fect work distraction and a way for US animal shelters to make sure their cats get plenty of exercise and find new owners. Called iPet Companion, it's an online service that lets users remotely control kitty toys, RIA Novosti reported.

"A signal is relayed through multiple hubs throughout the US, and possibly the world, that allows for thousands of users to simultaneously watch the cats and request a place in line to play," Scott Harris, a director with Apriori, the company that developed the tool, said in a statement.

From Florida to California, animal shelters across the country are using the technology.

"It's a great way for cats at our pet adoption centre to be showcased," Sarah Schanz, who works for a California shelter called Best Friends Animal Society, told the Los Angeles Times.

Watching cats play helps people form bonds with animals, leading to an increase in adoptions, Schanz said.

After installing iPet Companion, participating shelters reported a 67 percent increase in kitten adoptions, according to Apriori.

To play with the kittens, users first select a shelter and then click the "Let's Play" button-in the shape of a paw-which places them in a queue.

A timer counts down the wait time, and a real-time chat box is also available so cat lovers can interact each other while they wait for their turn.

Each person gets two minutes of kitty playtime, during which they can control three robotic arms holding toys. Users can also move the camera around the room for a closer look at the real-time reactions from the cats.

And while users only get two minutes of play, developers said the average time each user spends on the site is closer to 30 minutes.

Local animal shelters have reported a 52 percent increase in website traffic, with visitors logging on from more than 172 different countries, Apriori said.

The company has also expanded iPet Compaion for home use.

"Soon you may well be visiting to play with your neighbour's dog while he is at work from the comfort of your armchair," Apriori developers said in a statement, adding that a user's "pet page" is password protected.

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