Mobile applications for cats

According to wikipedia there are more than 2,9 million applications in Google Play Market now and you can notice a constant growth of it (see chart below). It comes as no surprise because, on the one hand, even small and inexperienced start-up teams or students can develop a great and popular app using existent solutions and tools. On the other hand, users like applications that make their everyday life easier, so some people search for the new ones very often.

According to wikipedia there are more than 2,9 million applications in Google Play Market now and you can notice a constant growth of it (see chart below). It comes as no surprise because, on the one hand, even small and inexperienced start-up teams or students can develop a great and popular app using existent solutions and tools. On the other hand, users like applications that make their everyday life easier, so some people search for the new ones very often.

Screenshot

Moreover you can notice a tendency to use apps not only for amusement, but for health, financial operations, work, education. You can encounter offers even for pets use! I have a cat, so I’ve decided to study this topic, make a little survey of exciting proposals and test them with the help of my cat and my son.

What kind of applications are suggested for cats at Google Play?

There are a lot of apps that have pets as characters (like tamagotchi and so on), but there are not so many specifically for cat’s use. By the way, here comes the great problem of Google Play — the search is not user friendly and you have only a few filter options. It is not enough to find what you are looking for quickly. After scouting for apps i have found several types:

  • Translators into cat’s language from human language. As you’ve already guessed, these apps suggest you to interpret your speech into cat’s language.
  • “Catch a mouse” or a laser pointer, a bug, a fish, a ball etc. The goal is to catch an object.
  • “Tap with a sound”. The user scenario is simple: your pet should tap a screen to make sounds (miaws, purrs etc).
  • “Calm my cat”. Normally it is a list of different sounds (music, cat’s sounds etc) which should calm your cat if it is too noisy or aggressive.
  • Human apps, which can be used by cats.

My son and i have decided to test all types of apps for cats on our cat Vselya and to compare it. But before testing let’s revise some scientific facts about cat’s intelligence.

General information about cats mental abilities

I am not an expert, but like any conscientious and caring cat owner, i am curious about my pet’s capacities. Here is a  short summary i made after reading the article “What’s inside your cat’s head? A review of cat (Felis silvestris catus) cognition research past, present and future” by Kristyn R. Vitale Shreve and  Monique A. R. Udell.   

Unfortunately not enough investigations were carried out on cats’ cognition, but nowadays the interest in the research of the domestic cat behavior and cognition is growing. In this review the authors survey the current status of several areas of the cat cognition research including perception, object permanence, memory, physical causality, quantity and time discrimination, cats’ sensitivity to human cues, vocal recognition and communication, attachment bonds, personality, and cognitive health.RcSlXicyzhk

It comes as no surprize that the development of perception (visual, auditory, olfactory etc.) has a profound impact on cat’s life. For instance, olfaction plays an important role in mother-kitten relationship, provides social information about other cats and even influences cat-human relationships. However olfaction is not the main way cats explore the world around them. Without a doubt proper visual, auditory perception would never hurt any animal and the cat is not an exception. The fact of early sensory experience influence on perception is proved by the scientific research mentioned in this article.

I have always been interested, how good my cat’s memory is. As for working memory, it is investigated mostly whether the subject comprehends that when an object disappears from sight, it continues to exist. According to the abovementioned research cats are readily able to solve visible displacement tests. As for long-term memory, there is a wide-spread opinion that it is highly developed and it turns out to be true.

The ability to understand cause and effect is of great adaptive advantage because understanding causal principles allows the experience to be used in novel situations. But according to this article there is no research that proves such capacity of the domestic cat.

Cat’s ability to remember time of feeding is well-known, and if you have a cat, i am sure you notice it everyday. No wonder there are at least several investigations providing empirical support for the idea that cats can discriminate varying time intervals.     

Cats are considered to be solitary, but strikingly it turnes out to be false. Pet cats and homeless ones display a wide array of affiliative, aggressive and investigatory behaviors toward other cats. But the most impressive thing is connected with cat-human relationship. It is revealed that the better experience kitten has with a human (including handling), the better will his relationship be with any human in the future. A Cat has a special attitude towards its owner (attachment) and her behaviour is influenced by owner’s mood, they can distinguish their owner’s voice and communicate with a human using vocalization (an adult cat has at least 16 types of vocalizations). However we have not enough data to make a reliable conclusion about  the meaning of cats’ vocalizations.

For sure it comes with no surprize for cat’s owners that cats have different personalities. This fact is scientifically proved, and we can say that formation of personality is influenced both genetically and environmentally .  

Let’s test it!

First of all, it is important to notice, that we’ve tried to make this experiment as scientific as we could:

  • We’ve tested all apps on our cat only when her mood was evaluated as “ready to play”.
  • Time intervals between tests were more than 5 hours.
  • Every type of app was tested only once.

Surely, this experiment was based on low quality data and is not complete enough to make a conclusion about cats in general. But we can discover a pattern that might be used for future research.

The least engaging type of application turns out to be “Translator”. The cat was only attracted by the sound, nothing else happened. It appeared to be a joke, since the app wasn’t supposed to be really used by pets.

The cat’s behaviour  while using three other app types were much more interesting to observe.

“Catch the mouse” was outstandingly engaging, the pet played with it like she plays with real moving objects. So after that testing we decided to try different options in such applications and how these would influence our cat’s interaction with the game. It revealed that the color or type of object (bag, fish, mouse,dot) doesn’t have meaningful impact on the process, but the bigger object is the more successful the pet is with the app. And there is an observable difference between cats interaction with the app with the sound turned on or off.

“Calm my cat” can be estimated as the most useful app for cat owners, because it actually did calm our cat and even made her fall asleep. For an investigation of how it works another article should be written.     

I think “Tap with sound” was engaging the cat too, but in an unexpected way. The cat never tried to tap, but she seemed frustrated with the sounds (miaws, purrs) and tried to find the source of the vocalization. I wonder if she was trying to turn over the phone to find another cat below.       

The most impressive observation was that the pattern of cat’s behaviour was the same while interacting with different types of apps:

attraction by the sound -> sniffing the screen, vocalization -> interaction -> losing interest

So you can see that the model of exploratory activity is similar and includes different perceptual channels (olfactory, visual, audial and may be other).

Conclusion

At first sight the apps for cats seemed to be more for fun than actual use. However some of them turned out to be practical. Our cat was engaged and the effect depended on the app type. But at the same time we noticed common pattern of exploratory behaviour. Unfortunately according to the review in mentioned article the lack of scientific researches carried out on cats’ cognition is evident, and it is hardly possible, especially for an  ordinary cat-owner to explain cat behaviour.   

“You become responsible forever, for what you have tamed”, and of course this concerns cat-owners. Such a lack of meaningful information about cats can be one of the reasons of improper handling or even death of a pet.  Moreover numerous homeless cats or meaningless cat euthanasia appeares because owners are not prepared to live with the cat and give up handling it soon after getting it.

For this reason developing apps for pets may improve pet’s and their owner’s life. On the one hand, by commercial investment into the research of cats  and, on the other hand, by providing tools for training, health-monitoring or communication between pets owners and other means.

 

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