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Turn your tablet into a cat toy

Cats have a natural yen to hunt, and your tablet can help fulfill that need, if you know what to do.

Before you get started, it's important to check the health of your cat's paws, and the length of her claws. Many tablets have scratch-resistant glass, but if they have plastic covers or anything else that could be damaged by a claw, it's best to give those talons a trim first.

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Remove covers and stands

Cats have an uncanny talent for knocking things over. Skittish cats may even startle if a tablet stand suddenly collapses during play. And once a cat starts playing with a tablet, she may try to flip it over or dig underneath it to unearth "prey." It's best to remove any stands before your cat gets started.

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Shop for some software

Every cat owner knows that felines are experts at making themselves at home around personal tech. So it's no wonder that software developers have begun creating apps just for cats. Many of those offerings are available on tablets.

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Introduce the tablet

Before you introduce the first game, let the cat sniff the tablet.  This allows her to get used to the smell and to see that the object is no threat.

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Load up that tablet!

Martine Carlsen's Catch the Mouse game was created after the developer observed the movement of rodents.

She also took care to include high color contrasts and sounds. Any cat owner knows that felines love to make big noises during play; hence their penchant for crashing into paper shopping bags and cardboard boxes. Carlsen's game uses that same principle, allowing the cat to believe she is making a mouse squeak.

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Play along

Some games even benefit humans along with their cats. Carlsen's Lucky Cat Lottery Numbers game combines a game with a lotto number selection feature. Humans enter a value for how many digits they'll need (say, three numbers for Pennsylvania Lotto's Pick 3) and what the highest number can be. After the human taps the "play" button, the cat does the rest, "picking" a random number every time she nabs a virtual mouse.

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Pay nothing

Some apps cost money, but plenty don't. Friskies has free games for cats, including Cat Fishing 2, shown here.

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Ignore the paw action

Dogs tend to jump into play with two (front) feet, but cats often use a single paw. If you see your cat using only one paw during her bout with Carlsen's Catch the Mouse, that's not a sign of waning interest. It's the way many cats play. In fact, pay close attention to learn more about your feline: Like humans, cats are often right or left "handed."

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Take advantage

If you have a particularly energetic or young cat, you may get her to interact with less obvious apps for felines. Take Paint for Cats, which creates a piece of art as your cat plays. A new stroke or splat is added every time the cat tries to catch a virtual mouse on the screen.

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Hide the tablet between bouts

This is more important than you might think. Cat toys tend to lose their mystique if they're left lying around after play; animal behaviorists theorize that such toys are seen as dead prey, which is pretty much the most boring thing on Earth for a cat. Keep the tablet stored away, and the cat may see a fresh challenge every time you produce it.

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Redirect her energy

Behaviorists prefer that cats play with toys they can actually touch. After she's played with your tablet for a while, consider redirecting your cat to a more tangible form of stimulation.

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Let her listen

Some felines can benefit from tablets even if they don't interact directly. Like people, they often like new or soothing sights and sounds. If your cat doesn't immediately pounce on your tablet, it doesn't mean she isn't getting anything out of it. If she's amused or entertained, that's plenty.

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Could be worse

After all, it's better than her taking over your keyboard instead.

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