When Lauren Pytel was traveling away from home and missed her cats, all she had to do was log on to her local animal rescue
shelter's website to virtually maneuver toys for real cats that were living at the shelter, The New York Times reports.
The shelter had recently installed three iPetCompanions, remotely controlled cat toys that can be operated through the shelter's website. A webcam positioned at the shelter allows the humans to watch the cats responding to the toys as their mouse clicks make them jiggle around.
Online users of the program can play with the cats for two minutes, giving them exercise and a sense of entertainment when the shelter workers are not there, which is a large portion of the day for a cat.
"With nothing to do, dogs and cats are forced to find ways to entertain themselves," Kristen Collins, an animal trainer for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says on the organization's website. "Their activities of choice often include behaviors we find problematic, like … eating houseplants and scratching furniture."
The new software was developed by Scott Harris and his company, Apriori Control, which makes technology that can be operated remotely. The trial version tested by the Idaho Humane Society increased the organization's site traffic astronomically, the news source reports.