It's no secret that cats love to play, but the world is a very different place than it used to be. A lot of the play we people engage in these days is centered around screens, whether it's the latest PlayStation console or whatever catches our eyes on the Apple App Store.
What if I told you that you could play video games with your cat?
No, I don't mean a tiny cat VR headset (which is brilliant satire, by the way), and they certainly aren't going to do much more than lay on a controller if you give them one. And forget about browsing the app store for something to suit their preferences… they can't read!
What cats cando, though, is see what's on a screen. Every funny moment of a cat pouncing at a bird on a big-screen TV only to bounce off the flat screen is a testament to that fact.
So what if you found a video game that they can play using your devices? There are quite a few of them out there, so I've found five that are a hoot to try.
They all follow more or less the same formula, but the variance between them can be enough to make it worth trying each of them to find the one that you and your cat like the most.
Before we begin, we need to prepare. If you want to play a video game with your cat, you need to do it the right way.
First, you want a tablet. A phone can work, but there's a decent chance you want to be using your phone, not letting your cat dominate it.
Plus, phones are smaller and easier to swipe around and off surfaces; if you let your cat play with your phone, they could bat it off a table and break it. Nobody wants that! Your cat can't even pay for the damage, the pesky freeloader.
What kind of tablet? The two major ecosystems are Android and Apple. Either one can work, but they have their own ecosystems, so the games available for one might not be available for the other. I've put together a list for each below.
As for price and capabilities, if all you're doing is using it as a cat toy, you can buy an older, used version, so the price isn't really a concern. Cat-centric video games aren't particularly intensive, either. Just get something you're fine with using as a cat toy.
Second, you want some kind of case or mount for it. A silicone case is the best for two reasons. The first is that it's resilient and durable, as well as shock-absorbent.
If your furry friend manages to shove your tablet off a table with one of these cases, it's more likely to bounce than break. The second reason is to prevent that from happening at all; a silicone case is very "grippy" and will keep the tablet from sliding at all.
Of course, you can alleviate some of these problems by putting the tablet on the floor instead of on a table or other higher-up surface.
Third, you want a screen protector for the tablet. Our fuzzy little friends have claws, and those claws can leave scrapes and scratches on a screen, especially when they're pouncing or swiping at it.
Note: You can get around a lot of the problems of a damaged tablet by using a projector system to display your game right on the floor. This has the benefit of being larger and more interactive for your fur baby. You need a projector that has a camera, records feedback, and can detect your cat's actions and make the game react. The issue is that these are significantly more expensive than your average tablet, so this isn't really the best option unless you're really dedicated to having a cat playroom with virtual gaming.
I also recommend some grooming tools to help keep your cat's claws trimmed. Shorter claws are less likely to hook into a case or crease in the tablet and drag it around and aren't as likely to scratch a screen or tear a screen protector off.
Finally, you'll want some treats on hand. I'll get into the "why" for that a little later.
Five Android Video Games for Cats
First, let's start off with the games you'll find on the Android Google Play app store. These are the options you have for using a Google, Samsung, or other Android-format tablet as your cat's gaming device.
Mouse for Cats is one of the oldest cat-focused video games on the market. It's fairly simple; a digital mouse wanders the screen and pops when your cat "catches" it by pouncing or swiping at the screen. You can configure the app to choose whether or not the mice can run off-screen (which can distract some cats by making them look elsewhere for the mice), how many mice are on screen at a time, and more.
The biggest downside to the app is that it has some fairly annoying ads in between levels, and there's no way to disable them, so you need some active supervision for your cat's screen time.
Pocket Ponds is a more detailed game that's designed for both you and your fur baby to play together. Rather than catching fish, though, taps and pawing at the screen feeds and cares for your koi.
Then, when your cat tires of the game, you can take over and get to work with the management side, breeding newer and more interesting fish, upgrading your pond, and more. Really, who wouldn't love to co-op with their kitten?
This is a fairly simple set of games, all of which follow the same "catch the critter" formula. There are a variety of different critters to catch, including flies, bees, hamsters, and mice, so your fur baby can get some variety.
Some people report that this game has some annoying ads and some annoying sound bites, so feel free to evaluate it at your leisure.
Cat Fishing 2 is fairly similar to the above games, particularly Mouse for Cats, except with aquatic critters. Fish, crabs, frogs, and other little creatures roam the screen for your cat to catch and pop, earning them points.
In an interesting twist, this game was made by Nestle Purina, so it's designed for cats first and foremost.
If you've spotted a pattern that all these cat games are just variations on "cat chases and touches critter on screen" as a concept, you're right. That's how cats mostly play, after all, so it makes sense that it's what the games are all about.
Cat Alone 2 has a variety of creatures to catch, including spiders, and has a unique selfie feature where it can periodically take a picture of your cat so you can see how engaged they are with the game.
Five Apple Video Games for Cats
If you've grabbed an Apple iPad instead of a Google device, you're going to be browsing the Apple App Store instead of Google Play for your app needs. Here are the five best cat-first games I've seen.
This is the same game as the one mentioned in the Android section. In fact, it was an Apple game first and was only ported to Android later.
Otherwise, the games are the same; a mouse wanders the screen for your cat to catch, and you can configure various options about the mice and the number of mice on screen at once to keep your kitty captivated.
Both Pocket Pond 1 and 2 exist on the Android and Apple app stores, so I've chosen to link to one for one and the other for the other. They're basically the same game, but with different kinds of fish and decorations, different progression, and other details changed.
Many people say that Pocket Ponds 1 is "harder" than 2, but when your cat is doing all the "work," it really doesn't matter.
Once again, this is another app that works for both Android and iOS platforms. Cat Fishing 2 has some convenient development behind it from Nestle, so it's a little more polished than some of the other apps out there.
In particular, it's harder to accidentally exit the game, which happens a lot with some of the less well-designed apps out there for cats.
Wrapping up the iOS list, Cat Games is another variation on the same theme.
It features a few creatures you don't see in other games, like flamingos and bats, and it has a more cartoony aesthetic than some of the other games, but otherwise, it's basically the same thing.
The Laser Pointer Issue
In cat care, there's an opinion that cycles through communities fairly often, which is that laser pointers are a bad toy for cats. The reasoning is pretty simple: cats like to hunt, but more than that, they need to feel the fulfillment of actually catching their prey. This is why something like a feather wand or other physical toy is better than a laser because a cat can never catch a laser and will get frustrated at the constant hunt with no resolution.
Video games have the same issue: since your cat is just touching a screen, they don't have anything to grab and chew on.
There are ways to handle this, including ending with pointing the laser at a physical toy. You can't really get that with video games, though. That's why I recommended treats; when playtime is over, bring in a treat and reward them.
Help! My Cat Doesn't Play Video Games
Some cats have preferences. Not every cat will want to play with a screen, either because there's no real feedback for them or because it just doesn't interest them. They may want something more 3D than 2D to play with, or maybe the game is off-putting for another reason.
The truth is, every cat is different. Playing video games with your cat isn't necessarily going to work, and some cats just won't get engaged with an app no matter what.
If you're worried about whether or not your cat is going to be interested in a video game – particularly if you're trying to avoid spending a hundred bucks or so on a tablet they might not use – you can get any of these apps on your phone first and give them a try. If your cat is interested in them on a phone, they'll be just as interested in them on a tablet. That way, you can know whether or not the investment will be worthwhile.
Finally, to wrap things up, I wanted to make a special note that screen time and app-based play should not be the only way you play with your fur baby. For one thing, these apps stimulate hunting instincts, but unlike chasing a toy or laser pointer, your cat isn't actually getting any exercise while playing these games. You might end up with a cat that has the zoomies or is unnaturally frustrated because only some of their needs are being catered to.
Always try to keep your fur baby in the best health possible. That means, among other things, appropriate kinds of play. Video games can distract your furry feline friend while you're getting work done or otherwise can't play with them when they're active, but they should only be a supplement, not the main way you interact with your cat.
Have you ever played video games with your cat before? If so, what were their favorites? I'd love to hear all about your experiences and favorite stories, so be sure to leave those in the comments section!
K Marie Alto
K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer, and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 50K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-). Read more