Shelters allow remote control
of cat toys to boost adoptions
LOS ANGELES — If American worker productivity drops in the third quarter of 2012, the hunt for a cause can start here: iPet Companion, a “virtual play room” that allows anyone, anywhere, to play with criminally cute, distracting orphan cats waiting to be adopted in Los Angeles city shelters.
The Los Angeles Best Friends Pet Adoption & Spay/Neuter Center, a Mission Hills, Calif., facility owned by the city of Los Angeles and operated by the nonprofit animal welfare organization Best Friends, launched its virtual play room last week. Now bored cubicle dwellers and weekend Web surfers can waste more hours online, seeing live video from the “free-roam” cat room and manipulating toys in real time.
“It's a great way for cats at our pet adoption center to be showcased,” said Sarah Schanz, marketing specialist for the center, adding that many shelters struggle with low cat-adoption rates because feline personalities don't always shine in a shelter environment. Watching cats at play, however, helps people to form bonds before they have even seen animals in person.
The cat and dog toy company Kong saw a pilot program at an Idaho Humane Society facility and agreed to sponsor the iPet Companion installation in L.A. and four other U.S. sites. Foothills Animal Shelter in Golden, Colo., reported in May, the first month after its iPet Companion room went live, the number of cat adoptions rose 26.5 percent compared with the same period in 2011 and 67 percent compared with the month before the launch.
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