Otterman speaks... (2003-2007)
Weblog about cycling, macintosh, natural history and life in Singapore.
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Otterman speaks...

Cycling, macintosh, natural history and life in Singapore - Archives

List of Categories : travel * museum * cycling * Singapore Naturalist * science * kakis * mangroves * movies * mac and the internet * meow * NUS * life in Singapore * lit * world *

Wed 11 Apr 2007

Cats and keyboards!

Category : meow

Often, we spend too long a stretch in front of the computer, especially when its a pleasurable mac, or when its time to slave away, typically (in my case) in the last hours before a presentation.

So when the Xylo, Mr Bats or Tiger decide they want some keyboard time, they are treated with great patience. Besides, who can resist their charming ways (or Xylo's penetrating stare!?)

Mr Bats like to snuggle up at his highly social time between 9am-11am. This can sometimes be a critical period and so it often drives me nuts. But, you know, he pulls out all the stops - mew, head-butt and scent mark, so resistance is futile!

Alternatively, if you are cat-less, there is break reminder Time Out by Dejal.

All this cat traffic is hell for the external keyboard. It accumulates fur and dust in accessible places because Apple decided to use very special screws to keep it all together (what are they hiding in there?) But at least there is hardly any gibberish generated these days when Xylo, in particular, plonks himself on the keyboard.

That's due to Jim Fowler's mac-only CatNip which locks up the keyboard, and flashes the message, "cat-like typing detected." Type "human" to release the lock!

Unfortunately Catnip is mac-only, which disappinted some pc-using friends who rushed over to Fowler's page. Since they told me, I did a quick search and voila! Paw Sense by BitBooost, a US$20 shareware for Windows-users. Apparently it "emits a shrieking sound to scare the cat, shuts down keyboard input and displays the message: "Cat-like typing detected.""

Cats walking across a keyboard is widespread enough a problem that this power circuit controller product built in protection from such activity! Their webpage reveals: "The first ChronTrols ever built had a fixed unlock code of 1 0 3, because a cat walking across the keyboard would most likely miss this sequence."

A cat used to keyboard-waking can pose several difficulties: typing unwanted characters or accidental emails, fur in your face or mouth, a blocked view of the computer screen, head butting your chin, etc. Tiger will rub his whiskers and scraggly chin against my chin and push at me with his head when he is anticipating his nightly fish feed.

Some people, however, have encouraged cat us of their computers, by roping in their computers to provide behavioural enrichment for a bored housecat. In April 2001, video game designer Matt Wolf released CyberPounce (Windows only; Double Twenty Productions, see

"The software includes 11 virtual kitty treats, including helpless little birds, dangling spiders and a furry mouse, that dart around the computer screen. The victims either move on their own as part of the program's screensaver mode or are manipulated by the cat's owner. The main goal is to get housebound cats to spend some quality recreation time batting at a PC monitor.

Wolf said the twittering, jittering creatures are the video equivalent of "Quake" for cats - a totally immersing experience, at least by feline standards. "We've seen cats glued to this for five or 10 minutes."

"After extensive consultation with an animal behaviourist and product testing on more than 100 cats, Wolf had a pretty good idea of what would get a paw going. He offers no guarantees, though. "Cats are cats," he said. "They are very difficult to predict. If I had this thing totally down, I could go into business as a pet trainer.""

Photo: Amy trying out CyberPounce at the Humane Society, NY, USA.

I'd like to try this out on a thousand house cats myself and analyse the results against a sweep of parameters!

While I wrote this I listened to this rather delightful rendition of "Kitten on The Keys" (Zez Confrey, 1921), which a Google search threw up.

Posted at 5:11PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | , .