Cat People loves a new video game. So are their cats.


Katie Hampton’s two cats, Oliver and Yahzee, have a new favorite place in her Los Angeles home. It’s the shelf just below her TV and above her PlayStation 4, where they have the best view of her playing the indie video game “Stray.”

Released in July, “Stray” immerses players in a desolate dystopian city, which they must navigate as a lost orange tabby who has become separated from his pack. The hero of the game is not your average animated cat; he scratches and yawns with startling feline fidelity.

Oliver and Yahzee, Ms. Hampton says, are convinced it’s one of their own.

“It’s like they want to interact with the cat. They kept touching the screen,” says Ms. Hampton, a 35-year-old creative producer for a digital media company. “The little one meowed back, which was really cute.”

Social media has exploded with videos of gamer pets who seem captivated by ‘Stray’. Cats glide across the TV as if trying to grab a handful of digital fur. Others cement themselves on a couch, coiled up and bungee-wrapped, ready to pounce and play if that tabby cat ever steps off screen.

Cats Oliver and Yahzee like to find the best view in the video game.


Photo:

Katie Hampton

In one clip, a Labrador leaps from side to side of the living room, stalking a feline avatar who isn’t afraid of dogs. The dynamic has become so mainstream that a Twitter account called @CatsWatchStray has started collecting the footage. It has over 37,000 subscribers.

Clare Fenelon, a 22-year-old physical therapy technician in Washington, DC, says her cat Cricket parks right in front of the screen whenever “Stray” is on. “I can’t watch TV when I’m trying to play,” says Ms. Fenelon.

Cricket and Ms. Fenelon have a roommate-type relationship, she says. They may live in the same house, but most of the time they are preoccupied with their individual priorities. “Stray” brought them together – each of them, in their own way, wants to see what happens next.

“Most of the time my cat pretends to be cooler than us and doesn’t want to hang out with me. But with ‘Stray’ she got interested in what I was doing,” Ms. Fenelon says. really to a deeper bonding experience. She kept looking at me like, ‘What is this? You have this cat trapped in your television. ”

A scene from the video game “Stray”.


Photo:

BlueTwelve Studio/Annapurna Interactive

The game’s Hollywood, Calif.-based publisher Annapurna Interactive declined to release sales figures.

Cats aren’t the only ones enjoying screens these days. People are leaving the house more and more and some pets are not happy. Dog owners try all sorts of things to occupy their pups, from robotic vacuum cleaners to “Judge Judy” on TV.

In the story of “Stray”, humans disappeared from the earth, and it’s up to the tabby to find out where they went. The game presents the titular tabby as tender, caring, and quite capable of love. You won’t find many moments of darker leanings towards felines – the stray never plucks birds from the sky or decapitates rodents. (Although it does occasionally scratch furniture.)

The company provided the Nebraska Humane Society with copies of the game as part of a charity campaign. For a $5 donation, people entered a raffle to win a copy of the game, which costs $29.99.

Brendan Gepson, director of social media for the Humane Society, says the effort raised nearly $12,000. He thinks “Stray” served as something of a feline release party.

“A lot of media shows that cats are just an animal that you live with, but the cat in the game is kind of its own person. It has a lot of personality,” he says. “It seems weird to say , but I think the game makes people experience their cats differently.”

“I think it’s a great time for big cats,” says Jason Danzelman, a 34-year-old musician from London. “People think cats are aloof and aloof. But I had affectionate cats. He shared a video of one of his family’s cats playing the game on social media. When the virtual cat disappeared from the screen, the real feline poked its head under the TV to see where it was going.

“She just jumped in front of the TV,” Mr. Danzelman says. “She was like, ‘Who is this? Who is this handsome boy?’

Chris Nievas, 35, who works in the auto industry in Toronto, has always been more of a dog. He currently has two. He tried the game out of curiosity.

“I never really thought about how in an apocalypse cats would continue to thrive, where dogs depend on people all the time. Cats are resilient,” he says. “I got used to the cat very quickly. By the time the intro scene was over, I was like, ‘They’ve done a really good job with the cat.’ ”

Mr. Nievas is open to the idea of ​​one day owning a cat, but is worried about the reaction of his puppies. Every time he plays “Stray”, his Akita, named Pearl, starts barking at the screen.

“I can barely play the game for 10 minutes without her getting upset,” he says.

When Chris Nievas plays “Stray”, one of his dogs starts barking at the screen.


Photo:

Chris Nievas

Richard Kirschner, a feline behaviorist known to viewers of the Animal Planet series “My Cat From Hell” as Jackson Galaxy, recently uploaded a YouTube video in which he performed the first hour of “Stray.”

“The lesson learned is that cats can have fun anywhere,” he says, after the game’s tabby casually knocked a bucket off a roof. Mr. Kirschner notes that many people playing “Stray” tend to end up on the younger end of the cat-lover spectrum. “It breaks the cat-crazy stereotype.”

Ms. Hampton beat ‘Stray’, but she already has plans to play it again. It’s a chance to spot the details she missed the first time and to continue hanging out with Yahzee and Oliver.

“It’s a game I really like to play,” she says. “But I love playing it with my cats.”

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