Technology Improves Cat Caretaking

A clever use of modern computer software can improve the way cat caretakers look after their cats if they live alone and work. An example of how this can be achieved is demonstrated by Marc who lives in Switzerland.

All you need is a couple of laptop computers and a subscription to Skype. Modern laptops are cheap. You can get a decent computer in one of the most expensive places on earth, London, UK for about £300. And it will be good.

Skype is free subscription software that you can download to your computer from the internet. It allows you to phone locally and internationally for free using your computer and the internet as a connection. It also allows you to see the person you are talking to by using the laptop’s built in webcam, which is situated above the computer’s screen facing the operator.

Marc leaves his computers in various rooms of his home and turned on. He programs Skype to receive phone calls and to turn on when the call is received. When the program is turned on the webcam is activated and it focuses on whatever is in front of it. If one of his cats is there Marc can see her on his computer at work or on his mobile phone if travelling. His cats can also see him. Remember these are video images transmitted live.

Not only can Marc and his cats see each other, he can also talk to them. They can hear his voice. This is reassuring for his cats and Marc. An extremely neat solution.

These are Marc’s words:

“….I have Skype on auto answer at home so when I’m at work I can call in and see what’s going on. I have a couple of laptops in the right spots so I can call into any one and see where they are.  This morning I turned my cam on so they could see me, and I un-muted (turned the sound on) and I called Gigi my youngest cat. She was looking at me for ages looking very confused. I took a few screenshots – attached. I look like a bit of a dork 🙂 My older cat Lilly is used to Skype and won’t ever look no matter what.”

Technology improving cat caretaking

Technology improving cat caretaking. This is the image (a video image frozen here in a screenshot) that Marc sees of his cats and home. My apologies to Marc.

Marc goes on to say..

I create a few different Skype profiles and open one on each laptop.  So, for example, the laptop in the living room has Skype open as Marc1 (one of my Skype profile usernames) and it is set to automatically answer calls and automatically turn on the webcam. Then I have another laptop in the bedroom with my “MarcBedroom” Skype profile.

So from work I can call “MarcBedroom” and see my bedroom and talk to the cats or just be able to see and hear them or whatever. Usually I mute and close my cam so I am just watching silently but I can turn the volume on my laptop to hear them if I want.

Its quite simple really and works very well. I use it when I go to France or England too – I can totally check in on them and see that they are OK.

When Red used to go out for ages and I left to work before he got home it was great having this system. Sometimes I would be very relieved to see him arrive home on the camera. And now, especially when I am gone a long time, for example after work, I can even call in with my phone and see them on my phone if I am out and about. Pretty simple and easy – anybody can set it up you just need a computer at home with a cam and that’s it.

Has anyone else done something like this and how did it work for you? If you are a concerned cat caretaker and out a lot and have the funding available I would recommend it. I have used Skype myself and it works really well. The service is free so watching your cat at home from work does not cost you anything. Just don’t get caught!

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Comments

Technology Improves Cat Caretaking — 7 Comments

  1. Hi Marc,

    I would guess that you’re the “Marc” who often posts in the comments here at POC.

    Great idea and good use of technology. Looks like you found another good way to use Skype.

    While you’re away, it’s nice to be able to check in on the cats to see that they are okay and to say hi to them.

    That would come in especially handy if a pet had separation anxiety.

    You can also report any break-ins you might happen to see.

    I wish that I had something similar going on so I could contribute a bit more to this post.

    =^-^= Hairless Cat Girl =^-^=

  2. As a cat-owner from the developing World of India and living in Mumbai, thanks to “P.O.C” for the education on computer technology in the developed World.Fantastic use of modern technology in pet care.I have personally visited Switzerland as a tourist and was left amazed at the standard and comfort of living of the average Swiss Citizen.In a recent survey Switzerland was considered the luckiest place for a person to be born on Planet Earth and so also the same applies for the pets of Switzerland.Skype has become common in developing country’s ,but, programming computers through skype for pet comfort is definitely a news item in the Developing World.

  3. My ex girlfriend lives in Slovenia where I used to live and sometimes we would skype and she would leave skype on and pop out to the shop/store for 10 or 15mins. And one of our cats, Pepe, used to cry as soon as she was out of the apartment. I was able to talk to him through skype and calm him down just by responding to him whenever he made a noise. He would literally calm right down knowing somebody was in some sense there with him. It was amazing and skype also helped us learn that he had a problem and became anxious when there was no human in the apartment. A sort of double win. Otherwise we would have had no idea there was even a problem because he only did it after we were out. So only after I went away once for a few days and we talked on skype did we learn this was happening. He was so unhappy but as soon as he meowed I would say ‘Pepe – don’t worry (he knew what that meant) and he would calm down after repeating this a few times of him meowing and me responding. And he, unlike Gigi in the pictures above, was another cat who otherwise paid no attention to skype or who was on it – like it didn’t exist, except in those moment of being alone and hearing my voice even though I was not there.

    I had some very worrying mornings at work when Red did not come home. Once I even had a doctors appointment so I go a friend to call in and look out for him arriving home and she sent me an sms in my appointment saying he just arrived home and I was soooo happy. I sort of don’t know what I would do without it now. It’s so useful and I have gotten used to the security of always being in touch. I do mostly have my video off and microphone muted because then if I really need to check one of them is there I can call and they will come – except Lilly I think. Those pics are when I called Gigi over – she walked accross the laptop and sniffed it and then when she saw my face she just stared for a really long time. She totally responded. But I wont do it again for a while. I dont want her to ignore it like lilly does. That way if I am in France or somewhere and I don’t see her I can always call for her and she will come – so will Molly.

    It’s an extremely simple and effective way of keeping in touch. Hairless Cat Girl is right – I can see if the place gets broken into or if a fire were to start I am near enough i could race over in a car and be there within about 5mins (breaking every traffic law known to man). What I would like is the ability to remotely open doors and windows in case of fire. Then I would feel totally secure. I leave my front door unlocked so a neighbour could open it if they sensed there might be a fire but who knows if they would or not.

    LOVE the picture – I think that’s most exactly what she was thinking 🙂

    • “I leave my front door unlocked”. I presume you mean inside the black. That tells me you have a nice secure place. Everything is battened down here all the time 😉

      You make a nice point. I think this is a very important point. We don’t know what our cat is doing or how she feels when we are away at work. Your excellent set up allows you to understand your cat’s feelings much better. You can then respond. I think people sort of ignore the potential for a cat to feel insecure when separated from his or her human companion.

      I known my Charlie misses me massively when I travel. He goes into a reclusive mode and won’t do anything but sleep on my bed. This is one big reason why I don’t travel much anymore. He has me captive.

      I knew you wouldn’t mind me taking the Mickey out of you in the picture. The background went green when I cleaned up the foreground color which makes you look like even more of a dork 🙂

  4. This is a great idea and I can’t wait to try it out. I have a spare laptop that I have “retired” to make way for my new one and now I know what to do with it. And speaking of Switzerland- I lived there for almost 3 years during my college years and 1 of my most memorable experiences there was to see a family of curly haired cats (probably Selkirk Rex cats) for the first time in my life. That was pretty exciting for me.

    • Wow, it’s nice to know you lived in Switzerland. One of the best places in the world to live, I think. I am thinking of setting it up too. I have an old PC laptop as well as an Apple MacBook.

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