Saturday 12 April 2008

Mr. Lee's Catcam

I often wonder what my cats are up to when I am gone during the day. I imagine them sitting there, waiting for Mr. DBM and me to leave. They pretend that they are asleep, but really they have one eye half open and are watching and waiting, waiting, waiting. As soon as the door closes, woohoo!!! and all hell breaks loose. Cats on the countertop, licking unmentionable parts, claws are embedded into my new sofa, fur is flying. Cats are sliding down the banisters, swinging on the light fixtures, and making faces at the neighbour dogs as they walk by. I imagine them raiding the cupboards, rolling in cat food (it's OK, they only get dry food), opening cans of tuna and snorting vast quantities of catnip. Tess will be eating bubble wrap, while Willow will be knocking over houseplants. Perhaps they will be torturing each other with the FURminator, having hairball hucking contests or indulging in a bit of toad licking. Maybe they might try surfing the web, looking for the best prices for cat toys on eBay or, God forbid, looking at naked cat photos!?! The possibilities are endless. Let's just be grateful that they don't have opposable thumbs. If they did, they would be able to open cupboard doors, operate the can opener and open their catnip container. It just doesn't bear thinking about. Also, all that endless fun they have chasing small rolly things around on very slippery floors would be gone - they would just pick up the rolly thing and be done with it - oooh, we are back to Eddie Izzard.......

So, I have been flirting with the idea of installing cameras in my house so that I can keep an eye on them. But then I thought about it and decided that I don't really need to watch my cats sleeping - let's be realistic, that is what they actually do all day. Some days when I leave in the morning, Tess will be asleep on my bed. When I get home, Tess will be asleep on my bed. I do wonder if she actually does anything else all day or if she really has spent the entire day asleep on my bed, but I don't think finding the answer to this burning question really justifies the expense of cameras.

Cameras in the house are out, but what about cameras out of the house? I would love to know what Willow gets up to and where Willow goes when she is outside the house. Obviously, she spends a lot of her time running from the back door round to the front door, but there are times when she ventures further afield. Where does she go? What does she see? Does she ever really get accosted by coyotes or packs of roving racoons? You see, this is one of my biggest fears and the main reason that I don't want my cats out at night. I am terrified that they will be eaten by some big hairy coyote or ripped to pieces by ravenous raccoons. If Willow isn't in by 9pm, I start to worry. I go out and peer into the darkness, wondering helplessly where she is. I start calling her name, hoping that I will hear the little tinkle that is her bell. When that doesn't work, I resort to the shaking of the treat bag, trying to lure her back home with the promise of food. If that doesn't work, I may play the T card - that will surely work. The other night, it didn't, and that got me really worried. Nothing stops my cats responding to the T word, unless they entombed within the belly of some carnivorous beast. So I go back inside, just wishing I had some way of knowing where she is. Five minutes later, there she is, meowing at the window and all is well in the DBM household.

Having done extensive research in the field of cat gadgets, I have found some options for keeping track of my furry felines. The first one that I came across was Mr. Lee's catcam - Mr. Lee is pictured above. It consists of a small camera in a waterproof case that you fix to your cat's collar. It then takes a picture at five minute intervals as your cat does its rounds of the neighbourhood. I did think that I could try this with my Nikon D80, since I do have a waterproof housing for it. I figured I would always know where my cat was if I did this - exactly where I left her! (The thing weighs about 20lbs)! I like the idea of the catcam, but it doesn't really solve my problem. It would not help me find my cat, it would just tell me where she had been. I imagine scanning through the photos after her return and seeing photos of claws and teeth, gaping maws with hellish teeth, saliva dripping onto the camera (good job it has a waterproof case). The cat would then be condemned to a life indoors, never to see the light of day again. I could try the camera on Tess, but I really don't need to see endless photos of various duvets - I know what my bedding looks like!

So, I moved on to explore the possibilities of remote tracking and GPS. Mr. Lee is also the proud owner of a GPS tracking system. This allows you to download GPS data onto your computer and then overlay the results onto Google Earth. Pretty cool, uh? It still suffers from the problem that your cat has to return in order to retrieve the information. I then found the LoCATor - notice the clever use of capitals to highlight the word cat. The webpage is great. It tells you how you can use this device to track your cat, horse, child, demented parent, with this device. I can just imagine stalking the wilds of my neighbourhood with my aerial and headphones, getting worried glances from neighbours wondering who has lost grandma. No, not going to work, it is just too obtrusive and quite frankly embarrassing. Then I found the Pet Tracker - the answer to all my problems. It is GPS based and you can access the location of your pet from any warm, comfy, lazy location you chose, since you can access the unit via a cell phone from anywhere in the world. Now we are talking! Unfortunately, it is not yet for sale or I would be on the web, ordering one as we speak.

So, there are some of the options available to you to keep track of whatever it is you want to keep track of. My biggest fear, if I got one of the GPS tracking systems, is that I would track down my cat, only to find one fat, well fed and content coyote!

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