Help me beat Ceiling Cat at his own game
December 19, 2012 11:17 AM   Subscribe

Help me create the ultimate CatCam! I want a way to watch what our cats are doing at home from the internet.

Hi there, I'm trying to figure out how to create my gift idea for my husband, which is a CatCam - I want to set up a little camera, or maybe even two depending on the cost, that would be pointed at spots where the cats usually hang out in our house. If my husband wanted to check on them and see what they were doing he could somehow go to a website and see it. I have some basic technology and webpage design capabilities. What kind of cameras do I want, how do I set them up, and how do I create the web access? I've been trying to search this information and am not coming up with any helpful how to guides online. I've looked at this question about the Cat Cam but I do not want a camera for my cat's collar - they'd just slip the collar. I want to aim the camera at where the cats hang out - I know they sleep most of the day, and I want to be able to turn the camera on remotely to watch them.
posted by treehorn+bunny to Technology (10 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
We got a couple of these to watch our dogs. They work great and can be viewed in a Web browser or there are mobile phone apps for them. Plus you can pan them up and down and look all around the room. They do require a bit of network setup (assign a static IP, map an inbound port) but it's not too complicated. The picture quality isn't that great but it does the job; there are other (more expensive) models that have better quality and/or easier setup, if you want that.
posted by kindall at 11:26 AM on December 19, 2012

That is freaking NEAT!

USTREAM is where I go to watch the Shiba Inu Puppies. They have a free plan, which is ad supported, or you can pay $99 per month (seems extravagant to me.)

You can get your cameras in place, then upload to USTREAM and you now have Kitty Cam!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:27 AM on December 19, 2012

Along similar lines to kindall (and possibly the same model). Wi-fi, pannable. There are DIY projects with Eye-Fi SD cards, but for $50-60, the consumer grade stuff is fine.
posted by holgate at 11:30 AM on December 19, 2012

When we're away, my wife and I use a cheap $25 Logitech USB webcam hooked up to a Mac Mini and the built-in camera on our laptop and point them at a couple of spots where our cat is likely to be.

For software, we use iCam on our iPhones and the corresponding desktop controller for the cameras, iCamSource, on the computers. Looks like there's a web-based client as well, in case you don't have an iOS device. The nice thing about it is that there's no special network set up. You just create a login, start the desktop app, then open the mobile app.

We set iCamSource to detect motion and send notifications when it does because without that, you often open up the app and see NO CAT, as our cat wanders around a lot. We set the motion detection sensitivity to a moderate level because the highest sensitivity levels detect changes in lighting from the sun moving in the sky.

It ends up looking like this. If you spend more on a webcam, you'll get a higher resolution, I imagine.
posted by ignignokt at 11:31 AM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you made two google accounts you could set up a hangout in google+. Just keep it on all day for the cats and join when you feel like it.
posted by sarae at 11:55 AM on December 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

Re: web access. Maybe a channel on
posted by travelwithcats at 12:06 PM on December 19, 2012

My husband did this with a basic webcam connected to a server we have in our apartment (but it could be any desktop), operated by an script he wrote which could be activated remotely. Basically, when the camera is connected one just runs the script from one's laptop (no matter where one is) and the webcam takes a picture of the place where the cats usually are. His script also allows us to take an image every x seconds/minutes and compile the frames in to a video.

I'll check with him in a few hours - it's likely he can advise you on details.
posted by Cygnet at 12:21 PM on December 19, 2012

A Dropcam is more expensive than some of the other options, but it only requires a wifi connection. You just plug it into your computer to tell it which wifi network to connect to and you're all set. It doesn't need to be connected to a computer while running, just plugged into an electrical outlet.

Hosting for your video stream on the web is included with the camera, which simplifies things a lot. (And there are smartphone apps, too.) My office uses them for monitoring machines and I was impressed with how easy it was to set up.
posted by firefleet at 12:55 PM on December 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

We have a Foscam pannable unit like the one holgate links. It uses wifi and has a built-in web server, so we had only to forward a port through our Airport for it. It works in a web browser but also with iPad and iPhone apps. It has a microphone and speaker so you can communicate through it, and it can be set to detect motion and trigger recording in case the cats aren't always around. If I had one complaint about it: the IR is really dim and you can't see more than a few feet at night.
posted by rlk at 1:46 PM on December 19, 2012

We used iCam, running on an old macbook, to watch our dog. It turns out that our dog is extremely boring.
posted by rockindata at 7:32 PM on December 19, 2012

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