Energy Efficient Cat Camera

[Juergen] sent in his catcam project built. He used an inexpensive 1.3mp keychain camera with an ATTINY2313. The controller keeps the camera shut down until it’s time to take a picture. Then it powers it up, takes the shot, and returns to low-power mode. The cat adventures are actually kind of interesting. It wouldn’t work from under the car, but anyone feel like gps tracking their cat?

50 thoughts on “Energy Efficient Cat Camera

  1. If it records to a SD card, I think the frequency should be a lot higher, with a 512mb+ card. Stick a gps on it somehow, and have a complete log of everywhere and everything your cat does… Like big brother, but for animals too…

    When I first saw this, I read “energy efficient cat”. Those would be a quite useful device, all you have to do to achieve that is slap a solar panel to its back, have it recharge batteries or something. Only drawbacks are: It will hate you (more), and it seems to spend most of its time under cars.

  2. Nice project- people seem to find plenty of uses for small timed cameras. The Cat Adventures are neat- the cat is actually quite a good photographer :) and “aha! that’s the reason- beautiful cat lady” made me laugh.

    i agree with #1, putting the frequency at 20 or 30 seconds would probably make it easier to work out where the cat went, and if the run time is 48 hours at 1 photo/minute then battery life shouldn’t be a problem.

  3. hahaha this was the greatest hack of all times!
    i have 3 cats myself and it would be so awesome to do this for one of my cats!
    i actually have a mini camera lying around somewhere, its one of them mini philips cameras.
    great hack man!

  4. This is a very nice job. I’m a little surprised the standby current is 3ma. That’s pretty lousy engineering.

    One alternative may be to replace the single AAA battery with a photo lithium battery and use your own switcher under control of the 2313. Those have a much better energy density, and you could switch the camera completely off.

    If you don’t care about the contents of the SDRAM, you may be able to completely bypass the switcher on the camera, possibly using a high side FET.

    Although the image quality is junk (cameras fault, not the cat…), these look intriguing enough to play with. A possible variant would be to put a small rare earth magnet on it, and slap it on a car (kids, neighbor, whatever). Not so much for tracking, as just an interesting art project.

  5. If i had a cat, i would make one for sure!

    2: It’s just good that the cat is fat, then it dosen’t run to much, and there won’t be to many blurry pics :-P

    6: Awesome idea about putting one on someones car. Could also be used for a low budget private detective, instead of gps, hehe..

  6. Nice project–I suspect this might be useful to some researchers studying animal behavior. I admit, I don’t have a cat, but I never knew they actually looked for each other all the time like that.

  7. i like this. it gives me ideas as to put it on a bunch of cats and record then all and see what they are all up to. i think it would be good on city cats. plus i think my girlfriend would love to know what her cat is up to all day.

  8. For the GPS thing, use an unlocked (or one setup for Boost) i860 with Mologogo. If there is enough memory (to run Mologogo and the camera prog at the same time), you could have it stream 1 fps video or something like that.

  9. isnt it wierd? someone finally straps a near bulletproof camera to thier cat, and everyone’s amazed. i really wanna see whare fatty and baxter travel. but fatty usually hides under the house like the fat little troll he is, lol. baxter, idk, baxter doesnt go out far, from what i could tell,but id accept a mini GPS logger, and let him out for a few hours, come back, and load up the trip data to google earth

  10. Nothing embodies the spirit of hackaday like keeping tabs on one’s itty bitty wittle kitties.

    I would try something like this, but the last time I tried to affix a collar to my cat I ended up needing some stitches and a tetanus shot.

    good hack though

  11. well, my little baxter, hes just cool with anything, hamsters, rats, except dogs, so i dont think id ever have any problem popin a catcam on him. but fatty, idk, fatty tries to eat my pets, baxter doesnt, so fatty might sit on the cam, killing it.

  12. Thank you all for the comments. I am surprised about the response (and also about 100000 page hits each day, please reload in case of system busy message).

    1. The recent frame rate is 1.5 minutes. You see just selected pictures. A lot of the images are not sharp because of the poor sensitivity of the CCD sensor. Design limited frequency is approx. 10s. A second 512MB SD card and the uC as bank switcher would not be impossible.

    6. Sure it is a bad design if the uC circuit draws 3mA over the camera boost converter. But it is the camera design, not mine. I considered a 3V lithium battery but had none handy. Also additional battery means more space.

  13. Cool hack – great pictures!!

    You could easily mod this by replacing the camera with a solenoid and a can of spray paint. Much more reliable than GPS, especially under cars. You’ll get a Family-Circus style path that you can easily photograph. ;-)

  14. Nice. I’m tempted to put this on one of my cats. However, one cat pretty much lays around the house most of the time, only occasionaly disappearing. My other cat, I don’t really want to know what he’s doing, comes back beat up often.

    btw, wal-mart clearenced these a couple of months ago in my area. I managed to find one (probably the last) the other day and got it for only $5.

  15. The site now throws a “terms of service violation”. I hope that’s just because of bandwidth, glad I still had a copy in my cache. Like someone else said, it probably shouldn’t seem surprising but it was funny to see all the other cats “Mr. Lee” ran into on his daily jaunt.

  16. Link is dead;

    The page you are attempting to access has been removed because it violated Tripod’s Terms of Service. Please check out Tripod’s Help system for more information.

  17. I’ve had a similar project planned for a while, but rather than a cat, a human… Me lol. This has kinda inspired me to get a move on with my lifecam project. I’ve bought a keyring camera and am just now going about to see if its possible to upgrade the onboard ram chip. Will post updates if its possible…

  18. Yes, I had the pleasure of seeing the catcam yesterday and am bummed out to see it pulled down today. If anyone can contact the owner, please pass along that I would happily host their projects for them.


    Have them email: catcam (at) ndemag (dot) com

  19. Sadly, tripod has killed that site due to a “terms of service violation.” WTF?

    Anyone have a mirror? Can Juergen host this elsewhere? I’ll gladly host a copy on my university web space.

  20. I saw something like this on tv once, I think discovery or animal planet. high tech setup, full motion video, night vision, etc. I got to see the cat stalk and brutally disembowel a mouse.

    I will never look at cute cuddly kitties the same way again. Vicious beasts, the lot of ’em, just like the big cats.

  21. Argh!!! Another reason to hate Tripod…

    “The page you are attempting to access has been removed because it violated Tripod’s Terms of Service. Please check out Tripod’s Help system for more information.”

    So… is there a BACKUP site somewhere?

  22. Best hack ever! Way Awesome! I’m tempted to get a cat just so I can use this one! The site with the pictures is down so I didn’t get to see what they looked like but from what I’ve heard (from someone that did see them) they are amazing! I can see this being used in so many application. Vacation, cat, dog, kid, kite, car, bike… the list goes on and on! Great Job!

  23. Heh, another DDoS-ed site thanks to blogging. where’s all that optical bandwidth we had in the late 90s?

    This project is downright cool. You could link the shutter/power control to the alarm output of a simple motion sensor, build it all into an unobtrusive box, and you’d have an instant security monitor. Just an idea for everyone.

  24. mwaa haa haaaa! We will devour your bandwidth, you noob! Seriously, why don’t they always link to a mirrored site when somebody is using a low-bandwidth site like tripod?

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