Kitten Cam in HD – We Dare You to Look Away (You Can’t)

New technology brings new life to an internet craze. But are live animal camera feeds a fad, or a work of genius? A Q&A with John Bartlett.

Kitten Cam: What’s cuter than watching live kittens on demand?

If you have plans this weekend and love kittens, you might want to skip this article.

Live video feeds showing puppies and kittens have been around for a few years, but most of them disappear when the animals are adopted. However, one foster parent recently started showing his foster kittens on camera 24 hours a day, and he claims he’s not turning it off until there are no more kittens needing homes.

John Bartlett has been fostering kittens for four years and is on his 31st set of kittens, so I suspect he’ll be around for some time to come.

This is John’s fourth set of foster kittens on camera. The previous feeds were of lower quality, but the new high-definition technology he has implemented now has people completely addicted. At any time during the day, at least 1,000 people are watching, and in the afternoons and on weekends, 2,500 or more tune in.

I talked with John about his foster kittens, his contributions and the shelter he is helping on a year-round basis.

Petful: Do you work for a rescue or shelter, or are you a foster parent helping a shelter?

John: I’m a volunteer and foster care provider for Purrfect Pals. I foster cats and kittens pretty much year round, with maybe a week or two break between. It all started back in 2006 when a friend’s cat had kittens, and since she lived in an apartment, she asked me if I could care for the kittens and find them a home. That got fostering in my blood, and it was a tickle in the back of my head for a couple years, which eventually lead me to contact Purrfect Pals in 2008.

Four years later finds me with my 31st set of fosters. Some are with me for just a week or two while they recover from an illness; others are with me for months for long-term care or simply to grow big enough to be altered and adopted.

Is there something unique about the shelter?

One thing that amazes me about Purrfect Pals is that they provide lifetime care for cats with FIV and leukemia — if one of them convinces a human to adopt them, they are placed as permanent fosters with free vet care for life.

A local show did a story on their prison program. Feral and semi-feral kittens are paired up with a prisoner, and they get 24/7 interaction with each other. The Monroe Correctional Facility likes the program because the prisoners who are part of the program won’t do anything to risk losing their kitten privileges, and prisoners who want to be part of the program are on their best behavior. Purrfect Pals gets a socialized and adoptable kitten. It’s a win-win situation.

John Bartlett, Kitten Cam guru

When did you go live with the Kitten Cam?

I set up the Kitten Cam in October of last year.

The initial concept was so that I could keep an eye on them while I was not in the room and so I can observe their behavior without humans near. The main reason it still exists as a web cam is to raise awareness for fostering and convince others to become foster care providers.

Since broadcasting multiple qualities to enable everyone optimal viewing, regardless of their network speed, required a much faster computer than the Mac Mini I was using, I custom-built a computer to support it.

What impact has the Kitten Cam had on the shelter?

I had a viewer ask me if they could make a donation to support the Kitten Cam. I replied that I could provide information on donating to Purrfect Pals, and they liked that idea.

A day later, the director of Purrfect Pals contacted me to tell me that they’ve received $850 from multiple donations from people viewing the Kitten Cam — and many others have told me on the chat that they have ordered supplies from Purrfect Pal’s wishlist on Amazon.

I’m thankful for every single item purchased and every dollar donated — each one of those dollars makes it possible for people like me to foster cats & kittens.

What impact has the Kitten Cam had on the viewers?

I’ve been amazed at the positive effect the Kitten Cam has had on others. One lady told me she recently had a bad breakup and the kittens were helping her forget the pain. Another viewer said they were watching the kittens to relax before a stressful meeting. I’m finding it hard to find the words to properly express how the Kitten Cam has improved the lives of others, but it’s a good feeling. It’s really been a blessing to many.

To others, it has been a major hindrance in productivity. “I’m supposed to be working!” “I haven’t watched TV in five days, and my TiVo is almost out of space.” “Man, now how am I supposed to study for my test tomorrow?!”

Are you planning to add any new features to the Kitten Cam?

I’ve actually been more or less satisfied with the current incarnation of the Kitten Cam, and it’s hard to satisfy my inner geek — mostly due to limits imposed by the service. I’ve heard of other shelters having internet-controlled toys to interact with the kittens, and I plan on researching those and seeing what options I can put together to provide a donation-driven interaction device: “Thank you for your donation! You have been entered into the queue to control the feather stick and are currently in position 592,481.”

* * *

We appreciate John taking the time to talk to us about his foster animals, and we always love to see animals being taken care of while getting ready for a permanent home. Many people have asked about reserving or claiming one of the kittens, but John explains they cannot be reserved until 24 hours before a public adoption event.

I’ve been really good about only checking the feed randomly throughout the day but I have to warn you, it’s very hard to navigate away from the cuteness overload. The one thing I love about this is the help the animals are receiving.

I hope it’s not a fad that disappears like others in the past, and the fact that it inspires people to adopt makes it genius in my book.

Kristine Lacoste

View posts by Kristine Lacoste
Kristine Lacoste, editor in chief of Petful, is an author, poet and pet lover from Louisiana. She is the author of an award-nominated book, One Unforgettable Journey, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. She was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. She is also employed as chief operating officer for a large mental health practice in Louisiana. Kristine has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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