If you have a cat, you’ve probably wondered what escapades your feline friend gets into when you’re not around.
Jürgen Perthold, a German-American engineer, was similarly curious about where his cat, Mr. Lee, went when he disappeared from his South Carolina home, so Perthold designed a special camera for him to wear. Weighing less than 3 ounces, the camera is engineered to capture continuous photographs for two days straight and fits around the cat’s neck.
It took several attempts, but eventually Mr. Lee returned with the camera intact and photographic evidence of his days-long adventure. Perthold published the cat’s-eye-view photos on the Internet, and was surprised at the response his pictures and his tiny invention received.
The Perthold family and their tomcat were soon the center of a media storm, and Mr. Lee’s photos captured the attention of filmmaker Seth Keal. Keal traveled to Perthold’s South Carolina home and did a three-day shoot of Mr. Lee. He combined his footage with Perthold’s cat-cam photos to create a 16-minute documentary titled “CatCam: The Movie.”
“I didn’t set out to make a film about a cat,” Keal said. “It’s a story about engineering and the human need to solve mysteries. Perthold had a question he wanted to answer, and he happened to have the skill to be able to do it, so he made the camera, and what he got back was something he didn’t expect.”
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The film premiered at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival in March and won the Short Film Jury Award for Best Short Documentary.
But Perthold isn’t the only person using a tiny camera to capture a cat’s perspective. University of Georgia researcher Kerri Anne Loyd recently worked with National Geographic Remote Imaging to equip outdoor cats with cameras and infiltrate their secret lives. She found that 85 percent of the 60 cats in her study sample experienced a “risk behavior,” such as encounters with wildlife, in the course of a week.
And in Britain, scientists are using cat cameras to help determine how many bird deaths pet cats are responsible for. Estimates of how many birds are killed by cats vary from 12 percent to 50 percent, but researchers at the University of Reading say they hope to determine a more accurate number by reviewing footage from 12 British cats from now until October.
Curious what your cat gets into while you’re away? You can purchase still and video CatCams from Perhold’s website.
Check out the CatCam movie trailer below, or see more of Mr. Lee's photos and videos here.