Virtual Pet Shelter founder finds solace in Tamagotchi

Many virtual pets end up living out their lives forgotten in dark drawers. If a new Virtual Pet Shelter gets off the ground, all those Tamagotchis and Webkinz will have a place to go.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read
Virtual Pet Shelter pets
Some of the residents of the Virtual Pet Shelter. Kacper Jarecki

Kacper Jarecki, a librarian at Queens Library in New York, has 10 other life forms living with him. They just all happen to be electronic toys.

Kacper Jarecki on Kickstarter
Jarecki hanging out with another unreal creature. Kacper Jarecki

Jarecki's Virtual Pet Shelter is one of the more unusual projects on Kickstarter. It has a modest $250 goal and no backers yet, but there's a certain charm to the concept.

Digital-pet revival
In case you missed the fad, virtual pets are little electronic toy creatures that require "feeding" and care--and sometimes, as in the case of Webkinz, have alter-egos in the form of online avatars. Jarecki is looking to save these neglected toys from the landfill.

Current shelter residents (some acquired from eBay) include a Tamagotchi kitty, a wearable Tamakaci duck wristwatch, and a USB-connected owl that swivels its head and blinks.

Jarecki hatched his Virtual Pet Shelter idea after a friend recommended he volunteer at a cat shelter. "It's still too painful to me, having lost my cat and all. So I decided to open up my own shelter--for digital pets," Jarecki told Crave via e-mail.

But don't let the "virtual" part of the project throw you off. It's not like this interactive online cat shelter, but rather a shelter for electronic toy "virtual pets" that otherwise would be ignored.

Like Netflix...for virtual pets
Jarecki is taking a Netflix approach to virtual pet fostering. "One of the biggest issues facing all pets, even real ones, is owners getting bored of their pets," Jarecki writes. His solution to "virtual pet fatigue" is a $25 annual subscription that lets users swap out virtual pets from the shelter's collection. Choose a pet, receive it in the mail, take care of it, and exchange it whenever you desire.

This project isn't without its challenges. "Many people just raise an eyebrow or tell me it's a crazy idea," Jarecki says. He has already ordered business cards and plans to rent a table at flea markets to spread the word.

Having 10 digital wards demands a lot of time. Jarecki uses his breaks to care for his pets and has learned origami to make furniture for them. "I carry them with me, and it feels good having them keep me company," he notes. "It's something I want to share with others."

Beyond Kickstarter
Even if humans don't flock to support the project, Jarecki has already found the venture to be worthwhile. "Most importantly, I get the smiles and appreciation from my virtual pets, who in their own way, let me know they love me," he says.

Should our future robot overlords ever rise up against the human race, expect Jarecki to get a free pass for his acts of kindness to virtual pets.