Pet parent guilt be gone! If your pet hates to be alone -- or you just like checking in on your animals throughout the day -- you don't need to buy a fancy security camera.
All you need is an inexpensive tablet and a Skype account to make a homemade video chat system.
For the best results, your tablet needs to run a modern operating system such as Android or Windows, have 32MB of free space and at least a 1GHz processor.
Since the tablet may get some happy licks from time to time, choose an inexpensive tablet with these specs. You can typically pick up an Android or Kindle tablet on Amazon or other stores for less than $60, £40 or AU$90, or you can go on eBay and snag a used one for around half that.
Set up a Skype account
If you don't have Skype on your work computer you'll need to download it and set up an account.
Next, go to the Skype for Tablets download page and choose a download for the type of operating system your tablet has, if it doesn't have Skype already. You can choose between iPad ($155 at Amazon), Android, Kindle Fire HD and Windows downloads.
Once Skype is downloaded to your tablet, set up an account for your pet, since you can't call yourself using your Skype account. A cute profile pic of your pet is a must, of course. Then, add yourself as a contact.
Set up auto answer
Now you need to set up your pet's account so that it will answer when you call. Log into your pet's account and set the account to auto answer. Auto answer will allow a Skype call to be answered automatically on the tablet, since your pet doesn't have fingers to answer your call, or, you know, a solid grasp on the principles of web-based telephony.
Here's how to set it up through Windows:
- Open Skype
- Add your Skype profile to your pet's contact list
- On the menu bar, select Tools > Options
- Select Calls, then click Video Settings
- Tick Automatically receive video and share screens with people in my contact only
Here's how to set up auto answer on Android and Kindle Fire HD:
- Open Skype
- Click on Settings
- Under the Voice and Video calls settings, tick the box that says Answer calls automatically
Here's how to set up auto answer with Mac:
- Open Skype
- Go to Skype > Preferences > Calls > Answer automatically > Configure
- On the pop-up window select Answer automatically with video > Done
Now that you have everything set up, it's time to place your tablet. Find a spot in your home that your pet frequents and that's by an outlet so that you can plug your tablet in.
Stick strips of self-adhesive Velcro to the back of your tablet and stick the other side of the Velcro on the wall. Make sure that the tablet is placed so that your pet can easily see the screen. Stick the tablet to the Velcro and turn on your tablet's screensaver. Now you're ready to interact with your pets when you're not at home.
Editors' Note: This article was originally published on June 17, 2016 and has since been updated.