Posted: July 22, 2014, 1:30 p.m. EDT
Do you love guinea pigs but just don’t have the time or the means to take care of one? Well, you’re in luck! Now you can experience the joy of guinea pigs without changing your busy schedule or double-checking your wallet. All you need is an Internet-enabled mobile device.
Brian Balla, a web designer based out of Portland, Oregon and HappyCavy Human #1, has created HappyCavy.com, a website in which guinea pig lovers can watch four cavies nearly 24/7 via webcam (lights off at 11:00 p.m. Pacific Time and the cameras are offline on Thursdays for cage cleaning).
It started as a way for Balla and HappyCavy Human #2 to keep an eye on their pets while they were away. However, they soon discovered that they weren’t the only viewers. The webcams, featuring cavies Hammy, Buttercup, Dot and Feebee, have received millions of views. Viewers tend to favor webcam #3, which has received 1,532,631 views since 2009. Webcam #1 is close behind.
A visit to HappyCavy.com results in a look inside the lives of guinea pigs. Hammy, "the Official Spokes-pig,” according to the site, is a lettuce-loving, shy female who loves getting up early. As the official spokes-pig, and the one who has been around the longest, she is probably the best known. Feebee prefers tomato and green pepper to lettuce, and likes to spend her time popcorning. Buttercup, who also loves peppers as long as they’re the yellow or red kind and who seems to be the second favorite of viewers, is a talker (although she might be a little shy around reporters). Dot’s strong legs make her a great runner – perfect for when she’s after her favorite snack: parsley! These four sisters engage the viewers by interacting with each other and doing what guinea pigs do.
What do they do? Aside from hanging out in their kitchens, munching on their favorite snacks or taking a nap in their "Pigloos,” these cavies also have a blog. Hammy "writes” it, providing visitors to the site with guinea pig insight, including how to care for them and answers to common questions.
If watching these cute little creatures to your heart’s content and reading Hammy’s blog isn’t enough, you now also have the opportunity to feed them.
Thanks to Balla’s background in web design, he was able to create an app that allows viewers to feed the guinea pigs. Designed for mobile devices only, the HappyCavy Treat Feeder (also known as Treater) officially launched on May 25, 2014, and costs $1 for 24 hours of guinea pig feeding time. Fifty percent of that $1 will go to a guinea pig rescue organization. Currently, the donation benefits Orange County Cavy Haven.
"Orange County Cavy Haven was chosen because HappyCavy has a history of supporting and partnering with them; we admire their tenacity in adapting to new fundraising models. They were a natural choice for a rescue to benefit from the Treater,” Balla told SmallAnimalChannel.com. "We would like to see the rescues rotate; we'd also like to see several rescues or shelters from local areas, like Foggy Creek Cavy Rescue in Auburn, WA or a funds-strapped rescue in Oregon. Of course, if we chose a rotating list of rescues, we would consult our friends on The Guinea Pig Blog, Facebook, and Twitter.”
Visit HappyCavy.com to view the guinea pig webcams.
Since the Treater went live in May, a modest amount has been raised toward the rescue. However, as more and more people become aware of the app, HappyCavy.com anticipates a reduction in payment processing costs, allowing them to increase how much goes to the rescues.
To access the mobile Treater, visit the website and click on the "Treat the Guinea Pigs” button or visit HappyCavy.com/treats
Treats are dispensed at 15-minute intervals to avoid over-feeding the cavies. When the timothy hay-based pellets are dispensed, viewers are alerted with flashing lights on the guinea pigs’ cages. According to Balla, the Treater activation also consists of a low beep and the beginning of "The Guinea Pig Song
.” These let the humans and the guinea pigs know that treats are coming.
How do the guinea pigs react to the Treater? Balla said they all have different reactions.
"Hammy remains calm, as she is in most situations,” he said. "Feebee is sometimes curious, presumably because the sequence has something to do with food. Buttercup loves attention. So she is fascinated with the lights and beeping, and she can usually be watched on the webcams waiting patiently for the treats. Dot, whose hobby it is to imitate Buttercup’s sounds and behavior through their shared wall, also seems to understand that something special is about to happen. Overall, they seem to like it, and use it often. Especially Buttercup.”
Watching the guinea pigs is a fun way to spend the day, and, as Balla told us, it’s "an easy way to cure boredom.”
Can’t own guinea pigs but would love to? Grab your Smartphone or tablet and enjoy one virtually.
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