The Ethereum community is going crazy for CryptoKitties this holiday season, a blockchain-based virtual pet game by the Canadian startup Axiom Zen. Each cartoon cat has its own traits and virtual genes, so people have reportedly spent more than $12 million buying CryptoKitties. Some cats cost thousands of dollars. Quartz reported CryptoKitties have the busiest Ethereum address on the whole network, making up almost 12 percent of all transactions. Many Ethereum users are disgruntled about the kooky cat game clogging up the network and causing massive transaction delays.

Regardless of scaling issues, CryptoKitties has sparked a broader trend. There are more than 5,775 subscribers on the CryptoKitties subreddit. Now other developer teams are working on blockchain-based CryptoPets, “beanie babies for the digital age," and virtual puppies for both Ethereum and the Lightning Network. CryptoKitties co-founder Dieter Shirley told International Business Times there are roughly 300,000 to 350,000 Ethereum-based kitties so far. “We hoped to do in our first three months what we did in the first week,” he said. “Our wildest dreams were this kind of success, but never in this kind of timeframe.”

CryptoKitties CryptoKitties have all kinds of traits, from wings to mustaches. Photo: CryptoKitties

You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to give the gift of virtual companions. Here is how to celebrate the holidays with CryptoKitties:

1. Get some ether tokens.

You can get ether tokens through a cryptocurrency exchange, like bitFlyer or Kraken, or barter for tokens with someone in the Ethereum community. If you already have bitcoin or another cryptocurrency, you can swap them for ether using ShapeShift.

2. Set up your MetaMask account.

Download the MetaMask extension to your Chrome browser and send ether tokens to your new MetaMask address.

3. Create a login for the CryptoKitties website.

Make sure your MetaMask is unlocked when you go to sign in. It will warn you if it’s locked because you haven’t used MetaMask in a while.

4. Buy a kitty.

Use those tokens to buy a kitty via the CryptoKitty Marketplace. You can see which traits are rare by browsing the feline family tree at CryptoKittydex.

5. Send that cat.

Once you’ve got a kitty, you can either send it to your friend’s MetaMask address or set up a second account and send it there. There is literally a “Gift Kitty” button to the right of the breed and sell buttons below each cartoon cat.

If you make the second MetaMask account yourself, you might want to send a little bit of ether as well and make a second CryptoKitties login for your friend. Make sure to write down all that information in a holiday card. Because of Ethereum’s transaction fees, the friend won’t even be able to sell his or her cat without a little bit of ether. So prepping that gift account is really helpful for a cryptocurrency newbie.

It’s important not to send the kitty to a wrong address by accident, or to lose the information about how to log in to those accounts. Just like a decentralized cryptocurrency, users own their own digital cats. If the user loses access to the account or sends a cat to the wrong address, there is no way to retrieve it. On the other hand, users can keep their kitties no matter what happens to Axiom Zen. Players of other online video games may know the unique brand of frustration when a glitch steals their hard earned digital loot. This won’t ever happen with CryptoKitties.

“If you buy a sword in World of Warcraft, and Blizzard shuts down their servers, you don’t have your sword anymore. Or if Blizzard decides your guild is problematic they can take that sword from you,” Shirley said. “By using blockchain, we write the smart contract code in such a way that we do not have control over ownership. We cannot steal your cat from you.”

6.  Breed kitties for Hanukkah.

If you already have a digital kitty and want to breed eight of them for Hanukkah, just click the breed button beneath the cat then pay the breeding fee to whichever kitty sire you want to breed with.  Users set their own breeding fees, depending on how rare their cat’s traits are. “You’ll get the kitten and they’ll get the breeding fee,” Shirley said. “Certain traits can skip a generation and things like that. Even if you have two cats that look the same, the outcome can be very different when they are bred.”

Just like real cats, you shouldn’t try to breed siblings or parents with their offspring. You’ve got to explore the CryptoKitty gene pool to make the cutest cats. It may take a while for the breeding transaction to give birth to your new kitty, depending on how much traffic the Ethereum network is handling at the moment. In 2018, the Axiom Zen team plans to focus on scalability to make this process faster.

“We’re investigating a bunch of different ways to try and make Ethereum scale,” Shirley said. “We’ve looked at side chains. We’re investigating what it would mean to start our own chain...a variety of people who are developing chains have contacted us and invited us to come onto their platform. We’re accessing all of those options.”