Smart homes don’t just keep their camera eyes peeled for burglars or high heating bills. They can also take care of our beloved pets—feeding Caliban the capybara, entertaining Shelly the schnauzer, cleaning out the litter box of Humbert the Himalayan. And you don’t even need to be home when any of it happens!
New technology can help keep our pets healthy and happy without needing us to be at their side 24/7. As Tierra Bonaldi of the American Pet Products Association explains, “Plenty of owners travel or work long hours, so they use smart feeding devices to ensure proper access to food and portion control. Others use cameras, treat dispensers, and apps to communicate with their pet and better stay in touch to increase the human-animal bond.”
Or is it the animal-machine bond?
Of course, none of these gears is an excuse to leave your animal companion alone for long stretches; think of it more as a pinch hitter when you’re in a bind and your neighbor can’t swing by to do the honors. If you love your pets and want some assistance caring for them, here’s how smart pet care can help.
Smart pet feeders
Pet feeders have come a long way. As proof, check out the Petnet Pet Feeder ($150), one of the leaders in the industry that, for starters, allows you to program a feeding schedule that will dispense the right amount of food at certain times (or allow you to do so remotely through your smartphone). In addition, it’ll weigh and track how much an animal has eaten—and, if you enter your pet’s weight, activity levels, and other stats in the app, will even determine the right amount of food for your companion based on an algorithm created by vets.
Petnet can store up to seven pounds of food—that’s a few weeks worth for the average cat—and can interface with the Nest Cam to show you video of your fuzzy buddy enjoying a meal.
The next level up is the Feed and Go ($250), which adds a few additional tricks to the party. It can dispense up to six portions of wet or dry food, as well as medicine. Meanwhile a built-in camera allows you to make sure your pet chowed down and even records an audio snippet you can play from afar so you can reassure your four-legged friends that you miss them and will be home in a jiffy.
Not sure if your pooch is getting enough exercise patrolling your backyard? Collar wearables are essentially the dog versions of the Fitbit. FitBark ($70) is a little device that attaches to your dog’s collar and tracks its activity for the day. You pick an activity goal (suggested based on your dog’s size and breed) and it lets you know through a smartphone app whether your pup has reached it or needs a few more rounds of fetch.
If you want all that and a way to track down a pet who wanders off, the Whistle 3 ($80) has a $10 monthly service fee, but this device gives you all the activity tracking of the FitBark and pet-locating GPS. So if your pet ventures outside the the Wi-Fi network designated as a “safe place,” Whistle sends you an alert. From there, you can pinpoint your pet’s location on a digital map and track it down. It’s no wonder the Whistle 3 earned a PC Mag’s Editor’s Choice award.
Smart litter boxes
If cleaning the litter box is the bane of your existence, the Litter-Robot III Open Air ($450) relieves you by automatically scooping the poop into a drawer (which you eventually have to dump once you get an alert). It also has charcoal filters to control odors. According to All Home Robotics, the Litter-Robot is the real deal that “does the job quietly and efficiently with very little fuss.” Pretty much what you want in a smart litter box, no?
While the Tailio Wi-Fi Litter Box ($200) won’t scoop the poop, it performs other important functions: It measures your cat’s weight, excretions, and litter box behavior to alert you to any health issues based on, say, weight loss or frequent urination.
Smart pet cameras
If your pet craves human contact while you’re away, then a two-way “communication camera” could help. These are designed to let you watch and hear, through your smartphone, your pet when you’re not home, or even talk to them if necessary, whether to soothe a nervous kitten or tell a naughty dog to get off the couch.
A standard Nest Cam ($199) security camera can do double duty as a smart pet camera, since it comes with two-way audio (but not video). But if you want something geared for your pet, there’s an array of options.
If your feline family member loves laser pointers, the Pet Cube ($199) has similar features to the Nest—two-way audio, the ability to record video snippets—with the pet-specific feature of a built-in laser pointer you can control with your phone, enabling you to “play” with your cat while you’re bored at work or away on business.
Or if the prospect of treats gets your pet more excited, the Petzi Treat cam ($170) lets you talk to your pet, snap pics, and, if someone is being a particularly good boy or girl, dispense a treat from a storage case inside.
For the ultimate pet cam experience, PetChatz ($380) is the only pet cam with two-way video and audio, so your pet can see you while you’re chatting. Developed by a former vet instructor, PetChatz also has a full range of fun functions you can operate remotely from your smartphone: a treat dispenser, aromatherapy scent release, streaming DogTV, and even a little flashing light game to sharpen your pet’s brain (if your furry friend pushes the right combination of lights, it’s rewarded with a treat).
Plus, for an additional $100, PetChatz comes with a “PawCall” device that gives your pet the ability to call you by pushing a button with a paw so you two can see and hear each other for a heart to heart. (Still, though: Do you really want your pet calling whenever it wants? And if so, how do you explain to your boss midmeeting, “Sorry, gotta take this—it’s my dog”?)
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