Isn’t technology wonderful? We can talk face-to-face with loved ones half a world away, turn on the heating before we get home, or binge on an infinite choice of box sets at the drop of a hat. Let’s not exclude our pets from this tech revolution; check out our review of tech gadgets for pets.
Technology enriches lives – and that applies to your pet, too. Would you like to play with your furry friend while you’re at work, monitor their health and activity levels, locate them via GPS or feed them from your smartphone? You can do all these things. There are more practical gadgets too, like the self-cleaning litter tray (more for the owner than the pet, perhaps) and for the pet who has everything, a temperature-controlled bed.
But before you go stocking up on pet tech, a note of caution. Global cybersecurity firm, Kaspersky Lab, published a report in 2018 about hi-tech pet gadgets. It found that half of these gadgets have access to the internet, making them vulnerable to hackers. Of the pet owners surveyed for the report, 14% stated that at least one of the digital devices they use for their pets had been hacked.
The Kaspersky Labs people gave some simple tips to secure your internet accessible device. By doing this, you will ensure you and your pet are safe from hackers:
- Before you buy, research the security issues of your chosen device. Search online to find out if any security issues have been found and whether they’ve been patched. It’s best to buy products that have had several software updates already
- Change the default password before use – use a new strong password
- Don’t allow access to your device from outside your local network, unless you specifically need it to use your device
- Disable all network services that don’t need to use your device
- Regularly update your device when updates are available
INTERACTIVE PET CAMS
These are great for pet owners who want to keep an eye on their pet or interact with them when they’re not at home. According to Sarah at Nature and Nurture Pet Store in Glenageary, Co. Dublin, pet owners have a variety of reasons for investing in a pet-cam. Her customers have bought pet-cams to keep an eye on a sick pet, or to investigate which animal was up to mischief while the pets were home alone.
There’s a huge range of pet-cams on the market. While features may differ slightly between models, they all link to a free smartphone app and require a wi-fi connection. Most of them also have two-way speaker so you can talk to and hear your pet, as well as night vision and motion detectors so you can always track your pet’s movements. In fact, all the pet-cams we looked at had these features so here’s our pick of the bunch.
With a Petcube you can maximise time with your furry friend, although it could be a little distracting! There are two different cameras. Both have features like 1080p HD streaming, digital zoom for adorable close-up shots, and sound and motion alerts to keep you informed of events at home. They differ in that Petcube Play has a built-in laser, so you can play with your pet via your smartphone, while Petcube Bites lets you throw treats to your pet from your smartphone. Both cameras are marketed at cat and dog owners, although in truth the Play cam would probably appeal more to cat lovers and the Bites cam to dog owners.
If you use Amazon Alexa, you can synchronise it with Petcube so that Alexa will operate it at your request. You can even share pictures and videos to your social media channels. And you can install multiple Petcubes to follow your pet from room to room. So, how much to treat the pet in your life to this wonderful hi-tech gadget? Well, Petcube Play costs about €300 at amazon.co.uk. Petcube Bites is €200 at zooplus.ie
The Furbo pet-cam is more specifically aimed at dogs and has been designed with input from dog communities, vets and trainers. As well as a treat tossing feature, it also includes barking alerts, so you know when your dog is active or distressed, and a clicker sound which the makers say is proven to create positive associations for training. You can pick one up on ebay.ie for less than €200.
If the treat dispenser doesn’t appeal to you, you can pick up a much cheaper interactive pet-cam. The Motorola Scout has a two-way speaker, night vision and motion detector, plus a 360° panoramic view function so it can move and tilt to find your pet wherever he’s hiding! It’s RSPCA approved, and along with all the usual features it has video recording & snapshot capture. This one is not just for dogs and cats – according to the manufacturers you can use it to watch your cat, dog, horse or other animals on your compatible device. €100 at petworld.ie
The Cleverdog is marketed more as a security camera than a pet-cam, but since it has all the same features as the Motorola Scout, including the 360°panoramic view function, it’s the best option for anyone who needs to keep an eye on their pet and their budget. This pet-cam is not compatible with Windows smartphones. It retails at about €70 although you can pick it up for around €30 on mymemory.ie
The Eyenimal pet-cam is a little different because it attaches to your pet’s collar, allowing you to see the world from their point of view, and more importantly, to see exactly what they get up to when they’re out and about. It’s very small and light, attaching easily to your pet’s collar. It boasts a 4GB memory, a microphone, a two-hour battery life, and an image resolution of 680×480 pixels. It costs €70 at zooplus.ie
Sometimes feeding your pet is complicated! You can’t be there all the time, and don’t want to keep bothering friends or family. Or perhaps you have several pets and want to prevent them eating each other’s food – the answer is here!
Petkit Smart Feeder
Suitable for cats and dogs, this programmable feeder has capacity of 5.9 litres and, having been tested over a million times, it’s guaranteed never to get stuck. You can set it to feed your pet up to ten times per day and access it from your smartphone. The app gives good notifications and relevant information such as food level, feeding times and offline alerts. It can dispense large and irregularly shaped food, which is problematic for many automatic feeders. You can get this on amazon.co.uk for about €170
Surefeed Smart Feeder
This is a great solution for anyone with more than one pet who wants to make sure each pet gets an equal share of the pie! It’s also great if you have a curious baby or toddler who loves getting into the pet’s food. It connects with your pet’s microchip and only opens for that animal. It’s compatible with all microchip IDs and can store multiple pet IDs. If your pet isn’t microchipped it even includes a collar tag that opens the feeder; you can buy extra collar tags from surepetcare. com. The Surefeed Smart Feeder is at naturenurturepetstore.com for €150.
These fall into two categories. First, there are GPS trackers which locate your dog in real time on your smartphone. These are a godsend for the escape artist pooch or the cat who forgets to come home. You can avoid the worry and heartache that accompany the loss of a beloved pet – now who wouldn’t want that? Then, there’s activity trackers which monitor health and fitness levels. They can bring the peace of mind that comes with knowing your pet is healthy and happy. And on the subject of healthy pets, check out our guide to helping your cat get in shape.
This is an upgraded version of the Fitbark Activity Tracker and it’s pretty much the gold standard in fitness trackers for dogs. Pet owners can keep tabs on activity, sleep quality, distance travelled, calories burned and overall health and behaviour. Sleep and behaviour monitoring allows for the diagnosis of mobility, anxiety and skin diseases. You can even link it to your Fitbit, Apple HealthKit or Google Fit device to review your pet’s progress alongside your own, and you can share your pet’s information with your vet. Available in different colours, it’s small, light and waterproof, fitting onto the collar of any size dog. The rechargeable battery lasts up to six months. Best of all, there are no monthly monitoring fees and the app is free. You can buy the Fitbark 2 on amazon.co.uk for about €200
Tractive have two GPS trackers on the market – there’s a smart collar for cats, and for dogs there’s a tracking device that attaches to the collar. Both devices allow you to follow your pet’s route on your smartphone and see exactly where they are in real time. You can set up a geofence (virtual fence) and if your pet leaves these boundaries you get an instant notification. Available for €50 at tractive. com/en. There is an associated monthly app fee of about €8 if you pay monthly, or €50 if you pay for a year upfront.
Tractive have also developed a great app called Dog Walk. It allows you to track your daily walks, record the route, distance and duration, and take photos to share with pet-loving friends or family. Available on the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Kippy is a great two-in-one solution that monitors activity and location. Suitable for cats and dogs, it attaches to a collar and allows for real-time mapping of the animal’s location on your smartphone, a geofence feature with alerts when your pet leaves the area, and a history of their movements. It also gives details of activity levels, with health and welfare tips and a goal setting feature. It’s available now for €50 on kippy.eu/en. This product requires a service package costing €8 per month or €60 if you pay for 12 months upfront. You can also purchase Kippy’s harness (€25) or collar (€20) which features a handy pocket for the tracking device.
Pawtrails GPS Smart Collar & Harness
Another great two-in-one solution, this device tracks your pet’s location in real-time, notifies you if your pet strays beyond a virtual fence, monitors activity levels and behaviour, assesses your pet’s weight, and records exercise routines. It’s waterproof and durable with a battery life of up to two days. It retails for €80 at pawtrails.com. Service fees are low compared to similar products and it’s an Irish company so you’ll be supporting local industry. Pay €2.99 monthly, €30 for one year or €70 for a lifetime subscription.
The Scoopfree Cat Litter Box
With this self-cleaning litter tray, you’ll never have to get your hands dirty in the name of cat hygiene again! A disposable litter tray is inserted into a sealed waste compartment and an adjustable cleaning cycle automatically sweeps waste into the sealed waste compartment a few minutes after use. The litter absorbs moisture and dries out solids, so you get less odour and less volume. The litter tray should be removed and thrown away every 20-30 days if used by one cat, 10-15 days if used by two cats or 7-10 days if used by three or more cats. It even monitors how often your cat does his business, so you can pick up on any potential health problems in the early stages. You can buy this marvellous product for €150 on zooplus.ie. Refill trays cost €25 each.
And finally, for the pampered pet, this gorgeous enclosed pet bed has humidity and temperature sensors that change temperature according to your pet’s needs. Infrared sensors track and record your pet’s resting patterns and its beautiful design will give her a real sense of security when she most needs it. You can track sleeping patterns as well as adjust and set the right temperature for your pet on your smartphone with the Petkit app. It’s suitable for medium sized cats and dogs, and you can pick one up on ebay.ie for about €200.