Humans have already ceded control to gadgets in many facets of our lives, so is it time we started doing the same for our pets?
There’s no shortage of smart products geared toward our furry pals, many of which mirror those we routinely use. You may already rely on a Fitbit to monitor your health, but you can also buy an activity tracker for Fido. If you think a robot vacuum is a godsend, then you’ll love a robotic litter tray that self-cleans. Alongside your Ring doorbell, you can use an indoor pet camera to keep tabs on your little bestie while you’re away.
New products are emerging all the time as a nascent pet tech market tries to cater to a nation of animal lovers. Brits are estimated to spend £500 on their pets annually, with younger people splashing out an average £759 every year, according to a MoneySuperMarket survey.
So what does the future hold? After robotics and health wearables, could AI help to unlock the holy grail of pet tech: translation? A Korean company claims to do just that with its smart collar that can decipher dog barks to indicate five different emotional states. The $100 device isn’t out in the UK yet, but it may be a sign of things to come.
In the meantime, we’ve rounded up the most notable pet tech products you can currently buy.
Pet tracking and security
There are a host of collar-worn trackers which can pinpoint where your pet is at any given time using Global Positioning System (GPS). PitPat makes such a device that beams your dog’s location straight to your phone for £149. It also measures activity and counts calories, without the need for an extra subscription. For cats, there’s the smaller-sized Weenect (£50 + subscription starting at £3.75) and the lighter Tabcat (£100) trackers.
That’s all well and good for when your cat is roving around your neighbours’ gardens, or when your pup is out with a dog-walker. But what if you want to keep an eye on your pet while you’re at work?
Here, you can use an indoor camera: Petcube’s £50 cam lets you watch your pets in full HD, can automatically switch to night vision, and lets you talk to your cuddly buddy using two-way audio. You can also ensure that only your tabby can enter your home with a microchip cat flap that currently costs £58.49 online.
Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from simply using existing gadgets (such as an Apple AirTag) for no-frills location tracking, or a Ring security camera for added peace of mind while you are out.
Don’t get carried away, though. Pet tech “mustn’t be seen as a replacement for human care and attention,” says Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) senior scientific officer Jane Tyson. “It is really important owners are mindful of the limitations as well as the potential benefits of technology when choosing to use it.”
Pet health and fitness
Wearables for pets go beyond GPS trackers to include smart collars that offer health stats, and could even allow you to spot an ailment before it gets worse. Tractive makes activity tracking devices for cats and dogs that offer calorie counting, sleep scores including comparisons with other breeds, and let you set fitness goals for your pets. The £12 rolling monthly subscription means the £45 device doesn’t come cheap, though you can pay less if you sign up for a year or more. Buyers can also take advantage of live location alerts, and a geofencing feature that notifies you when your pet strays beyond a pre-set boundary.
Both the PitPat and Weenect devices mentioned above also boast activity tracking. If you don’t mind waiting, a company called Invoxia is developing what it touts as the world’s first “biometric health collar” for dogs. This features heart and respiratory rate monitoring. The device is due to be released in the first quarter of this year.
Beyond gadgets, you can use an app to monitor your dog’s poops for signs of health issues — at least that’s what Dogiz claims it can do. To help your pet get a good rest, you can snap up a smart bed that lets you control its temperature — and shows you a sleeping calendar based on usage — from an app.
The worst thing about owning a pet is having to clean up after it. While there are several cat litter robots that can do most of the hard work for you, they don’t come cheap.
Whisker’s pod-like devices start from £539 for the Litter-Robot 3, which autonomously sieves out clumps of waste into its tray for you to dispose of. It even claims to banish odours.
For £40 more, you can purchase the Litter-Robot 3 Connect that syncs with an app to show your kitty’s toilet habits — and pings you when the drawer is full.
No more digging through dust-billowing litter for nuggets of cat excrement for you.
Though Whisker claims to have the highest-rated self-cleaning litter box, there are several alternatives on Amazon, including PetKit’s £470.53 device that has a 4-star rating after more than 1,400 reviews.
Meal times can also be a headache for pet owners, especially if you own multiple pets with dietary restrictions. Thankfully, there are a wide variety of automatic pet food dispensers that can make sure your cat or dog is well fed when you’re at work or on holiday.
PetSafe’s £132 battery-powered dispenser can dish out wet and dry meals up to 12 times a day ranging from 29 millilitres to 940ml, making it suitable for most routines. You can even pop it in the dishwasher to clean.
Others also let you record short voice messages to play back to your cat or dog, enticing them to eat at the right time. While a microchip pet feeder, like this one from SureFlap (£115), can ensure the right food type is served to the right pet.
For those on a budget, you can grab this pared-back food dispenser for £25.49 that features two bowls that can be set to open at the same time or separately.