Keeping tabs on your furry friends has turned high-tech, writes Roger Crosthwaite.
Every pet owner must eventually ask themselves: when is the right time for my dog or cat to get their first smartphone? No? Not quite ready for that? You could be right. Until someone finally invents paw-sensitive touchscreens or meow-recognition software, that’s something you won’t have to address.
But, for good or ill, smartphone technology has already invaded the world of household pets. Technophobes may blanch at the idea, but if a GPS-equipped collar sending information to your phone could save you the heart-in-mouth panic of a missing pet, then why not?
The makers of the Australian-developed Pod ($255, petbarn.com.au) proclaim their device to be the world’s smallest and lightest GPS pet-tracker. It’s a gizmo the size of a wine cork that attaches to your pet’s collar and relays the animal’s location back to your smartphone or computer. It can even send you an alert when your pet leaves a predetermined area.
Taking the helicopter-owner concept one step further are Bluetooth-enabled collars such as the Kyon Pet Tracker (kyontracker. com), seen above left, and the Felcana (felcana.com), both set to launch soon. They can locate your pet and monitor its habits throughout the day. You’ll know whether they’re eating or drinking too much or too little, snoozing the day away or pacing frantically, and even how often they go to the toilet. Which may be just a little too much information, actually.
If you’d like to literally view the world from your canine’s perspective, there’s the Fetch dog harness ($65, gopro.com), pictured above right. This allows you to mount any GoPro camera to your dog’s back or chest in order to get a mutt’s-eye view of things.
But what if your pet is the couch-potato type and it’s you who’s on the prowl? You can touch base with your stay-at-home ball of fur thanks to a variety of monitoring devices, the daddy of which is the Skypelike PetChatz Greet & Treat video phone (about $496, amazon.com). You can share some face time and have a chat with your pet over the two-way audio and video link – and even have the device dispense treats.
It can be supplemented with the PetChatz PawCall (about $130, amazon.com), which is, as you may already have guessed, a paw-activated control that allows your pet to initiate the call. Yes, you can be nuisance-called by your own pet.
If that’s all too much too soon, the wi-fi-enabled Petzi Treat Cam (about
$222, amazon.com) keeps it simpler, with a one-way video link so you can see what your pet is up to, an audio link so they can be soothed by your voice, and a slot that dispenses comestibles on your command.
Other variations on the theme are the Petcube Interactive Wi-Fi Pet Camera ($349, petbarn.com.au), which includes a remote-operated laser toy to amuse your housebound pal, and the Petnet Smart Feeder (about $194, amazon.com), which allows you to set and change feeding times from a phone and check whether or not your pet has actually eaten.
Ultimately, though, one wonders whether an app-y pet is a happy pet. Looks like we’ll have to wait for that bark-translation download to find out.