There is no doubt that we are a nation of pet lovers. Domesticated animals of all types and sizes are spoilt rotten by their indulgent owners.
Dogs and cats are dressed up in designer finery and visit beauty salons. Guinea pigs and rabbits live in gilded palaces compared to the small, draughty hutches they were consigned to in years gone by. Even hamsters and gerbils have had their cages transformed with colourful plastic tubes and sci-fi style houses.
They may already enjoy a pampered lifestyle but now, just like humans, pets are caught up in a furious tech race. Don’t get me wrong. Labradors haven’t given up chasing rabbits in favour of sitting in coffee shops and tapping away on a laptop. But pet tech is big business and those same owners, who once splashed out on doggy clothes and diamante cat collars, are now spending large on the latest gadgets for their favourite hirsute companions.
All of which means developers and inventors are scrambling to produce products that will capture the hearts and wallets of pet owners. Naturally enough most of the new tech is aimed at dogs and cats but here I’ve rounded up the seven most useful, interesting and downright bizarre pieces of pet tech that I could find.
There can’t be a pet owner anywhere that hasn’t wondered what their dog, cat or gerbil gets up to when they are left alone in the house. Often the chewed sofa, broken vase or scratched door gives us a clue when we return home but Petcube lets us keep an eye on our pets no matter where we are.
A compact aluminium unit houses a 138º wide angle camera which streams HD video to a smartphone keeping you connected with your pet even if you are at work or dining out. But Petcube is more than just a camera. It includes a two-way microphone and speaker so you can communicate with your dog; “Fido – stop eating the sofa”. There is also a programmable laser light that dogs and cats will love chasing for remote play sessions.
They may be very cute and the stars of a million and one YouTube videos but cats are messy little…..felines. Yes, they are good enough to use a litter tray (most of the time) but they are disgusting, smelly and horrible to clean (the tray, not the cat). But, fear not kitty lovers, help is at hand. ScoopFree is a self-cleaning litter box and quite possibly Nirvana for cat owners. Simply load it up with litter and ScoopFree automatically sweeps and locks away waste and banishes odour. What’s not to like?
Many of us wear fitness bands or smartwatches and compulsively track our steps, heart rate and calories expanded. Voyce does the same thing for your dog. The band fits comfortably around the neck of any size canine and does everything a human’s Fitbit or Jawbone can do. As well as measuring metrics such as distance travelled and calories burned it will also monitor vital signs and even help your vet identify heart and respiratory problems earlier than would otherwise be possible.
When pets are left on their own they need to be fed. And that of course is a problem. Leave a day’s food out for a dog and it will be snaffled before you are out of the door. But you can’t just leave Rover a tin opener with strict instructions not to eat until lunch time. So what’s the answer? Glad you asked.
Introducing the Feed and Go automatic pet feeder. Able to hold up to six cups of wet or dry food the device can be programmed from a smartphone or tablet to feed your dog, cat or partner at scheduled times or for one off meals. There is even a voice recorder so you can leave a message for your pet and a built in camera for keeping an eye on your mutt or puss while they eat.
Enjoy listening to music while you are out walking or running? Why not let your dog take the strain and share your music with you and everyone else for that matter? Believe it or not The Woofer is a dog coat with two built in 30-watt speakers. There is even a holder for your MP3 player or smartphone. Of course, blasting hip hop from your dog’s hindquarters will probably make you the most unpopular person in the park, but it will elevate Fido’s street cred no end. Still, I’m not convinced we will see this on the best sellers list anytime soon.
Cats are mischievous little tykes who enjoy nothing more than batting a ball around or flicking their paws at bits of plastic on a string. But why not introduce some variety into little Tibbles playtime? SHRU is an interactive toy that will keep your cat entertained for hours on end.
Essentially a hard plastic egg with a tail SHRU is better than it sounds. Charged by USB the device will interact with the cat by buzzing around all over the place and entertaining kitty with its various play modes and sounds.
Dog owners talk to their pets. The dog talks back by offering his paw, pulling adorable facial expressions and nudging his feed bowl with his nose. But what if your pooch could really jabber? And what if you didn’t need to be Doctor Doolittle to understand him? Now it’s really happening. No More Woof translates your dog’s thoughts into English (of course it does).
You, like I, may be sceptical, and who wouldn’t be? But the inventors of the device claim it can interpret an animal’s brain waves before outputting them as words through a loudspeaker. No More Woof looks like some sort of medieval torture device and its whole premise is quite frankly preposterous. No doubt they will sell thousands.