Whether you’re a pet pro with a collection of perfectly-behaved animals and ambitions to win Crufts, or the proud new owner of a cute kitty or pup, there’s a gadget that can make your life a little bit easier.
Maybe you’re fed up of wearing more pet hair than jumper, or doling out pet food. Perhaps you stayed up all night worrying where your cat has got to. Whatever the problem or minor annoyance, technology can help, and there’s generally a device to suit every budget and specific need. Plus, you buy your pet toys all the time, why not get one for yourself for a change?
Here’s our round-up of some of the most game-changing gadgets to help you be the best pet owner you can be.
1. Dog tracker
If you’ve got an overly adventurous Alsatian, a skittish Staffie, or a dog that takes every opportunity to sprint headlong into the trees and do their own thing, a tracker could give you extra peace of mind. These doggie wearables let you see what your pet is doing, and what they’ve done. Some even keep track of what they’re doing and eating, helping you manage their needs better.
For example, the Pawfit 2 is packed with safety features - such as geofencing to tell if your dog strays beyond a certain boundary – plus activity monitoring. This means it will act a little bit like a Fitbit for man’s best friend, which might be extra handy if your pooch has packed on the pounds and needs some extra exercise!
There’s a broad mix of tracker available to suit most budgets, so you can invest in an all singing all dancing model if you want an insight into much of your dog’s existence, or a value-led option that will simply tell you where they are in an emergency. You can check out our buying guide to help you choose one.
2. Pet camera
If you miss your pet at work, or want to find out exactly who has been destroying the sofa, a pet camera is a great solution to keep you constantly connected to your pet and give you peace of mind when you’re out of the house.
As well as enabling you to keep an eye on your cute cat or even your adorable anaconda, some hi-tech cameras let you ‘chat’ to them and even offer a treat. “More mice Sssssidney?” As well as helping you feel more connected, the cameras can be a godsent to anxious pets in need of reassurance and can be great for stimulation to stop them getting bored (and destructive). Some models even allow you to play with your pets from afar, by using a safe laser for them to chase, or a connected smart toy.
Check out our buying guide for a pick of the best, including the PetCube Play 2, which is a compact, hi definition camera that lets you chat with your pet and has Alexa built in so you can play them soothing music and more.
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- Furbo pet camera review
3. Automatic cat feeder
Feeding your pet can be a chore. And while an automatic feeder can’t save you from spilling getting meaty chunks or breathing in their rich aroma (eew!) it means one less thing to think about when it comes to scheduling mealtimes. Some even allow you to schedule several meals for your pet, or drop some treats. But there are some considerations.
Some feeders will only dispense dry kibble or a single meal, some are built to cater for more than one kitty and the most hi-tech automatic feeders work with a phone app, but these will set you back more than £150.
Our buying guide looks at some of the best options on the market that are designed to suit most budgets and kitty cat tastes and includes the Surefeed sealed pet bowl. It offers all the key benefits of an automatic cat feeder for a good price, including a lid that can detect movement and open for your pet, plus a sealed bowl to hold wet food. This feature should keep your cat’s food perfectly moist, reduce waste and stop those nasty meaty smells wafting around your home. You can thank us later!
- Best automatic cat feeder: purfect for hungry cats
4. Vacuum for pet hair
Whether you have a hamster or a St Bernard, pet hair seems to get everywhere. It’s annoying if you are constantly covered in the stuff, (and it can look a bit unprofessional at work,) but it can also play havoc with people’s allergies. Even if you do not suffer yourself, it’s always nice to have a clean home and this is where vacuums specially designed for pet hair can help.
Most big brands offer a vacuum designed to suck up fine pet hair effectively, so you’ll of course you’ll want to consider size, versatility and affordability as well as features. But, some of the high spec. models are pretty neat.
For example, Miele's C2 Compact promises to banish pet odours with an Active AirClean Filter, while a ‘turbobrush’ takes care of hairs and dander trapped in carpets and soft furnishing. Meanwhile, Vax's ONEPWR Blade 4 Pet vacuum is cordless and comes with a motorised pet tool with tough bristles, making cleaning pet beds and car boots easy. There's even a special floorhead with an antimicrobial treatment on the brush, which might help blitz bacteria and other nasties carried by our furry friends.
Whatever you choose, having some pet-specific features and attachments can only make one of the most arduous and common household chores a bit easier.
- Best pet vacuums: the top ten vacuums for pet hair
- Hoover Telios Extra Pet vacuum cleaner review: an – ahem – pawfect partner for pet owners
5. Pet DNA test
You probably know all your pet's funny habits and definitely their favourite food, but how about their heritage or their health?
Unfortunately, doggy DNA tests won't reveal whether your King Charles Spaniel's descendants were once in-line to the throne, but they could tell you which breeds make up your beloved crossbreed. This might be of special interest if you have a rescued a hound you know next to nothing about (except that they are awesome) or are curious about your pet's unusually long ears or shaggy coat, for example.
However, DNA tests can also be used to confirm a pure breed or designer hybrid is what you think, which might be important for breeding. They can also pinpoint potential illnesses by checking whether your pet’s breed carries genetic mutations. The more expensive DNA tests tend to test against more dog genotypes (350 breeds, types and varieties in the case of Wisdom Panel, for example,) for a more accurate picture.
Doggy DNA tests work much like the human ones do. After registering your kit, you simply take a swab of doggy and follow instructions to send it off. The sample is then analysed and in a matter of weeks, owners will then receive an email showing them a breakdown of their pet’s breed makeup. Move over ‘Who do you think you are!’
- Best dog DNA test: discover your dog’s heritage with these home-testing kits
6. Cat Tracker
Cats can be elusive and private characters, but a tracker can give you a peek into their world. Plus, if your cat ever goes missing - which sadly, a third of feline pets do at some point – it could help you get them home quicker.
A cat tracker lets you know exactly where your pet is, and sometimes where they have been. Just how far depends on whether the tracker uses Bluetooth or a SIM card, for example. Other considerations when picking one include their size and whether they come with an app, allowing you to keep up with your cat’s capers from abroad, for example.
Owners can choose from different types of tech, whether a tracker has a SIM card inside (and require a monthly fee to work) and whether they want to splash extra cash on lifestyle features, such as analysing a kitty’s napping and play patterns.
As with all these things, a big consideration is budget, and small trackers and long ranges tend to cost more. Our Buying Guide rounds up the best on offer, including the Tractive GPS collar, which acts like a Fitbit by monitoring the calories your kitty burns, as well as their location, which might be handy of Tibbles has got a bit tubby and you want to keep them fit and healthy.
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