Given the popularity of smart products for humans, it’s no surprise that pet tech products are hotter than ever. Whether you turn to smart feeders and litter boxes or activity trackers and GPS homing devices, connected pet products can help you monitor your cat’s health, feed her when you’re away from the house and even check in via video conference. Let’s look at some of the latest high-tech product trends created just for kitty.
Automatic pet feeders have been around for some time. Today’s feeders, however, are totally connected, providing greater control over how you feed your cat when you’re away.
Some smart pet feeders, like Sure PetCare’s SureFeed, go beyond simply allowing you to feed your cat while you’re away from the house. Using a cat’s existing microchip, the SureFeed allows you to feed different cats different foods, monitor how much each cat ate and when they ate, as well as block one cat (or dog) from eating another cat’s food, making it ideal for multi-pet households. For cats who are not microchipped, the SureFeed comes with lightweight RFID tags that can be affixed to the cat’s collar.
If you have a cat on a special diet (such as prescription or weight management) not only can you stop them from stealing each other’s food, you can rest assured that the right cat is getting the right food, says Clare Fuller, senior marketing manager for Sure PetCare. “Additionally, as cats’ feeding behaviors vary, you may have a cat that likes to eat quickly and another cat that likes to graze. By having selective feeding, this can ensure a stress-free feeding regime.”
Smart feeders are convenient and, when used properly, they enhance your ability to care for your cat, but make sure you keep up the attention time. “The downside of automatic feeders is they take away a component of human-animal interaction,” says Travis Taylor, DVM, medical director of VCA Centreville Animal Hospital in Centreville, Virginia. “The act of feeding your pet is part of bonding. It is also a time to check in, monitoring your pet’s eating habits. It is best practice to know how much your pet is eating, and if they are having any trouble consuming their food.”
Note: If you have multiple cats and one has a serious food-guarding issue, discuss the situation with a feline behaviorist before changing feeders. Observe your cats with any new product to ensure that all goes smoothly.
Although automatic litter boxes have been around for decades, they continue to improve, with fancier features, including connected technology. The fully automatic, self-cleaning Litter-Robot certainly looks like the litter box of the future, and its features make life easier for cats and their people. It cuts out odors, requires no scooping or cleaning other than emptying the waste drawer, and it allows you to remotely monitor and control one or more units via an app. For cats, changes in litter-box habits are often one of the signs of a health problem. The Litter-Robot provides usage statistics via the app so you can stay alert to potential health issues.
Smart products for your kitty should enhance your human-cat bond NOT replace time with your cat.
First-generation pet cams simply offered you a peek at what your cat was doing while you were away. Not anymore! Interactivity is a hot feature, with many pet cams offering video chat and remote treat dispensers. The PetCube Play 2 offers a unique interactive experience. The pet cam lets you see and talk to your cat, and is also equipped with a laser toy that you can activate remotely to play with your cat when you’re not home, helping to increase her daily exercise.
Activity trackers like the FitBit are commonplace in the human world, and dog owners have jumped on the bandwagon. You might be surprised to learn that activity trackers can be great for cats, too. These “wearables,” as they’re known in the industry, are lightweight devices that attach to your cat’s collar and transmit data about your cat’s activities throughout the day. The most basic wearable devices simply track a cat’s activity, but wearables with GPS tracking capability, like Whistle, allow you to pinpoint exactly where your cat is when she’s wearing the collar — a great feature for indoor/outdoor cats or even indoor-only escape artists.
“For cats that venture outside, Whistle is great for owners who want a better understanding of where their cat wanders and the places they frequent,” says Kathy Barnes, chief marketing officer at Whistle. “For indoor cats, Whistle can track their activity levels to get a better understanding of their habits and changes that can indicate possible health issues.”
Turns out that cat paws work surprisingly well on smartphone and tablet screens. Companies have caught on, creating games designed specifically for cats to play. The Friskies Cat Fishing 2 app, which entices your cat to “catch” colorful fish as they “swim” on the screen, is just one of many fun feline games. The more fish your cat catches, the more challenging the game becomes. To find app games for your cat, simply google “cat app games.”
Something to consider when choosing smart products for your cat is whether it enhances your cat-owner relationship or takes away from your awareness of what’s going on with your pet. “If the technology simply makes it easier for the human, then it is best to decide if is going to be used for a short period of time or if it is something that may weaken the human-animal bond that we all strive to strengthen,” Dr. Taylor says.