From pet cams to automated toys, here’s a look at some of the technological tools and devices that enhance the health and happiness of our dogs and cats.
Technology has become such an integral part of our society that it’s hard to imagine life without it. It’s also making big waves in the pet industry, which offers a growing number of state-of-the-art tools and devices that make life easier, healthier and happier for our dogs and cats – and for us. Some of these devices, like microchips, have been around for a while; but others, like smart leashes and GPS collars, are newer innovations. Here’s a look at some of the technological creations that are changing and improving life for our dogs and cats.
Although they’re nothing new, microchips are tiny tech tools that play a big role in animal well-being by helping reunite lost dogs and cats with their families. Most animals adopted from shelters in the US and Canada get microchipped, and veterinarians can also perform the procedure. The size of a grain of rice, a microchip is painlessly inserted into the skin between an animal’s shoulder blades. The name, contact information, and address of the animal parent is then registered with the manufacturer.
If your animal is lost or stolen, you can contact the manufacturer who will then update that information on your dog or cat’s profile. A lost animal brought into a clinic or shelter is scanned for a microchip so he can be reunited with his people.
Did you know?
Each year, approximately ten million dogs and cats are lost in the United States, and only 15% of dogs and 2% of cats in shelters without microchips or other ID are reunited with their families, according to American Humane.
While nanny cams are most commonly used to monitor children, dog and cat parents also use these cameras to keep an eye on their animals while they’re home alone. Pet cams are especially useful for checking in on sick or anxious animals. Many people find that being able to see what their four-legged friends are doing brings them reassurance and peace of mind. Some cameras only allow for one-way communication, but others let your dog or cat see and hear you, which can be comforting for those animals who don’t like being left on their own. Some pet cams are even outfitted with a feature that lets you distribute a treat.
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Outdoor cameras set up around your property not only “watch” for trespassers, but can also capture video of lost or missing dogs and cats, complete with a time stamp of the footage. This surveillance can then be posted to social media sites to assist in the search for these animals.
If you take your dog hiking or camping, and he’s going to be running off-leash, you need to be able to keep tabs on his whereabouts and safety. The same applies to free-roaming cats. A durable, good quality GPS collar fits the bill by allowing you to monitor your animal’s location. Many collars are waterproof, shock-resistant, and have rechargeable batteries. To use a GPS collar, download the app linked to the product for access on your smartphone or other device.
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Locator lights fit on collar straps and can add another layer of protection when it comes to keeping an eye on your dog. They emanate either a solid or blinking light that helps you track your dog at night or in low light conditions.
Automatic litter boxes
No one enjoys scooping and changing cat litter, which is why automatic litter boxes can be such a boon. These devices detect when your cat has used the box and will automatically rake the waste out of the litter and into an enclosed, odor-controlled receptacle that only needs to be emptied out every few days or even less often, depending on the product and how many cats you have.
This means your cat can enjoy clean litter with every visit to his bathroom, reducing the risk of inappropriate elimination outside the box. And you don’t need to worry if you forget to scoop his litter every single day. On the downside, most automatic litter boxes are covered, and not all cats like entering an enclosed space to do their business, so you need to take your feline’s preferences into consideration.
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Some cat litters can provide lifesaving insights into your cat’s health. When his urine comes in contact with this special silica litter, it changes color to indicate if he has high or low urinary pH. Low urinary pH can lead to calcium oxalate (a common cause of kidney stones), while high urinary pH can cause bladder crystal and stone formation. The litter can also detect blood, which points to inflammation, stones, or urinary tract infection.
These are a relatively new innovation, and they have both pros and cons. Current products take the form of retractable leashes, which have a variety of safety concerns and are not generally recommended. On the upside, smart leashes boast a range of futuristic features, including night lights, distance and route trackers, timers, emergency alarms, Bluetooth connections, and/or even phone chargers. Hopefully, as time goes on, other forms of smart leash besides the retractable type will be developed.
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Bluetooth-enabled smart leashes alert you to incoming calls, texts and emails by causing the handle to vibrate, while the timer can be set to let you know when the walk is finished and it’s time to turn back.
Playtime provides both exercise and mental stimulation, and automated toys help fill in the gaps when you’re not available to engage your dog or cat in a game. “I personally like toys that help animals with mental stimulation,” says Mindi Callison, founder of the puppy mill watchdog group Bailing Out Benji.
For example, along with puzzle toys and feeders, you can now buy automatic balls that move on their own and even emit lights and sounds to further pique your animal’s interest. Robotic fish cat toys mimic the look of a fish bowl — with the added allure of flashing lights (and fake fish). For dogs that love fetch, an automatic ball launcher will provide him with hours of fun while saving your throwing arm. Teaching him to return the ball to the launcher so he can activate it himself gives him some extra mental activity.
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Automated toys offer several benefits besides exercise and mental stimulation. They can help combat boredom by providing self-entertainment, especially when your dog or cat is alone; they can relieve stress and anxiety; and they may even prevent unwanted weight gain by keeping your companion busy instead of sleeping when you’re not around.
This article only touches the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how technology is improving and enhancing life for our dogs and cats. We’ll surely see even more amazing innovations in the future!