As a pet owner, you can probably think of dozens of ways your furry friend makes your life more enjoyable and meaningful. Personally, there’s nothing I love more than watching my dog run around the house with her toys, or cuddling up with her on the couch for some episodes of The Americans.
Given animals’ prominent role in our lives, leaving them at home while we go out to do people things can be hard. However, pet cams—connected cameras specifically designed to keep watch over your furry friends—make the human’s absence from the home less stressful for both parties.
Analysts predict the worldwide pet-cam industry will grow at an annual rate of 26 percent from 2017 through 2021 for several reasons, including an overall increase in pet ownership, and the fact that people who have pets say monitoring them to ensure their safety is a primary concern.
If you’ve considered getting a pet camera, there’s no better time than now, when there quite a few good options on the market.
Security Camera or Pet Camera?
Before getting into details about specific cameras, it’s important to clarify the difference between pet cameras and your run-of-the-mill security camera.
Despite the fact than many security cameras may allow you to watch your pet while you’re away from home, security cams don’t actually do anything to improve your relationship with your pet or otherwise meet their needs while you’re gone.
Pet cameras, in contrast, have features designed specifically for the pet owner. They can dispense treats or allow you to interact with your dog or cat using your voice or a type of video chat. They can help address common issues like separation anxiety and boredom, which can lead to destroyed furniture, other kinds of property damage, or undue stress.
I’ve looked at several pet-centric cameras with these types of features. Here are the four cameras I’d recommend.
Furbo Dog Camera
The huge variety of features offered by the Furbo Dog Camera (RATING: 9, $174 on Amazon) makes it the top pet cam on this list.
The Furbo camera is one of the only pet cams developed specifically for dogs. This high-tech cam includes a real-time barking alert that sends a push notification to your phone when your dog speaks up. If your dog is anxious, frightened, or just trying to keep neighborhood squirrels out of your backyard, you’ll get an update prompting you to check in on your four-legged friend. You can also adjust the sensitivity of the alert, and the feature naturally filters out other noises to prevent unnecessary activation. Dogs bark as a form of communication, and many owners can distinguish between various barks, but the Furbo Dog Camera barking alert allows you to know when your dog is distressed without the need for constant monitoring.
Additionally, this camera lets you toss treats to your dog to play with her or reward her while you’re away. Before a treat comes out, the camera emits a clicking sound, modeled after a training clicker. This allows you to continue training your dog even when you’re out of town, and you can continue to emphasize positive reinforcement, letting your dog know if he hears a click, something yummy isn’t far away.
Besides offering a way to speak to your dog and keep an eye on him, the Furbo cam has a light that turns yellow when the device is in sleep mode or blue if you’re using it. Those are the two colors dogs can see, which could help your pet to anticipate interactions with you. (Dogs are smarter than you think!)
Additionally, the Furbo cam has built-in machine-vision technology that can detect different things your dog is doing while your away. These “smart dog alerts” can identify when your dog is playing, running around the house or jumping up on your furniture. While I personally don’t mind if my dog hangs out on the couch with me, this could be especially handy for dog owners who are trying to train this habit out of their pet.
Another benefit of the Furbo’s AI smarts: It can tell the difference between a dog, a person, or an inanimate object. You don’t have to worry about getting bombarded with motion and sound updates from this gadget, as it will only send you dog-related notifications throughout the day.
It can also detect when your dog is facing its camera and will automatically take dog portraits and send them to your phone. It’s pretty much a dog mom’s (or dad’s) dream come true.
Pawbo+ Wireless Interactive Pet Camera
The Pawbo+ pet camera (RATING: 5, $179 on Amazon) is designed to keep track of dogs or cats. This pet cam includes an HD video feed, a two-way talk feature, and remote treating options. There’s also an instant sharing feature that lets you seamlessly post cute photos to social media.
Like many pet owners, you may be worried about your furry friend not getting enough exercise and mental stimulation while you’re away. The Pawbo+ is neat because it has a handy laser game built into that your feline friends will especially enjoy. (However, note that some animal professionals have discouraged the use of such games in the past.)
Although this camera is definitely more pet friendly than your basic security camera, it’s doesn’t have many advanced features to make it stand out among options that cost the same amount.
This next interactive pet cam focuses more on the sensory experience necessary to keep your and your furry friend connected throughout the day.
The Petchatz HD camera (RATING: 6, $370 on Amazon) has two-way video functionality, making it possible for your pet to see you at the same time you see her. This could be a great feature if you pet feels more at ease just by seeing you. However, do note that some pets might actually get more stressed out seeing their human trapped in a tiny screen. (You know your pet best!)
The Petchatz cam also has a sound detector that gives you an alert in the event of a strange noise. This sound detector isn’t adjustable or as specific as the Furbo bark notification system, but may be helpful if you’re worried about your pet getting into mischief throughout the day.
The wall-mounted unit broadcasts recorded visual content, like a television, aiming to keep animals engaged. If your pet doesn’t like to watch TV with you, or even notice a television when it’s on, this feature may not be exceptionally useful.
Moreover, the camera works with an optional calling component that encourages your pet to get in touch with you. You can schedule desired call times in the Petchatz app. Then, a button lights up that a pet presses with its paw to get in touch with you. It might seem like a cool feature, but training a dog—or especially a cat—to use this kind of calling button probably wouldn’t be easy.
While this pet cam does have some neat features, you should be prepared to spend and arm and a leg to use them. The camera sells for just under $380, and if you want the “paw call” feature, that’s an extra $100. Additionally, once you place the Petchatz system in a room, you’re probably going to want to leave it there permanently since instillation involves mounting the camera over a power outlet outlet and then screwing it into a stud in your wall.
Petzi Treat Cam
The Petzi Treat Cam (Rating 6, $169 on Amazon) is fairly straightforward, and it’s both the simplest and more affordable interactive camera option reviewed here.
You can check on your pets throughout the day from any smartphone or tablet, plus speak to them using a high-quality audio feature. There’s no screen on the Petzi, so your dog or cat can’t see you, but they can hear you. And while it has a speaker on it, it does not have a microphone, so you won’t be able to hear your dog or cat. The camera has a nice wide-angle view, though, and it has a night-vision option so you can see pets in dark environments.
While this pet cam doesn’t come with an automatic selfie option, it does allow you to manually snap pictures when you find your pet looking extra adorable. Also, as you might guess from the name, it includes a remote treating option that allows you to send snacks to your pet at any time. It’s a simple option for dropping in and serving up some treats.