Do you really need smart pet tech? Whether furry friends or slithering snakes, we’d do almost anything for our pets. But as work days get longer, living spaces get smaller and our understanding of what makes our animals tick becomes more nuanced, the way we care for our pets is evolving.
Just as smart technology is increasingly making our home lives better, so too can it boost the quality of life for our animal buddies. And, just like with human-focussed tech, whether your pooch will benefit from a gadget or not will likely come down to its individual needs – and your own lifestyle.
An Amazon Echo isn’t for all human ears, and a fitness tracker for Fido might not be appropriate if he’s racking up the dog years. But, a camera so you can keep an eye on him while you’re at work? Or a water dispenser that keeps his dish topped up with fresh H20? Now you’re barking up the right tree.
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1. An automatic ball launcher to up their exercise quota
If it’s good enough for pro tennis players, then an automatic ball launcher is good enough for your pup too. The iFetch ball launcher can chuck out balls at distances of 10, 20 and 30 feet, giving your pooch a runaround without you needing to lift a finger. And, being mains operated, it’s as well equipped for indoor as outdoor play.
Worth it? Yes, if you've got an endlessly playful pet and need a break or to go out.
2. A self cleaning litter box for house cats
Whether you’ve a housecat or a scaredy cat that just can’t face the great outdoors, a litter tray is a must-have for keeping your kitty’s potty business tidily kept where it should be.
But, whichever corner of the house you hide it in, it’s going to leave a bit of an odour, and emptying the thing is the least enjoyable chore of them all.
This PetSafe box takes all the hassle out of it – filled with reusable, liquid-absorbing anti-odour crystals, a motorised rake sweeps all the waste into a hidden compartment, ready to be lifted out without you needing to get your hands dirty.
Worth it? If you're away a lot and rely on neighbours to clean up after your cat, yes. Or if you hate the idea of unclean kitty litter messing up the air while you're out.
3. Furbo: a dog camera with a chat and treat function
Can’t bear to be away from your puppy? Does she get lonely when you’re in the office? There’s no need to be parted at any time thanks to the Furbo Dog Camera treat feeder.
It’s equipped with a 1080p Full HD camera and two way chat function so that you can keep a reassuring eye on your pooch when you’re out and, if it deserves a little something for good behaviour, can fire out a treat for your dog to scoff down.
Worth it? If you need peace of mind while you're out, yes. We're not sure the camera is much of a replacement for a human if you're a dog, though. Ever tried talking to your dog on FaceTime (don't ask)? Point proved.
4. A fresh water pet drinking fountain for hot days
Just like last night’s water on the bedside table doesn’t go down quite as well for us the morning after, so too do our pets prefer a fresh tipple when they go to have a drink.
The Drinkwell Platinum Fountain holds up to five litres of water, and is equipped with a charcoal filter that keeps your pet’s drinking water oxygenated and fresh, with a free-flowing trickle delicately bringing the soothing sound of a stream to whichever room it’s placed in.
Worth it? Yes, if your dog is picky or you can't seem to remember to provide fresh water. Or, of course, if you're away and don't trust your pet sitter to do the job right.
Want a pet feeder, too? Check out the best automatic pet feeders. You'll find plenty more automatic pet water fountains at Argos, too.
5. A dog exfoliator (really, well, sort of)
Think of the Aquapaw as a bit like an exfoliator for your pup. Compatible with both a bath and shower tub or an outdoor hose, it lets you give your dog a good old scrub while controlling the flow of water with a palm-press button.
Combining brush and water flow in one handy (and handheld) component, it’ll make bath time for your pooch easy peasy. Use our guide to cleaning up after a dog for more dog- and house-cleaning tips.
Worth it? Yes, unless your dog has curly hair (think anything with a poodle mix), in which case it will create tangles.
6. A cat spy cam (for you to spy, not the cat)
Ever wondered what your cat gets up to once it’s sneaked out of the catflap and is out on the prowl? Wonder no more – the Eyenimal Petcam will give you a cat’s-eye view of all the feline frolics that your adventuring aristocat encounters on its excursions.
Worn around a collar (so make sure it’s attached safely), you’ll get about five half-hour clips for a total of two hours and 30 mins of cat-directed viewing. While it doesn’t offer a live view of your pet’s playtime, it’s simple to upload your footage to a PC and memory card for watching on your telly.
Worth it? Yes, if you suspect your cat's leading a double life and eating double dinners (as most of them do). Otherwise, we'd prefer a boxset for evening viewing.
7. A smart cat flap to let your puss in and out
Any savvy cat owner will know that an open door or window is fair game for a determined pet (and burglar), but the best smart cat flaps can do a whole lot more than just let your cat in and out of the house, they can significantly add to your peace of mind and, if your cat doesn’t respond well to the presence of other animals, to theirs as well. We think that the best smart cat flap is the original Sureflap, which can register the identification microchips of up to an incredible 32 cats – though it's equally suited to homes with just one, or a handful of kitties.
Worth it? Yes, if it means your cat eats his dinner, rather than next door's cat eating it and making itself at home on your bed.
8. A vacuum cleaner for pet hair
Hey, not all smart pet tech is for the pets: some are for the owners, too. This one is a robot vacuum cleaner that can pick up your pet's hair while you're out or in bed at night. Our favourite robot vac is the Dyson 360 Eye, but base your buying decision on what floor type you have, and what your vacuuming needs are before you decide. Find all our best robot vacuum picks in our buyer's guide. And if you've truly got a pet hair problem, don't miss our best vacuums for pet hair: they're not all smart, but they are all brilliant.
Worth it? If you've got a pet that moults, any vacuum that will a) pick up the pet hair and b) do it while you're out/asleep has to be a bonus.
For more tips on picking up pet hair, don't miss our guide.
9. A robot dog – for pet lovers who can't have pets
Live somewhere where a flesh-and-blood pooch isn’t allowed, but still have enough cash to afford a Crufts-worthy pure breed? Take the future for a walk with the Aibo, the revamped robot dog from Sony.
It may be expensive, but it’s about as advanced as a robot pet has ever been. Cloud connected, with the ability to learn a hundred faces and an almost endless array of tricks, Aibo grows over time thanks to a database of memories.
Responding charmingly to touch and understanding voice commands, it’s all the fun of a mutt, with none of the mess, moulting fur or vets’ bills.
Worth it? Errr... we can't answer that, but if it'd make you happy, we'll be happy for you.
Find more robo-pets on Amazon. You know you want one...