Tech for your pets
You have all of the best gadgets on the block, so why shouldn't your pet be equally tech-savvy? We've rounded up the coolest and weirdest innovations in technology for pets, from the useful to the absurd.
Drinkwell Pet Fountain Owners will attest: Cats almost always prefer to drink out of a dripping faucet rather than from their water bowl. This inclination isn't simply quirky behaviour; feral by nature, cats are drawn by instinct to the sound of falling water. Thankfully, a vet recognized this and invented the Drinkwell Pet Fountain. Available in four models--Original ($50), Platinum ($70), Big-Dog ($75), and 360 ($65; shown above)--the Drinkwell Pet Fountain provides a free-falling stream of water that continuously filtrates and aerates, keeping it much fresher than a stagnant bowl of water. (Something that's great for dogs, too, of course.) Many cats don't get nearly as much water as they need, so the Drinkwell Pet Fountain is a good investment. Not only will it increase hydration and health, but it will also discourage your cat from jumping on the counter in search of a leaky faucet.
Litter-Robot Automatic Cleaning System Cleaning your cat's litterbox can be a gross and annoying task, but thankfully there's Litter-Robot. No, Litter-Robot isn't a little Jetsons-esque robot that rolls in and cleans the litterbox for you. The Litter-Robot is a dome-shaped box that automatically sifts waste clumps from the litter. All electrical components are located in the base of the box, so your cat is completely safe using Litter-Robot. It also has a sensor, so it won't start cleaning while kitty is inside. Cleanliness comes at a cost, however: The Litter-Robot is a hefty $330. It's available online at the Litter-Robot Web site.
AquaVista 500 Computerized Fish Tank Ever wanted a tropical fish tank, but didn't have time for all of the maintenance that goes into keeping one? The AquaVista 500 has an embedded LCD panel that allows you to control and monitor filtration, temperature, oxygen, and lighting. All of the aquarium technology is built right into the system, so you don't need to worry about hassling with a complex setup or buying extra parts. Measuring 26 by 26 by 4 inches, the AquaVista 500 hangs on your wall like a painting or a flat-screen TV. The time you need to spend on regular maintenance for freshwater tropical fish is as low as 15 minutes a month; saltwater fish require about 10 minutes of attention per week. The AquaVista 500 costs US$330 and is sold online, at specialty pet stores, and in various catalogs.
Yume Neko Smile Robotic Kitty Still think taking care of a pet is too much work? No worries--Sega Toys has you covered. Yume Neko Smile (translates to "Dream Cat Smile") purrs, meows, blinks its eyes, and moves its head. Don't pull the tail, though, or else it'll hiss at you. With hidden sensors beneath the fur, Yume Neko Smile is incredibly lifelike--and a little creepy. Yume Neko Smile is currently available only in Japan, but you can find it at some specialty online stores that sell Japanese products in the United States.
Zoombak Advanced GPS Dog Locator Have an overly energetic pup that bolts as soon you open the door? Keep your sanity and invest in a Zoombak Advanced GPS Dog Locator. The lightweight (2.5 ounces) and water-resistant device uses satellite and cellular technologies to help you find your dog and bring it home safely if it runs away or is abducted. You can pinpoint your dog's location via Zoombak.com, on a mobile phone, or through the company's customer-care centre. Additionally, you can monitor your sprightly pet's location in real time with Zoombak's continuous-tracking option: Simply log on to the Zoombak Web site and set up and activate customized safety zones. If your dog leaves a designated safety zone, you will be alerted immediately by text or e-mail. Unfortunately, small-dog enthusiasts and cat owners are excluded from this product; Zoombak Advanced GPS Dog Locater is recommended for dogs weighing 15 pounds and up. It costs $200 and is available at electronics stores or online.
Pet’s Eye View Digital Camera See the world from your dog or cat's point of view with Uncle Milton's Pet's Eye View digital camera. The ultracompact and water-resistant digital camera clips to your pet's collar like an ID tag. Be forewarned, however, that you should attach the camera only to flat nylon or leather collars; chains or rolled collars may create a choking hazard. The internal memory stores up to 40 photos, and you can set the timer to take a picture automatically every 1, 5, or 15 minutes. The camera includes a USB charger, a USB cable, and a rechargeable lithium ion battery. The Pet's Eye View camera is available at various online retailers for $40.
Meowlingual and Bowlingual Pet Translators Want to know what your pets really think about you? Well, I don't, but apparently some people do. Japan-based Takara Tomy has come out with two electric consoles, the Meowlingual and the Bowlingual (for cats and dogs, respectively), that translate all of your pet's deepest thoughts and feelings. Each device's technology slots a meow or bark into one of six standardized emotion categories (the categories differ between species) and then announces a humorous phrase to represent that emotion. For example, if your cat lets out a meow while you're lovingly petting it, Meowlingual will announce "I can’t stand it!" And all that time, you thought it liked being scratched behind the ears. An English version of Bowlingual released in the United States with limited success, but Meowlingual never made it over. Unless your cat speaks Japanese (and you understand it), you probably won't want to fork out $75 plus overseas shipping for the device.
PetsCELL Mobile Phone for Your Dog You've already upgraded to the iPhone 3G, so now it's Fido's turn. The PetsCELL PetsMobility is a voice-enabled, waterproof, GPS cell phone optimized for animals. Thanks to the GPS technology combined with the two-way communication, you can track a runaway pet or receive an alert when your pup wanders beyond the programmable geofence-boundaries you can set up for your dog on the PetsMobility Web site. The water-resistant device has a microphone and a speaker in case you want to chat with your dog while it's away. On the more practical side, the device also has Call Owner and Call Center buttons, so if somebody finds your dog, they can notify you that it's safe. The system has an external temperature sensor and a USB port too, so you can download the dog's current location. This cell phone costs quite a bit more than the iPhone 3G, however, at $400 plus a monthly service fee. You can purchase PetsCELL via the PetsMobility Web site.
iSeePet360 Food Dispenser With Webcam No need to sign up for a posh doggy daycare service--just get an iSeePet360 food dispenser! Workaholic owners can use their PC (or phone, if they're in a meeting) to send a command to the iSeePet360 to release dry food for their pet. And if you have an extremely obedient pet whose ears don't instantly perk at the sound of food pouring into their bowl, you can record your voice to let them know that it's time to eat. But beware: Your pet may start loving iSeePet360 more than it loves you. Owners can also keep tabs on their pet's daytime mischief with iSeePet360's built-in Webcam. But honestly, would your boss really let you leave the office because you just saw Fido chewing up your new throw pillows? Get back to work! The iSeePet360 is available only in Japan for approximately $440. It won't walk, hydrate, or play with your pet, however, so you're probably better off with an actual pet sitter.