Pet Tech: What’s Worth It?



January 19, 2021

Americans spent $99 BILLION on their pets in 2020. And yes, the biggest chunk of that was on necessities like food and treats (yes, treats are a necessity, almost any Bivvy pet parent would tell you). But that number keeps growing higher year-over-year, and rounding it out evermore is pet tech—things like cameras, treat-tossers, and battery operated toys. This increasing pet-spend shows that we are increasingly treating our pets like our children—like tiny humans worthy of our constant attention and some level of entertainment when we can’t be with them. So how much of the pet tech offerings out there are worth your hard-earned money?

Pet Cameras, Treat Dispensers, and Battery-Operated Toys

Nursery cameras and similar monitors for babies came first, and the trend quickly trickled down for our fur children.

With celebrity Instagram influencers singing its praises, the Furbo is probably the first pet camera that comes to your mind. It does come with excellent reviews, and is expensive by most standards, but not the most expensive pet camera on the market.

This diffuser-looking camera connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth and an app, has a wide-angle lens with night vision, high-quality video, a two-way microphone, and AI that can “learn” what motions indicate that your particular pet is experiencing some kind of distress, and alert you via smartphone notification.

Alternatives to the Furbo include Pawbo, the Skymee Owl Robot (which can move around), Wyze (the most budget-friendly), and Petcube. The average price of the handful of the most popular pet cameras is $139. According to a New York Times article, the Wyze, coming in at $26 on Amazon, while not a pet-specific camera, does all you need.

Pet-specific cameras have the added bonus of more features that let you interact remotely with your pet (like two-way audio and motion detectors), but this means an often bigger, and always more expensive, camera.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Petcube, which runs between $250 and $300 on Amazon, and is, like the Furbo, a camera and a treat-tosser, but with some upgrades. This kind of technology allows you to interact (by treat-tossing and talking) with your pet when you’re away, which can curb separation anxiety (for you both J). Beside the expense, one con is that anxious or reactive pets may not care for technology that talks at them, tosses treats to them, or moves around, like the Skymee Owl Robot.

Additionally, battery-operated toys can be a great move for your pet, whether it be a tennis ball launcher for dogs or a flopping fish or programmable wand toy that spins around a column for cats. While you’re busy, your dog can play ball (and you don’t have to touch the slobbery thing! Win-win!), and your feline can get some enrichment without you having to lift a finger. One con is that the novelty may not last for long.

In Conclusion…and a Few For the Road

Pet tech, generally speaking, is wonderful for relieving your pet’s boredom, and staving off any destructive behavior. Some other options to consider are Whistle, a pet tracking technology that’s trending upwards. It would come in terribly handy if your pet were to ever get lost, as it tracks their location. But for day-to-day life, it functions as a pet FitBit, keeping a record of their activity levels, and indicating to you whether more activity is needed to keep them healthy.

And depending on your specific pet, any of the aforementioned can be a good investment because they exercise your pets’ brains when you’re away, and are interactive and engaging. They provide your loving reassurance in a way, if you’re away or preoccupied.

Smart pet doors are a thing too! One problem with traditional doggie doors is that they can let in any old creature who finds their way to it from outside. A “smart” alternative can be connected to your dog or cat’s microchip, and can be programmed to open only if it recognizes the creature approaching. You can also program it to a schedule, where, if you’re away, your dog is allowed in and out via the opening and closing of the door, at certain times.

So…if you’re working from home and have a guilty conscience because you’re not able to pay much attention to your pet, or you’re away from home, pet tech can be a great way to keep your pet active. A treat-tosser or a battery-operated toy like a ball flinger is great, although not a complete substitute for your love and attention.

And back to that $99 billion spent on pets last year we mentioned at the top…know what the second biggest piece of the pie was? Veterinary care. If you have the disposable income to spend on pet tech, why not consider cat insurance or dog insurance? Bivvy’s pet health insurance covers accidents, blood tests, emergency care, and more. Say, if you’ve programmed your pet camera to detect when your dog or cat is choking or vomiting, and you get an alert, your pocketbook will thank you when you get to the vet. The more you know.  Enjoy your pets and your pet tech this new year!