The best tech to get your pet fitter
Is Daisy puffing and panting as she runs to fetch the stick? Or would Tim rather nap than catch literally anything you try and entice him with? If so, then your pet might be too fat.
It seems that it’s not just humans that are getting fatter as a species – it seems our pets are experiencing an obesity crisis every bit as severe, with one study by the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention discovering that 58% of US cats and 53% of US dogs are overweight.
And scarier still, there’s a perception gap where 90% of cat owners and 95% of dog owners don’t even realise their pet is overweight.
So what to do? Luckily, this is where technology can help as there are not just new gadgets that can help us get fit – but help our animals too. It might sound insane or a bit of a gimmick – and some of them are – but there’s some genuine innovation out there which can help us look after our furry housemates better.
Price: $55 USD/ £60GBP / $77AUS
If you imagine Fitbit, but for dogs, you basically have Fitbark. It’s a collar-mounted activity tracker that will keep watch on your pooch.
It’ll log the amount of activity taken and rest taken, you’ll be able to see at a glance what exercise they are getting.
But what really makes it work is the connectivity with other dog owners: You can set fitness plans to try and get your dog as fit as the average dog of the same breed – or even push it to the max and train your dog to "Olympian" standards by making sure they hit the desired amount of exercise.
Just as with Fitbit, you can compete with your friends too to see who can record the most "Bark Points" if you need that kind of motivation.
The data can also be easily shared with vets, meaning that they can make informed judgements on providing the best care when your pet is unwell too.
PetNet SmartFeeder and SmartBowl
Price: $149 USD / £100 GBP / $210 AUS
Of course, getting your animal moving is only half of the battle. The much trickier part of getting fit is making sure you eat the right amount of food, and this is as true for animals as it is for us. Luckily, PetNet has it sorted, with its SmartFeeder and SmartBowl technology which works for both cats and dogs.
The SmartFeeder is a plastic tower which you fill with food, and then use an app to control portions – which can be adjusted automatically according to an app feeding plan.
The SmartBowl, which was unveiled at this year’s CES, works similarly and will use lights to guide you in portion control.
And like all modern tech products, PetNet has also figured out how to bundle it with a subscription service. For a monthly fee, it will regularly post you petfood, so that you’ll never run out, and so that Rover will always have something to eat.
Borrow My Doggy
Price: £44.99/year ( around $64USD/$90AUS) for owners
Technology isn’t just about packing as many sensors into a gadget as possible, but is also about connections. Borrow My Doggy is an app designed to help dog owners ensure their pet is getting as much exercise as it needs – without the burden of having to go out for a walk yourself.
Essentially Tinder for dogs, it will match up dog owners with people who would like to volunteer (for free!) to walk and play with dogs.
So you can kick back and relax, resting assured that Fido is getting his walkies and getting the love he needs so you won’t come home to a distressed pooch.
Using "cat facial recognition technology" (yes, that’s a thing now), when your cat puts its head into the feeder it will spit out the amount of food allocated to that cat by the app.
While there, the base will also weigh the cat and work out how much food is being eaten, so you can keep track of your cat’s vital statistics.
You can even receive notifications when your cat goes to eat – and then tune into a live video stream of the cat chowing down, wherever you are in the world.
The app even has built in community features that lets you compare and share pictures and videos of your cats – because hey, the internet doesn’t have enough cats already.
And if you want to do it cheaper, then an Android phone and a cardboard box means you can use CatFi Box to do a very similar thing in terms of monitoring your cats eating habits.
Price: $199 USD / £140 GBP / $280 AUS
If you want more detailed analytics than the likes of FitBark can offer, then Voyce is a smarter alternative.
This is a collar that can not only track activity, but like the most recent generation of fitness wearables for humans, Voyce will also track the resting heart rate and resting respiratory rate of your dog too – and even the quality of the sleep your pet is getting. If you’re one of those that can’t get enough of what’s going on with the health of your dog, then there’s not a lot this system doesn’t monitor.
It’s a fully fledged "wellness management system", according to its creators – so much so that the company also offers a "Pro" version aimed at Vets that can monitor your pet remotely.
Price: £16.99 / $25USD / $35AUS
Cats are lazy almost by definition, but it is important to make sure they get enough exercise. But if you’re lazy too, then there’s a high-tech solution.
This brand has a variety of tech-based toys for your cat to stay active with, but you know how cats go nuts when they encounter a laser pointer?
Thanks to the Frolicat BOLT, there is now a machine that will shine and move a laser spot around a room for hours at a time.
There’s even a timer so you can set it running for fixed periods of time. Just don’t set it up in the same room as all of your priceless antiques.
Price: £99.99 / $144USD / $200AUS
And what if you want to keep the dog healthy and stimulated while you’re out?
The iFetch will toss out balls for Fido to retrieve over and over – and the batteries will last over 30 hours, meaning that the dog will definitely get tired out before the machine does. Just don’t leave it running overnight if you don’t want to hear galloping about at 3AM.
You get three balls in the box, about 1.5-inch in diameter, with more available to buy – and if you want to get a bit more energetic with your dog (but don’t want to put in the effort) then the forthcoming iFetch Too is bigger and will fire out tennis balls too.
As you can see, there are plenty of gadgets available for cats and dogs, but what about smaller pets? There are loads of us with smaller rodents hidden away in our houses, and sticking a sensor-based collar on an otter simply isn’t going to work.
One hobbyist has stepped in with a running wheel for his hamster – Runningham Palace – which tracks just how much exercise it is getting and you can have one too, but be warned: this is a DIY project.
To make it work, it requires an Arduino and a custom circuit board, and it stores its data using the online open platform for the Internet of Things, ThinkSpeak. It’s incredibly clever – so crack open the soldering iron and monitor your ham’s health, with stats spat out at the end telling you that your hamster needs to run a little more… how you get it to do that, we have no idea.