Last year, 3.2 million Brits became pet owners for the first time, with numbers soaring through the pandemic. There are now more than 17 million animals scampering around homes in the UK, according to data from insights specialist Consumer Intelligence.
And, as offices reopen and our working patterns change, that also means millions of pet owners – some of whom are new to animal care – facing the prospect of leaving their new animals alone during the working day for the first time.
It’s never been a better time for the tech world to step up – and so it has. Enter a new wave of wearable pet tech and pet-friendly gadgets to help pet owners care for their new family members.
Here’s a round-up of the radical new innovations making it easier for us to parent our pets.
This smart collar for your dog does double duty as a behaviour tracker to help diagnose a health problem before it starts.
It comes from a three-year study conducted by Mars Petcare veterinarians, researchers and scientists, who studied more than 5,000 videos from 2,500 dogs submitted by owners (more than 11 million days of pets playing), to understand what various behaviour changes – and eventual vet appointments – added up to.
The Whistle device will analyse your dog’s everyday activities like eating, drinking, scratching, licking or shaking to establish ‘normal’ behaviour, then the device will notify you if your dog’s individual activity has changed.
Based on data from many other pets who did the same thing, it predicts what this might indicate healthwise and allow owners to investigate as needed.
Dr Darren Logan, head of research at Mars Petcare’s Waltham Petcare Science Institute likens it to ‘a fitness tracker with a doctor’s analysis.’ ‘This is a new era of proactive, preventive care,’ he says. ‘Today we are very much living connected lives, which includes our pets and how we care for them.’
For now it’s only dogs that can benefit, but the team is planning a feline phase very soon.
Whistle Collar, starts at £143, Whistle
The Cat Robot
Guess what? It turns out that cats get lonely too. Billing itself as a ‘smart robot companion for your cat’, this nifty gadget is designed to prevent loneliness and boredom. Ebo is a small round robot ball that meanders around calling out ‘Ebo’ while at the same time filming your cat, delivering clear images back to your smartphone so you can check in. Meanwhile, numerous functions, from a laser game to a webcam and audio feed, work similarly to the Petcube.
The AI tech means it adapts its play to your cat’s personality, while the self-timer allows you to set playtime around naps.
The robot wakes up to play and then returns itself to its charger. Great for indoor cats who need entertainment, as it can be used to train them and track their exercise.
Ebo Pro, £259, Ebo Pro
Interactive dog bone
This smart bone will play with your dog to help to entertain them when you’re away from home, or to entertain you all when you’re there.
Many pets will be used to having their owners at home to play tug of war with them – so if you’re having to go back to the office, you can leave their bone to give them playtime while you work.
Works just as well indoors on carpet as outdoors on grass. Nice and sturdy – plus you can put some treats in the end for added enjoyment. Recharge the bone using a USB cable.
Interactive dog bone, £39.99, amazon.co.uk
The DNA Decoder
Building on the best-in-class Artificial Intelligence (AI) methods and the largest dog DNA database in the world, this test is the most accurate dog DNA test on the market.
Developed by world-leading geneticists, the simple-to-execute saliva test lets you find out more about your pet’s health and history – for example if your pet has genetic conditions related to drug sensitivities, vision, weight, mobility, and more.
There are 200+ health tests included – including those to identify the ideal weight range, the breed mix down to 1% and to trace your dog’s ancestry back to their great-grandparents.
Dog DNA Test from £89.99, Wisdom Panel
The Video Vet
Video consultations became the norm during lockdowns, for all of us – and they’re not going anywhere when it comes to pets. A new web-based app called Dogtastic offers instant access to inexpensive, personalised veterinary advice. Members can chat with qualified vets via live video or live text to get quick advice and cut down on costly in-person visits.
Dogtastic Video Vet, unlimited digital visits for the first year, £24, Dogtastic
Pet Sleep and Step tracker
The FitBark2 activity and sleep will monitor your dog’s everyday activity and turn that data into actionable health insights.
Ever wondered how much your dog really sleeps in a day? The FitBark will tell you. It will also let you know if they are sleeping more or less than usual, to alert you to potential health issues. The activity tracker will let you know how many steps your pet is doing – and can sync that information up with FitBit, Apple HealthKit or Google Fit devices so the two of you can compete.
Has a battery life of 6 months and weighs 10g.
FitBark2, £59, fitbark.com