As a pet parent, I want to know that Chilly, our 3-year-old Labrador–Dalmatian mix, and our two cats, Olivia and Turtle, are safe and sound when I’m away from home. I’m not alone. Sixty-eight percent of U.S. households have a four-legged family member in residence, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA). That’s just over 180 million dogs and cats! Additionally, 90 percent of pet owners surveyed by Petfinder.com said they consider their pet a family member and three out of four feel guilty and worry about leaving pets home alone while at work or traveling.
The popularity of pets and our deep devotion to them has created a need for high-tech solutions to manage their safety, care, and comfort. With that said, I should also add that the need for my pets to be entertained is just as important—for the preservation of their sanity and protection of my furniture!
Here are some of my favorite techie tools that help keep my fabulous four-footers safe and comfortable—and even help me with a little “remote” training!
An amazing new tech tool is XFINITY Home, a broadband- and cloud-based platform that offers next-generation home security, control and energy management features that allow you to remotely manage your home, and even your pet’s wellbeing, from anywhere at any time.
Pet owners can stay connected to their home and family (of course that includes our pets!) through the use of an interactive web portal, mobile devices, and the free Xfinity Home app.
In addition to 24/7 professional monitoring, XFINITY Home offers an expanding suite of home control and remote energy management services that include lighting controls, digital thermostats, live video monitoring, custom text and e-mail alerts, remote arming and disarming capabilities, and water and carbon monoxide sensors.
How does that translate to critter care? With XFINITY Home, you can access live streaming video of your home via a wireless cameras from your computer, tablet or smartphone. You can monitor your dog’s behavior while you’re away, or just check in and make sure she is safe and happy. You can also receive text or email alerts when doors at home open and close—confirming if the pet sitter arrived on time and stays for the expected length of time—and you can even remotely disarm your door for the dog walker.
When I was PR Director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in Tampa Bay, I saw and heard more than my share of heartbreaking stories about missing pets. Hundreds of thousands of pets go missing every year, and according to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, only 15 to 20 percent of lost dogs and only two percent of lost cats are ever returned to their owners. (Note: Get your pet microchipped!)
I’ve outfitted Chilly with what I consider a life saver: a lightweight pet GPS tracking device, Tagg–The Pet Tracker, which attaches to his collar and lets me locate and track him using my computer or smartphone. I created Chilly’s very own Tagg zone, surrounding our home, and if he isn’t in the zone, the Tagg will alert me and let me know precisely where my furry ball of energy is at any time. I can also track his activity level with its newly launched feature!
Living in the hot state of Florida, I am always conscious of the need for ALL of my pets to have access to clean, fresh water 24/7 whether I am home or not. Chilly and the kitties enjoy fresh, filtered water from their Drinkwell 360 Stainless Steel Pet Fountain.
Not only to the multiple free-falling streams of water entice them to drink more water and stay hydrated, but I also have a relaxing water feature right in my kitchen! Also, if the day turns a lot hotter than expected, you can use XFINITY Home’s automation tools to adjust the thermostat from your office for your pet’s comfort.
While I do most of Chilly’s training in person, we are working on his manners “remotely” with treats using the PetSafe Train & Praise, a handheld remote that activates a treat dispenser from up to 25 feet away, so Chilly’s good behavior can immediately be rewarded. I use it to keep Chilly away from the door when a visitor arrives, but it’s also useful to reward pets for not barking, and for many other training purposes. The treat dispenser can be mounted to a wall or free standing, has a low battery indicator, and is AC adapter compatible.
From automatic tennis ball cannons to interactive laser toys, motion control toys can provide hours of fun for your pets while you’re away from home. Kitties Olivia and Turtle enjoy hours of satisfying playtime whether I am home or not, with their FroliCat DART laser toy that has an automatic rotating laser light that moves in a circle that jumps around and randomly switches directions. It’s perfect for pets who will spin in a circle to catch the laser like my Turtle (who is not as slow moving as his name suggests). Talk about a ballet show!
Because Olivia and Turtle can’t resist things with wings, when I am home they provide us with our own furry sitcom when we access the Friskies’ Happy Wings mobile app in which birds, moths and butterflies dance across the screen. Crazy Cat is another of the growing number of mobile apps that are created especially to provide interactive frisky fun for felines and their owners!