Snooping on Snoopy – Why you need a smart pet camera

By Erik J. Martin

Ever wonder what your dog or cat does while you’re away from home? While they surely don’t have impossible adventures of the kind depicted in the animated movie “The Secret Life of Pets,” you’re probably still curious as to how Fido or Fluffy responds when you walk out the front door, especially if your furry friend is an anxious type or engages in undesirable behaviors like chewing the TV remote, scratching up the couch, or barking for hours on end.

Fortunately, modern technology has a solution: the smart pet camera, which allows you to keep an eye on your indoor pet when you’re not there. These devices, similar to video baby monitors, sync wirelessly to your smartphone to provide a remote birds-eye view (even if your pet lacks feathers) of your home base minus any humans.

“Using smart home technology in the form of a pet camera provides you with real-time, actionable footage of what your pet is up to. What you see is genuine behavior in the moment – not behavior that’s trying to manipulate you in your presence,” says Jeremy Willis, chief editor of Pet Educate.

While we’d all like to believe that our animal companions are safe, secure, and content when we’re out of the house, setting up a monitoring system can alert owners when there’s a problem – especially for pets who may be ill or healing. Some animals may be on medications or have a seizure, or they may just be mischievous and get into places they shouldn’t. The nice thing about a pet camera is that you can keep track of your pet, especially in the event of an emergency.

Of course, not all pets need to be remotely monitored. Cats are known to sleep most of the day and likely won’t cause as much chaos as canine counterparts can. That’s why smart pet cameras are best for puppies and kittens, easily agitated dogs, and destructive four-legged dwellers.

“Good candidates to purchase a pet cam are those who are away from home often, have a pet who suffers from separation anxiety, or those who just want to generally keep an eye on what their pet gets into while they’re away,” Willis suggests. “The best targets are dogs and cats, although some owners use them to watch reptiles and amphibians, too.”

Popular models include those made by Furbo, Ring, Conico, PetChatz, and Lorex.

The Petcube Bites 2, includes a treat dispenser that allows you to dole out treats remotely by phone. The quality of the image it captures is sharp and supports both iPhone and Android connections. It also sends real-time notifications to your phone when your pet behaves in a certain way.

Danielle Mühlenberg, a dog behaviorist, recommends choosing a smart pet camera that includes at least 1080p video quality, night vision, motion/sound detection, 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi connectivity, sturdy design, and two-way audio.

“The two-way audio feature is helpful, especially if you want to use your voice to interrupt undesired behavior, like digging the plants or chewing on the furniture, or to reinforce your dog positively if you notice signs of separation anxiety,” explains Muhlenberg.

Most pet cameras sync with your home Wi-Fi signal and temporarily store footage from the camera on the cloud. Typically, you can download an app to your smartphone to view live or recorded footage (be sure to choose a strong password to protect your home Wi-Fi network).

If you’re concerned that your pet could damage the camera, it’s best to put it up on a higher level and tilt it down toward the floor, which will give you the best view of your home and your pet’s activities. But if you have an interactive camera and you want your pet to be able to see and hear it, consider putting it on a lower shelf level with the pet’s head – just make sure it isn’t too close to any water bowls, and keep any wires tucked away so your pet doesn’t chew on them.

If your pet is allowed to roam through multiple rooms, you may want to choose two or more of the same pet cam model so that you can keep your eyes on them wherever they go.

Expect to pay at least $40 for a basic pet camera; smarter units can run
$150 and up.