Handheld translators for barks and meows. Laser tag for cats. Who would have imagined that so many brilliant and bizarre tech gadgets are available for today's pet owner? Whether you want to keep your pet safe, spy on its daily sojourns, or simply keep it entertained, there's bound to be something here that strikes your fancy.
Dog owners may love this. Pets almost certainly will hate it. Dog-O-Matic is a washing machine for dogs and cats, and this is one bath they can't escape. You select a wash cycle, insert your pet into the metal box, and read a magazine. Thirty minutes later, your beast is clean--and probably making plans to run away from home. Too harsh a solution? French inventor Romain Jarry, who created Dog-O-Matic, says that his contraption isn't cruel at all, according to an article in the UK's Daily Mail. Tell that to Fifi--if you can find her. Image credit: Daily Mail.
Bowlingual and Meowlingual
What do Fido's barks mean? The Bowlingual Dog Voice Translator ($222) purports to translate pooch-talk into human language--specifically, Japanese. The "reader" attaches to the dog's collar, and the handheld unit displays the translation.
Cat got your tongue? Apple iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad users should check out the free Meowlingual Cat Translator app, which allegedly translates feline-speak into English.
We can only hope that Baalingual and Moolingual are in the offing for improved communication with livestock.
SpotLight GPS Pet Locator
Here's a pet-location service for the Internet era. SpotLight is a GPS locator that lets you use your mobile phone or personal computer to find a lost pet. The 2.5-ounce locator device attaches to the animal's collar. Next, you set up safe zones (such as your backyard) for worry-free roaming. If your pet leaves a safe zone, however, SpotLight will alert you via e-mail and/or text message. It will also provide turn-by-turn directions to your lost pet via mobile phone or PC. Maybe Fifi is doomed after all.
What mysterious POIs does your cat frequent when it goes out on the town? The CatCam is a miniature video-cam that attaches to your furry cinematographer's collar. Using interval recording, it captures about 4 hours of video over a period of several days. There's no integrated flashlight, unfortunately, so Señor Snavely's nighttime sojourns are likely to look very dark and grainy. But don't let that stop you from living vicariously through your feline.
Pet Pooch Power System
Love the pet, hate the poop--right, dog owners? But now there's Pet Pooch Power System. Though it sounds like a self-improvement program for wannabe pack leaders, PPPS is actually a cordless yard appliance that vacuums dog waste into a plastic bag for easy disposal, without touching your hands or the machine. You'll never have to bend down to scoop the poop again. The rechargeable battery handles up to 150 pickups on a single charge.
A ball of yarn? That's so last century. FroliCat Bolt is a $20 interactive laser toy for your feline pal. Place the bowling-pin-shaped device on the floor or hold it in your hand, and drive Mittens to distraction with the laser patterns it emits. In manual mode, you can aim the Bolt any which way to create unique laser patterns. In automatic mode, the Bolt will turn off after 15 minutes--about the limit of nonstop, fruitless chasing, pouncing, and batting at phantoms you can hope for from even the most gullible cat.
This remote-controlled feeder has a built-in webcam that you can use to monitor your dog or cat from work, via either PC or smartphone. The iSeePet 360 requires a wired connection to your home network. An integrated speaker plays a melody, which (with practice) should generate a Pavlovian response in your browsing Bowser, who'll chow down under your watchful eye. What, no two-way conferencing?
Digital Photo Urn
What better way to honor Old Blue's passing than with this multifunction device? The handsome walnut wood urn hold your pet's ashes, and the 7-inch digital photo frame runs a slideshow of some of the good times you shared. The $290 photo urn includes 256MB of memory and comes with a remote and a USB cable for transferring photo and audio files.
Flexi PC Pet ID Tag
A traditional pet tag still works well, provided you don't move or change phone numbers. But the Flexi PC Pet ID Tag, a $15 USB drive housed in a waterproof, shockproof case, offers the techie alternative. The Flexi Tag's capacity is a slim 64MB, but that's enough room for your address, phone number, vet information, and other essentials--and updating the info is a snap.
Bionaire Odor Grabber Litter Box
Most litter boxes stink unless you spend a lot of time picking up (and disposing) after your pet; but this sophisticated business center has a built-in electronic air purifier to keep your home smelling fresh. The contraption, which looks sort of like a Power Ranger's helmet, comes with an LED countdown indicator and reset button let you know when you need to replace the filter; alternatively, of course, you could use your nose. The lid, which rolls up for cleaning, prevents your vigorous kitty from scattering debris on the floor. Friends, family, and (in extreme cases) nearby neighbors will thank you.
Is it a fish tank or a lab experiment run amok? The massive (54 inches by 51 inches by 42 inches, including the cherry, black, or carbon-fiber rostrum, which isn't shown in this photo) Labyrinth Aquarium is a mini-ecosystem for tropical freshwater fish, which can swim freely from one interconnected Lucite acrylic module to the next, assuming you remembered to add water. Shaped like a giant molecule model from science class, this $6500 aquatic art piece comes with silk plants, as well as three doughnut-shaped lights with programmable timers. The whole shebang comes with a rather skimpy one-year warranty--so whatever you do, don't split these atoms!
Fuji FinePix Z700EXR
Digital cameras that recognize human faces are nothing new, but Fujifilm's FinePix Z700EXR is the first with automatic dog/cat visage detection (in addition to human face recognition). This 12-megapixel point-and-shoot model optimizes focus and exposure for canine or feline mugs, albeit with a few limitations. It can't, for instance, detect animal faces in profile (so you're on your own for the classic "my bulldog looks like Alfred Hitchcock" silhouette shot) or in scenes containing both dogs and cats; and some breeds are easier to detect than others. Still, this fur-friendly camera is good news for pet owners.
The Lost Feline Locator
You may not be able to curb your cat's wanderlust, but the $100 Lost Feline Locator can help you keep tabs on Tabby. A small, lightweight (0.18 ounce) homing tag attaches to your cat's collar and transmits radio signals to the handset, whose eight LEDs light in succession as you move closer to your feline friend. The Locator has an indoor and outdoor range of at least 300 feet, according to the manufacturer.
Canine Swim Safe
Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs are great swimmers; very few can do the Australian Crawl, for instance. This $90 doggie flotation device is designed to keep canines safe in the water, though at the expense of making them look a tad ridiculous. (Dogs don't get embarrassed, right?) Designed for lateral stabilization, Canine Swim Safe helps prevent smaller breeds from capsizing in a pool or lake.
Admittedly, there's a bit of Orwellian creepiness associated with microchip implants. But a digitally tagged lost pet may be easier to locate and reunite with you, particularly if its identification code is registered with the American Kennel Club, as is the case with the Home Again implant kit. Your veterinarian may offer this service, or you can buy Home Again ($19) yourself and have the vet install it. Can microchip implants for people be far off?
Dogs aren't welcomed everywhere, of course, which means that sometimes you have to leave Rover in the car when you're running a bunch of quick errands. The $435 Hotdog temperature monitoring system detects dangerously high temperatures inside the vehicle and responds by automatically lowering two electric windows (for ventilation) and activating the car horn or light to alert you. It can also notify an optional pager at distances of up to 1 mile away.
Canine Shower Stall
Have you ever tried to lift a large dog into a tub? It's no fun, particularly if your pet knows what you have in mind. Sure, you could use the shower instead, but then you'll get soaked too. The Canine Shower Stall is a dog-size alternative that comes equipped with a handheld showerhead and a 38-inch hose for all-dog access. At $1250, it's definitely a luxury wash--and if Fifi remains uncooperative, you can warn her that it's this or the Dog-O-Matic.
LED Dog Collar
Dogs with dark coats--black Labradors, for example--can be hard to see at night. So if you're hiking, camping, or fishing after dark, you can easily lose sight of your pet. This $5 flexible collar has an LED light that you flip on after sunset. Think of it as a doggie glow stick. The battery is good for 60 hours of continuous use, or 80 to 100 hours intermittently.