Any pet owner knows that their furry friends rule their home, and specialised pet cameras are becoming a popular way to keep an eye on what they're up to back at the ranch.
The ability to check on your pet back at home, keep them entertained and ensure theyâve been picked up by dog-walkers is something everyone can benefit from. But pet cameras differ from a smart home camera, and pack extra features that are a tad more playful than your standard Nest camera.
Check out our guide to buying the perfect pet camera for you â a review of the Petcube, and how it stacks up against its rivals.
How to choose your perfect pet camera
In many ways, buying a pet camera means considering the same kind of factors as a standard smart home camera. Video quality, resolution and frames per second (fps) are all critical here. You really should be looking at 1080p quality at 30 frames per second â thatâs the optimal experience, and anything less is a compromise.
Of course, youâll also need to make the decision between a pet-centric camera and a standard smart home one. Devices like the Nest Cam Indoor and Hive Camera offer you the ability to check on pets and even communicate two-way, but these devices will also fulfil the role of a home camera, too. It gives you both options.
However, pet cameras do offer some specific features you may want to take advantage of.
First is the ability to remotely feed your pet, and this is quite a big one. Many pet cameras offer the chance to offer treats â which is a neat way to interact with your pet at home. And while itâs far from ideal, some also include the ability to feed your pet as well. If you know youâre going to be home late for your dog â or away for the weekend and leaving your cat â being able to feed them without them greedily scoffing the food the second you leave the house is a big win.
Many pet cameras, like the brand new Pawbo Munch, also have built-in entertainment. The ability to speak to your pet is great â and while sounds, lights, lasers might sound more like a nightclub than a pet camera â dogs and cats go mad for them.
The last thing to think about is dogs versus cats. The cameras we've listed below will be suited to both. Furbo has barking detection built-in, so is naturally geared towards dogs, while we think cats might just prefer the Pawbo+ laser chasing â or just totally turn their nose up at it.
Here's a run-down of the leading pet cameras, and we'll be testing more in the coming weeks.
The Petcube Bites blends a home camera with a treat dispenser, all of which is controlled and viewed via the partner app. The unit itself is quite big, although looks fairly natural in the home with its brushed metal body.
The camera is 1080p, and the quality of the feed is pretty good â even in low light. You can see some example shots below. The connection did struggle with a poor Wi-Fi connection which impacted quality â so think about where you place it.
Placement can be a bit of an issue and because of the size and shape, Petcube really needs to be wall-mounted, or you end up struggling to see over surfaces, if you just prop it up. You can balance it on the edge of a table or unit fine â but unless it's at the edge you get an obscured view. We wanted to place it in the kitchen (the area of the house the dogs stay) but the high surfaces made it a little difficult to get the right placement.
Audio quality was good, and in our testing Sebby and Jess were able to recognise our voices and the two-way audio worked well.
Placement can be awkward but dogs loved the audio
The treat feature works nicely, and is remote controlled by the app. The Petcube Bites holds 100 treats. However, the success of the feature heavily depends on the types of treats you like to give your pet. We used small treats which seemed to fire out in batches of six, although slightly bigger ones worked perfectly â itâs a lot of fun, which is the idea, but perhaps something of a novelty. Itâs fun to interact, but as fairly diligent owners regarding behaviour, treats are rewards â so this feature wasnât really used long term.
Low light is decent, helping to catch this naughty dog in the act
The partner app got a big thumbs up for ease of use, but notifications were quickly turned off. You might want to just turn these on when youâre out and off when you return, although thatâs a faff.
The Petcube is also Amazon Alexa-friendly, and you can order Amazon's voice assistant to hurl treats on demand; just say "Alexa, ask Petcube to treat [your petâs name]". However, you can't, at the current time, ask Alexa to show the feed from the camera via an Echo Show or Echo Spot skill, which feels like an oversight.
- Clear audio and video
- Fun treat feature
- Solid app
- Wall mounted
- Struggles with small treats
- Notifications need refinement
Pawbo has a massive range of pet cameras under its Theme Park brand, which goes some way to explaining the mad array of cameras, interactive toys and treat dispensers.
The main Pawbo+ is neat and compact unit, although lags behind rivals in terms of video quality. The camera opts for 720p HD rather than the fully-fledged 1080p. However, the Pawbo makes up for its technical deficiencies with a host of games and entertainment options.
The standard Pawbo+ has two-way communication and a laser chasing game, which you can play manually or set to run automatically, making it useful while youâre at home as well.
The brand new Pawbo Munch â which hasn't yet made it to the US â again puts a focus on treats, as you might expect. You can reward your pet via the food drawer, which could hold a bigger meal if youâre running late, or want to make sure your cat is fed while youâre away. The treat drawer has two elements: the tray itself and an interior dispenser, which means treats can be dispensed slowly over time, as your pet plays with the Munch. Thereâs no two-way audio, however, and night-vision also didnât make the cut.
You can also now buy the Pawbo Spring, which adds a camera into a water dispenser, suitable for cats or dogs. It's also designed to monitor the water intake of your pets, letting you know if their habits have changed or they're not drinking enough â which can be a sign of ill health.
It holds three litres of water and boasts three-layer filters to keep water clean. It's suitable for cats and dogs and the wand is designed for all sizes.
The Pawbo Spring records your pet's hourly, daily and weekly drinking patterns and if you have multiple animals, you can invest in the iPuppyGo pet tracker to get reports for each.
Furbo Dog Camera
Another camera with a treat dispenser, the Furbo isnât wall-mounted, so placement isnât quite such an issue â although having it sat around on the foor isnât exactly great for neat freaks.
The Furbo Dog Camera has a 1080p camera with an impressive 160 degree field of view, although thereâs only one forward-facing lens, so youâll want to place it against a wall. Thereâs room in the bank for 100 treats, which it will fire out one at a time. We havenât tested the Furbo yet to ascertain video quality or treat velocity.
Thereâs night vision so you can still keep tabs on your pets after dark, and two-way audio as well. Furbo also listens for barking and will alert you to any distress while youâre away via a push notification, which is a neat feature.
The Petkit Mate addresses one of the key problems with using a pet cam: why wonât they sit still? The rotatable camera turns through 340 degrees â controlled by you via the app â so you can keep an eye on your furry friend wherever they are in the room.
The rest of the specs donât compare overly favourably to rivals. Itâs 720p rather than Full HD, so you will notice a dip in quality over the likes of the Petcube Bites. The field of view is also a narrow 110 degrees, but when you can rotate the camera remotely, this isnât much of an issue.
Thereâs two-way communication, so you can say hello to your pet and you can take stills via the app as well. Thereâs no treats or feeding here, so thereâs a little less emphasis on play time.
Petzi Treat Cam
Managing to sneak in as the cheapest camera on our list is the Petzi Treat Cam. And, as the name suggests, it's fairly straightforward in what you can expect here.
Owners will be free to check on their pets throughout the day using their phone or tablet, with the built-in speaker letting them hear your shouts to stop eating food off the counter. Just be aware they can't see you, only hear you, and there's no microphone for you to hear them.
So there's some small sacrifices you'll have to put up with here, but you do get a strong viewing range and a night-vision option for low light. If you want to reward your pet, the remote treat option also lets you unleash snack bites for your pet day or night.
Also considerâŚ Nest Cam IQ Indoor
Okay, so you like the idea of checking in on your pets, but are looking for a versatile camera with less gimmicks than the range above. If this sounds about right, weâd plump for the Nest Cam Indoor. Firstly, the 1080p, 30fps recording offers the best possible picture, and thereâs two-way audio so you can communicate as well.
Thereâs motion and sound alerts, so you can listen out for barking and get a notification. What's more, if youâre using the camera for pet purposes, thereâs less need to sign up for the $10 per month for storing your footage, which is the Nest Cam range's biggest downside. If you do plump for the plan, however, youâll get 24 hour rolling footage stored, so you can check in with what your four-legged pal has been up to all day.
- Solid audio and video
- Neat, compact design
- Strong integrations
- No wireless option
- No pet-specific features