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 they‚Äôve 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 ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď that‚Äôs the optimal experience, and anything less is a compromise.
Of course, standard smart home cameras are an option here too. Devices like the Nest Cam Indoor and Hive Camera offer you the ability to check on your pets and even communicate two-ways. Plus, they can fill the role of being a standard smart home camera. You're getting something that gives you both options.
However, pet cameras come with some specific features built just for your furry friends.
The first one is the most important one: The ability to feed your pet. Many pet cameras offer the chance to offer treats ‚Äď which is a neat way to interact with your pet at home. And while it‚Äôs far from ideal, some also include the ability to feed your pet as well. If you know you‚Äôre going to be home late for your dog ‚Äď or away for the weekend and leaving your cat ‚Äď 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 VAVA Pet Cam, also have built-in entertainment. The ability to speak to your pet is great ‚Äď and while sounds, lights, lasers might sound more like a nightclub than a pet camera ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď 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 months.
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 ‚Äď even in low light. You can see some example shots below. The connection did struggle with a poor Wi-Fi connection which impacted quality ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď it‚Äôs a lot of fun, which is the idea, but perhaps something of a novelty. It‚Äôs fun to interact, but as fairly diligent owners regarding behaviour, treats are rewards ‚Äď so this feature wasn‚Äôt 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 you‚Äôre out and off when you return, although that‚Äôs 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 pet‚Äôs 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 you‚Äôre at home as well.
The brand new Pawbo Munch ‚Äď which hasn't yet made it to the US ‚Äď 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 you‚Äôre running late, or want to make sure your cat is fed while you‚Äôre 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. There‚Äôs no two-way audio, however, and night-vision also didn‚Äôt make the cut.
You can also 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 ‚Äď 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.
The Pawbo Spring is not long for this world, however, as it's no longer available in the UK and becoming increasingly difficult in the US to find. There are still filters for you to buy, so you can keep your existing Spring going for a while.
Furbo Dog Camera
Another camera with a treat dispenser, the Furbo isn‚Äôt wall-mounted, so placement isn‚Äôt quite such an issue ‚Äď although having it sat around on the foor isn‚Äôt exactly great for neat freaks.
The Furbo Dog Camera has a 1080p camera with an impressive 160 degree field of view, although there‚Äôs only one forward-facing lens, so you‚Äôll want to place it against a wall. There‚Äôs room in the bank for 100 treats, which it will fire out one at a time. We haven‚Äôt tested the Furbo yet to ascertain video quality or treat velocity.
There‚Äôs 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 you‚Äôre away via a push notification, which is a neat feature.
There's also the new Furbo Dog Nanny service, which uses AI to give you even more features. It will give you dog activity alerts and dog selfie alerts, which basically let you know that the dog is looking at the camera and might want a treat. There's also person alerts, so if you do have a dog sitter that comes over to walk your best bud you'll know.
Finally, there's a feature called Doggie Diary, which will give you the most adorable moments from your dog's day in 60 seconds. It's available now for a 90-day free trial. Furbo hasn't determined how much it'll cost after the trial expires, but is looking to customer feedback to help set the price.
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.
VAVA Pet Cam
Vava has made crowdfund-backed smart cams for a while, and now it's turning its attention to pets with a feature-packed mobile pet cam. That's right, VAVA's pet cam rolls around. The idea is essentially to create a cam that can also take care of your pet while you're away.
It's got 1080p and night vision, and it can dispense treats when commanded from the companion app. It's also got 1GB of free cloud storage for video, but the more exciting bit is that you can attach accessories to it. So you can attach fake butterflies and feather dusters to entertain your dog. And yes, it's paw proof.
There's bark alerts for dogs with a two-way radio so you can talk to your buddy if you need to. It's also built for cats, with a laser you can shoot at the ground to get them active. Like a Roomba, it has sensors that'll keep it from hitting objects and tumbling down stairs. You're going to have to wait until February 2019 until it's ready to ship, though.
Also consider‚Ä¶ 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, we‚Äôd plump for the Nest Cam Indoor. Firstly, the 1080p, 30fps recording offers the best possible picture, and there‚Äôs two-way audio so you can communicate as well.
There‚Äôs motion and sound alerts, so you can listen out for barking and get a notification. What's more, if you‚Äôre using the camera for pet purposes, there‚Äôs less need to sign up for the ¬£8 per month for storing your footage, which is the Nest Cam range's biggest downside. If you do plump for the plan, however, you‚Äôll 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