Pet technology: Totally amazing or too much?
Technology can help us manage busy schedules, stay on track with our fitness goals and connect with family and friends who live far away. In many ways, the newest tech gadgets can also be advantageous for our pets — but do they have any downsides? In humans, for example, too much time spent engaged with our phones can be detrimental to our mental and physical health. So, is there such a thing as too much technology for our pets?
In order to live their best lives, pets only require the right nutrition, care, exercise and attention. While technology will never replace a cat curled up in her owner’s lap or a devoted canine companion lying at his owner’s feet, it can simplify life with pets in several ways.
- Nutrition: An estimated 60% of cats and 56% of dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese. As such, a tech tool for weight management can be a real life-changer for chubby pets. Smart feeders and smart scales can help with portion control. Smart feeders for multi-pet families ensure that each pet is given the right amount of food and can also help cut down on fights over the dinner bowl. Smart water bowls encourage drinking and are a simple way to monitor whether or not pets with medical conditions are drinking enough.
- Veterinary care: Apps can help connect pet parents with vets and other healthcare providers. Visits to the veterinary clinic can be both stressful and inconvenient, but a virtual visit or text chat with a vet can eliminate some of those issues. At-home doggy DNA tests can unravel the mystery of a mixed-breed dog’s genetic makeup, allowing owners to learn more about the potential health issues linked to their pet’s breed and background. Microbiome test kits identify the type of microorganisms living in our pet’s digestive tract, giving us further insight into their health, immunity and behavior.
- Exercise: GPS devices and step trackers can tell us just how active our pets have been during the day. Are they couch potatoes, or are they running laps around the living room? This data can help us determine whether a 30-minute walk will be enough to wear out our pup at the end of the day or if we will need to spend more time at the dog park. This technology can also help us locate our pets if they decide to go on an unapproved solo adventure.
- Cameras: Who doesn’t want to see what their pets get up to when they’re left at home alone? Whether it’s separation anxiety — in the pet or the human — or a burning desire to help your fur-baby become the next viral video star, smart cameras give us a peek at what our pets do when we’re not around. They can also help keep our pets safe in the event of a fire or break-in. And who knows? You may even catch them doing a little counter-surfing — in which case, you can offer them a quick scolding via video chat.
Pet technology certainly has its advantages: smart cameras help keep both our pets and our homes safe, walking around the block in order to earn a badge on an app is still exercise, and texting with your vet can provide peace of mind. Ultimately, however, we should remember that pets are pretty low-tech; their biggest desire is usually just the pleasure of our company. Technology will only continue to improve and make our lives easier — for example, autonomous robots designed to automatically scoop dog poop are currently in the works. This begs the question, though: Will we eventually be plagued with too much data from our pets? All we know right now is that this is a possibility. In the end, owners will be best-served to remember that an app, a smart bowl or several hours of livestream video will never replace what we love most about our pets and the joy we feel in caring for them.