Keep an Eye on Fido From Afar With These Pet Cameras
As a pet owner, you can probably think of dozens of ways your furry friend makes your life more enjoyable and meaningful. When you're snuggling your oversized pup on the couch or watching your cat cozy up inside a cardboard box, it's easy to see why people consider pets to be family members.
Given animals' prominent role in our lives, leaving them at home while we go out to do people things can be hard. However, pet cams—connected cameras specifically designed to keep watch over your furry friends—make the human's absence from the home less stressful for both parties. If you've considered getting a pet camera, there's no better time than now, when there are quite a few good options on the market.
Update for February 2020: We added the Petcube Bites 2, Play 2, and updated some pricing.
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Before getting into details about specific cameras, it's important to clarify the difference between pet cameras and your run-of-the-mill security camera.
Despite the fact that many security cameras may allow you to watch your pet while you're away from home, security cams don't actually do anything to improve your relationship with your pet or otherwise meet their needs while you're gone. Pet cameras, in contrast, have features designed specifically for the pet owner. They can dispense treats or allow you to interact with your dog or cat using your voice or a type of video chat. They can help address common issues like separation anxiety and boredom, which can lead to destroyed furniture, other kinds of property damage, or undue stress.
Still, you should be mindful of what pet cameras you buy, because like any other smart home device that connects to Wi-Fi, there's a chance it could be hacked and compromise your privacy.
Here are the best pet cameras we recommend.
The huge variety of features offered by the Furbo Dog Camera makes it the top pet cam on this list.
The Alexa-enabled Furbo camera (9/10 WIRED Recommends) is one of the only pet cams developed specifically for dogs. Its dog-specific features include a real-time barking alert that sends a push notification to your phone when your dog speaks up. You can adjust the sensitivity of the alert, which also filters out other noises to prevent unnecessary activation. Dogs bark as a form of communication, and many owners can distinguish between various barks, but the Furbo Dog Camera barking alert allows you to know when your dog is distressed without the need for constant monitoring.
The Furbo also lets you toss treats to your dog to play with or reward your pet when you're away. Before a treat comes out, the camera emits a click-click, like that of a a training clicker. This allows you to continue training your dog even when you're out of town, and you can continue to emphasize positive reinforcement, letting your dog know if it hears a click, something yummy isn't far away.
The Furbo has additional training features: For example, it has a light that turns yellow when the device is in sleep mode or blue if you're using it. Dogs can see blue light, so you could theoretically train your dog to take selfies if your dog is smarter than mine (Adrienne) or you're more motivated.
For an additional $7 monthly fee, you can also activate the optional Dog Nanny service, which adds features like activity alerts, so you can shout at your dog to get off the sofa, or tell Furbo to put together a Dog Diary of 60-second snippets of your pet's day. Dog Nanny also includes carbon monoxide and smoke alerts, while Furbo's AI smarts can identify strangers in your home while filtering out known people or the movement of inanimate objects. You can tinker with the sensitivity settings in the app to make sure that you're only receiving the most relevant dog-related updates throughout the day. A camera that lets your dog take selfies is a dog mom's (or dad's) dream come true.—Kayla Matthews and Adrienne So
I (Adrienne) also tested the latest dog treat camera from Petcube with my 10-year-old heeler. The Bites 2 is a good-looking, rectangular box with an aluminum base and a black plastic treat bin. Unlike the Furbo, it comes with a mounting kit so that you can attach it securely to the wall. It doesn’t take up counter space in your kitchen, you don’t have to devote a shrine to your dog in the corner of your living room, and your dog can’t knock it over if they become overly enthused.
The Furbo is more attractive and has more dog-specific features, but the Bites 2 integrated itself more seamlessly into our lives. For example, it can accommodate a staggering 1.5 pounds of treats at once—more than enough for my dog to have her meals entirely by pet cam—and in a much wider variety. Unlike the Furbo, the Bites 2 can accommodate kibble that is up to 1 inch in diameter, and it comes with inserts that let you control how many are thrown at once.
While my dog isn’t very vocal (perhaps me working from home has something to do with that), the Bites 2 also has a surprisingly extensive 4-microphone array and speaker bar that means that it sounds much better and clearer than the Furbo, on both ends. To be fair, my dog had already had some experience with the Furbo by the time I tried the Bites 2 with her, but she could hear the Bites 2’s chime even from the backyard. When my children and I sat outside their preschool, I could see her run in the dog door to gobble up treats when we threw them to her.
The Bites 2 also has many of the same software features as the Furbo. You can also control it with Alexa (which is built in, not enabled) and it has an easy-to-use proprietary app that lets you toggle on smart alerts. While Furbo’s Dog Nanny is $7 per month, Petcube Care offers several different subscription tiers. They offered me a free month of a premium subscription, which included the ability to add different cameras and download videos. However, Petcube’s optimal subscription is $4 per month—with the notable disclaimer that you have to pay for the year in advance.
Still, that's substantially cheaper than Furbo’s plan and offers many of the same AI smart alerts, video clips, and three days of video history. The Bites 2 is my favorite pet cam for dog owners, and if the price is too rich for your blood, you can also still find the previous generation. Even after my premium subscription ran out, I still found the Bites 2's live-streaming and treat-tossing to be adequate to check on my dog for a short weekend away.—Adrienne So
Petcube also offers a Play 2 Camera, which is aimed toward kitty-owners.
This compact cube is marketed towards cats (lasers aren't the best option for dogs), and they'll likely have a blast using the Petcube Play 2. The wide-angle camera records in 1080p and features real-time two-way communication. In conjunction with the Petcube app, you can pop on and check out your camera to see what's happening, speak to your animals, and hear their responses. Or, if your cats are like mine, you'll at least be able to watch them ignore you.
The built-in laser sets the Petcube Play 2 apart from other pet cams. Within the app, you can drag your finger around on the camera's live feed, and the built-in laser will follow the path of your finger. The laser is pet-safe, and the camera itself has Alexa built-in, meaning if you tell Amazon's voice assistant to play with your pet, it will initiate a play session. That feature works whether you're at home and feeling lazy, or you're away and don't have time to drag the laser around yourself.
My kitties loved playing with the laser, but the process of playing within the app is finicky. Sometimes the laser skips around or responds slowly, and on more than one occasion, my cats couldn't see it because the pet-safe light can be quite dim. Reading other reviews of the Petcube 2, there seems to be an issue with laser visibility and smooth motion in houses filled with a lot of natural light, so you may want to take that into consideration if you're planning on buying it. For my testing purposes, I mostly had Alexa play with my cats, which is honestly what I'd do most of the time if I owned the camera myself.
Like Adrienne, I also tried the Petcube Care subscription. If you don't need a bigger backlog of stored videos, a constant stream of lackluster discounts from Petcube's partners, or AI smarts, I wouldn't recommend it. The Play 2 already has a hefty price tag compared to other models on the market. Even if you go with the cheapest annual Petcube Care plan, you'll be paying an extra $48 per year. That's nearly a quarter of the camera's regular cost. But if you have multiple pets or you're away from home a lot, you may find the subscription worthwhile.—Louryn Strampe
The Pawbo+ pet camera is designed to keep track of dogs or cats. This pet cam includes an HD video feed, a two-way talk feature, and remote treating options. There's also an instant sharing feature that lets you seamlessly post cute photos to social media.
Like many pet owners, you may be worried about your furry friend not getting enough exercise and mental stimulation while you're away. The Pawbo+ is neat because it has a handy laser game built into that your feline friends will enjoy. (Note that some animal professionals have discouraged the use of such games in the past.)
Although this camera is definitely more pet-friendly than your basic security camera and the features it does have work well, it's not as advanced as the other options in this list, making it hard to stand out considering its price tag.—Kayla Matthews
Correction 2/27/2020 9 am PST: We updated the Petcube Bites 2 listing to note that Alexa is built in, not enabled.