Is one of your kids named Fluffy or Fido? Mine is named Peanut and he has orange fur. If you don't have a pet, you might not understand why we call ourselves "pet parents." Others may make fun of the moniker, but we consider our furry charges to be family members who deserve all the love and caregiving that come along with the title.
Nowadays, pets are treated to world-class, five-star pampering. There are pet hotels, pet spas and even pet vacations, so it's no surprise that there are also plenty of fun gadgets that are expressly designed for pet parents.
Here's a roundup of some of the coolest pet-friendly gizmos on the market. Prices range from $23 to over $500. Check them out and then tell us about your own favorite pet tech.
If your pet likes to "go" outside between dusk and dawn, you'll want to take a look at the Halo Mini LED Dog Collar. Your dog will look très chic on the catwalk in this lightweight, neon-colored collar. It's the perfect blend of safety gadget plus high-fashion accessory. The blue, red or green LED lights ensure that your pet can be seen from afar as a ghostly, albeit fuzzy, apparition. The candy-colored glow comes from fiber optics powered by a battery that you can recharge via USB.
The Halo Mini collar weighs less than 6 ounces, and comes in three sizes to fit necks from 13.8 to 21.7 inches in circumference, be they cats or dogs.
You love your dog so much that you take her to work with you. But there are times when Queenie has more energy than you have time for. (Like, say, when you're trying to write an article about pet gadgets.) That's where the iFetch Frenzy comes to the rescue, dog. It's a gravity-driven gizmo that your furry friend can use by herself to play fetch. Drop in one of the balls at the top of the toy and it will come shooting out the bottom, rolling along the floor at a good clip, enticing your dog to give chase. Just like that windmill hole on the neighborhood mini golf course.
It comes with three special mini tennis-type balls (1.6 inches in diameter), which you can store underneath the iFetch Frenzy when they're not in use. It's only 11 inches tall, so even small dogs can learn to drop in a ball for themselves. It doesn't require batteries or electricity.
Got a new puppy? While you're housetraining him, he's bound to have a few accidents. Instead of mopping the floors daily (or worse, cleaning the carpets), the Train 'n Praise helps you teach your puppy to pee on an absorbent pad — even when you're not at home.
The system consists of specially designed puppy pads, a moisture sensor and a treat dispenser. When the sensors detect a visit from the potty fairy, the pad sends a wireless signal to the treat dispenser. The dispenser then issues your dog some "noms" as a reward.
Later in his life, you can use it when your dog is having trouble regulating his "go" time. Or you can use the remote and treat dispenser to teach your dog tricks through positive reinforcement.
The Train 'n Praise comes with 10 special potty pads, but you can fill the dispenser with any type of treats that are up to 0.5 inches in size.
A former Kickstarter darling, the Petcube Camera system is now ready for prime face time. The Petcube sports a 720-pixel HD camera with a 138-degree, wide-angle lens. It's equipped with a speaker and a mic, so you can not only talk to your pet, you can also hear your furry child bark, meow or squawk back at you.
The Petcube has a 2.4-GHz Wi-Fi connection and apps for both iOS and Android. It even uses encryption and SSL to keep your pet-parental conversations private. The snazziest feature, though, is a built-in laser that you can control via the app to play with your pet.
The brushed-aluminum camera comes in different colors: matte silver, carbon black and even rose gold to match your iPhone. It weighs 1.3 pounds and comes with an AC adapter and a USB adapter.
While movies may try to convince pet parents that the secret lives of our fuzzy ones involve heavy metal music and fridge raids, those of us with fur kids want to know the real scoop about what's going on at home when we're away.
If you're not content with talking, listening to or playing with your pet remotely, then maybe the Petzi Treat Cam is for you. The Treat Cam has all these features plus TREATS. (Sorry, my cat pressed the caps lock button while I was typing his favorite word.) With just a tap on the iOS or Android app, the Petzi Treat Launcher will propel treats through a dispenser, sprinkling your pet with tummy-based hugs. You can fill the Treat Launcher with any crunchy treat smaller than 1 inch.
The Treat Cam has a wide-angle lens with night vision so you'll know right away if your pet is secretly a member of SEAL Team Six. You can share snapshots on social sites and via the company's own network, Petzi Social. The Petzi Treat Cam is a little over 13 inches tall and weighs 3.6 pounds.
For playtime with your cat, nothing beats a good laser chase. The FroliCat Bolt looks like a sleek vase, but don't let its elegant look deceive you: It's packing heat. When you turn on the Bolt, it emits a laser that moves around on surfaces — sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly and sometimes stopping altogether. The Bolt's movement pattern is random, so your cat won't get bored by the toy's predictability. The adjustable mirror aims the laser so that you can also point it to scamper across walls or furniture.
The Bolt encourages your Simba wannabe to pounce and prance like the Mighty Hunter it is his destiny to become (it works with dogs, too).
The FroliCat Bolt is powered by four AA batteries. It's 8.5 inches tall, weighs just under 9 ounces and will automatically shut down after 15 minutes of laser fun.
Taking your dog to the vet can be expensive and stressful for everyone involved. The Voyce Health Monitor and Wellness Tracking System dog collar aims to change all that. To better predict what health problems your dog might have, some VSPs (Very Smart People) at Cornell found a way to put a vet into your dog's collar, and they called it Voyce. The collar keeps track of stats such as your dog's resting and active heart rates, distance traveled, exercise intensity, calories burned, and it even measures the quality of your dog's sleep. The Voyce can send your dog's health updates to your vet on a weekly basis, helping to spot troubles like pain, heart disease or anxiety before you may even notice them.
The Voyce collar fits dogs with necks between 12 to 32 inches in circumference. It's waterproof and Wi-Fi-enabled, weighing only 6 ounces. Rather than using a specialized app, you can pull up your dog's health report on a web-based, responsive dashboard that works with most desktop, tablet or smartphone browsers. It comes with a rechargeable battery that lasts for seven days.