IF SHADOW, Kyle Crawford’s cat, could talk, the 12-year-old domestic short hair might say: “I may ignore you when you’re here, but when you leave, I panic: I stress eat.” The new, high-tech feeder Mr. Crawford, 36, recently bought—designed to dole out Shadow’s food on a timed schedule—makes his occasional three-day business trips away from Chicago less angsty for the cat, he said: “The robot feeder allows him to eat slowly over time rather than one big meal, which is what happens when someone stops in and feeds him.”
While cats would always prefer being catered to by a human, new smart pet gear is designed to keep your tabby comfortable flying solo during the weekend beach trips and office commutes many of us have resumed. Robots can ensure the most fastidious pet has a clean litter box, and even a way to hear your voice (ignoring it as she chooses) when you’re away.
Here, our top picks for cat-tending tech.
1. Meal Mechanizer
It’s only good etiquette to verbally invite your cat to eat when you set down her food. With the Petlibro 4L Wi-Fi Automatic Pet Feeder, you can still do that from the beach. The device plays a prerecorded, 10-second message before it drops dry food into a stainless-steel bowl. Use the intuitive app to control when, how often, and how much your cat eats while you’re gone. And if the power to the wall outlet dies in a blackout, the backup D-cell batteries kick in. Ashley Davidson, 35, a vice president at an Alexandria, Va., public relations firm, said the scheduled meals seemed to calm her cat. “I think it’s eliminated his stress waiting for us to come home so he can eat.” $90, petlibro.com
2. Smarter Tracking System
While most smart cameras let you keep an eye on your pet while you’re away from home, none are this entertaining. The 3 1/2-inch Petcube Play 2 packs a high-definition, wide-lens camera with 4x zoom and night vision. The device casts a laser on the floor for your cat to chase and its speaker lets you deliver soothing pep talks in real-time. Smartphone notifications alert you if the mic picks up excessive meowing. It plays music using Amazon Alexa, for Bengals who insist on Billie Eilish and Calicos who favor country. $199, petcube.com
3. Feline Front Door
A normal pet door is a slippery slope—you might return to a house full of cats that aren’t yours, or worse, that raccoon that has been yanking burnt toast out of your trash cans. Install the PetSafe Microchip Cat Door in an exterior door or wall and the plastic flap will only open when it senses the microchip key your cat wears on his collar. And since it runs on four AA batteries, your pet will still have access during a power outage. $95, petsafe.net
4. Robo Maid
Cats are notoriously fussy about using a soiled litter box, so the Litter-Robot 3 Connect keeps your pet’s bathroom clean when you can’t (or aren’t in the mood to) poop scoop. A sensor inside detects your cat. Once she leaves, the pod rotates like a concrete mixer, sending clumps of waste down a chute into a pullout drawer you eventually empty. The fresh litter left behind is tumbled and leveled smooth for the next use. The app provides full control while you’re away and, with notifications, tracks bathroom behavior so you can detect if something is out of the ordinary. $500, litter-robot.com
5. Better Whistle Wetter
Cats are prone to dehydration, and a languishing water bowl full of food bits and gunk won’t tempt your cat to drink. The 7 3/4-inch-wide Pet Life Moda-Pure Fountain holds almost 11 cups of water and uses a pump to circulate it through a filter that removes everything from food to tiny, nasty bacteria, keeping your cat’s water supply fresh for days. Plus, some vets say that kitties are more compelled to drink running water from a fountain like this than the standing supply in a standard bowl. $46, shop.petlife.com
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