CatFi cat-facial-recognition technology

For better or worse, I’m obsessed with my shih tzu, Echo. He pretty much rules the house, as well as the photo stream on my iPhone and my conversations with my husband (who, though he’ll deny it, is similarly obsessed). So it only follows that I’m way more excited about a smart feeder with a camera than a new state-of-the-art refrigerator with a camera inside.

It turns out that other people are interested as well — well, not in my dog, but in their own pets. That means there are way, way too many connected pet feeders out there, all designed to solve the “problems” I’ve experienced too. Here are a few, and some solutions.

My Pet Needs to Lose Some Weight

A few months ago my vet added insult to injury by telling me that not only is Echo “geriatric” but that he needs to shed one whole pound — 5 percent of his entire weight! If only there were a dog option on CatFi. The device and app feed your cat dry food and use cat-facial-recognition technology to track your cat’s weight, food, and water intake, as well as let you watch your cat even when you’re not around. It works for up to three cats.

Meanwhile SureFlap uses microchip technology to make sure pets only eat their own food. When the right pet approaches the device, the lid opens and reveals their personal stash. This one works for cats and dogs, and anything else you can supposedly train to put their head in an enclosed space.

I Wish I Could Chat With My Pet

Sometimes when Echo is whining by his food bowl and he has both food and water and has just gone on a two-mile walk, I have no idea what he’s thinking. I wish I could just ask him. The icPooch and PetChatz don’t exactly solve that problem, but they do make it possible to talk to your dog and give him a treat when you’re not physically in the kitchen. The Wifi treat dispenser allows you to video chat with your tablet or smartphone, which is somewhat remarkable given that I’ve never seen my dog “chat.”

I Want to Teach Him a Lesson

Echo tends to get into stuff when I’m not around: He’s never dumped over the trash can, but he’s definitely strung toilet paper all over the house and eaten things off the coffee table. In other words, he’s bored. CleverPet solves the problem by keeping your dog occupied with learning games. Set up the iPhone app, fill the hub with food, leave the house (or go watch TV), and the CleverPet will play a series of games and puzzles with your dog with the food as reward. Bonus: This kind of “work” really tires dogs out, almost as much as a long walk or a visit to the dog park. Now they just need to invent some of these types of games for children — and adults.

The Takeaway

So what’s the point? Mainly that smart companies are innovating in every part of the smart kitchen, not just the sous vide machine or the oven. Niche spaces like the pet market are virtually unexplored, which means there’s room for growth and creativity. Who knows, maybe someday with the push of an iPhone button you’ll be able to remotely fill up your pet’s empty bowl, talk to them while they eat, and then give them a treat, as well as order food and treats automatically to be delivered to your door. Owning a pet has never been so easy.

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