Being a chinchilla owner, I know how stressful it can be to leave your pets at home for any amount of time. Logically, you know they’ll be fine. You gave them plenty of food and water and you’re only gone at work for the day. Or maybe you’ve gone on vacation, but your friend or neighbor definitely knows to check on them. They’ll probably be fine.
If you’re like me, though, you always worry, at least a little. Getting some peace of mind about how your pets are faring when you’re not at home used to require calling someone and having them go to your home to check on them. That would mean leaving a key, finding someone who was available, and then relying on their report of your pet. Maybe they don’t know them the way you do, so that report might only be so useful.
With the advent of the pet camera, though, this is a problem of the past. As long as you have wifi in your home, there are a few solid options for pet cameras that allow you to keep an eye on your pet with the help of your smartphone. Some even dispense food, treats, and medication. Even a handful of cameras that aren’t made just for pets are up to the task.
One word of warning: During our testing, we discovered some dogs learn pretty quickly that you aren’t in the room when using the two-way radio feature available on some of these units. In at least one case, we found that it may actually trigger separation anxiety rather than quell it, as the dog may start looking for you when they can’t figure out where your voice is coming from. If you have this experience, you may want to consider a treat-dispensing model to offset this nervousness. All of these options are still excellent for monitoring purposes, and for other animals, this is unlikely to come up at all.
If you’re a worried pet parent, peruse our list of the top ten best pet cameras for keeping an eye on your animals while you’re away:
Specialty Pet Cameras
These days, companies are designing and marketing webcams specifically suited to watching and interacting with Fido while you’re on the go. They have a variety of features missing from standard webcams that help set them apart from simple video feeds of your home.
1. Petcube Play Interactive Wi-Fi Pet Camera
Certainly the sleekest of the made-for-pets cameras, the Petcube began its life on Kickstarter before becoming an Amazon Launchpad product. Aside from the high-end look, this unit is designed with interactivity in mind. Using a full 1080p HD camera with a wide angle lens, you can easily capture photos and videos with an iOS or Android device. It also features two-way audio, so you can talk to and listen to your pet. The icing for this one is the laser toy, though. By dragging your finger across the image, you can direct a laser that will engage your pet even across many miles. Reviews note that the laser pointer isn’t super accurate to inputs and the camera may present some delay, but on the whole, this is a good option if slick product design is key.
The Play is the second generation Petcube, following up on the 720p version, which can still be had for $98. Upgrades in the Play include the full HD camera and night vision, improving the low-light performance that wasn’t ideal on the older model. You also have your choice of colors between Carbon Black, Matte Silver, and Rose Gold.
I received a review unit for use with my three dogs. After I downloaded the Petcube app, it walked me through the rest of the setup. I had to try connecting it to the internet a few times before it finally succeeded. Once setup, my experience with it was quite good. The picture is excellent on my iPhone 6S, though the complaints about lag are accurate. I attribute this more to network speeds than anything else — the delay in audio using the two-way radio is about a second. The laser toy is fun but a bit fussy to use — almost certainly better with cats than my dogs.
A few other notes:
1. A 30-day trial of the Petcube Care service is included, which gives you a ten day history of automatically-recorded video triggered by movement. It’s on by default, so when you first set it up and move about your house, it’s immediately recording your movements. Happily, the app lets you disable this with a Sleep mode. There’s also a Quiet mode, which records, but suppresses the push updates. This is handy if you have a house like mine where the natural light changes a lot due to moving clouds, triggering the motion detection and sending you notifications about every 15 minutes. The updated app shows the Care status right on the home page, which is a very recent and welcome improvement. After the 30-day trial, you get four hours of cloud video storage for free. Subscription levels after the trial are as follows:
- 10-day video history: $10/month or $100/year
- 30-day video history: $30/month or $300/year
All that said, the automatic motion detection makes it so that the Petcube doubles as a home protection device, so be mindful of where you put it to get the best use from it. The camera angle is very wide and is able to capture my entire (admittedly smaller, open-concept) house from one end of the living room.
2. We’re talking about streaming HD video here, so be prepared for data usage. In three days of light use, I tallied 120 megabytes of data attributed to the app. Better to check it over wifi when you can.
3. The friends and family feature is really great. If you have your friend download the app, you can share access to your camera so they can peek at your pets, too. My wife tested it and really enjoyed the feature.
Petcube has recently released the Bites, a treat-tossing camera. Read a comparison between the Bites and the PetChatz HD here.
- Petcube Care automatically detects movement and records video to the cloud, with four hours of storage free for life and other storage levels available with subscription
- Two-way radio
- Laser pointer
- Sleek design
- Laggy camera feed
- Can be difficult to connect to wifi
- Laser location somewhat inaccurate
- Will chew on your over-the-air data if you’re not careful
2. Petzi Treat Cam
Another crowdfunded product, the Petzi swaps the laser for a treat dispenser. With a simpler interface, the app lets you see, speak to, snap a photo of, or dispense a treat to your pet. At 720p, this is less than full HD, but should be more than sufficient for seeing your pet and interacting with them from afar. When the treat option is activated, it will dispense several small treats at once. It also comes with straps so it can be attached to a pole, though you’ll need something like Command Strips to attach it to the wall. At the moment, this model won’t let you hear your pet or record videos.
- Treat dispsening
- 720p HD video
- Speaker to transmit your voice
- Hanging strap
- No two-way audio
- Can’t record video
- Not full HD
- Camera and treat dispenser delays relative to app inputs
3. Motorola Pet Scout66 Wi-Fi HD Pet Monitoring Camera
What this camera lacks in treats and toys, it makes up for in price and one other handy feature — a temperature sensor. Particularly handy for pet owners like me who have temperature-sensitive creatures, this gives you a readout in addition to an HD stream of the activities in the room. On top of that, this camera is much cheaper than the first two. This one features two-way audio, as well as video recording capability. You can also opt for the Hubble Cloud Video Recording as an added cost to keep a log of up to 30 days of activity. This one also has the option for motion-triggered video, or a simple notification snapshot. This could be handy if you suspect your pet is getting into areas they shouldn’t when you’re not home. Better still, you can also turn on notifications that are sound-triggered, too.
Price: $66.94 (33 percent off MSRP)
- Motion- and sound-triggered notifications and recording
- Temperature monitor
- Good price
- Infrared night mode
- App is currently only available for Android
- Not full HD
- No interactive functionality beyond audio
- Motion-triggered feature requires monthly payment plan
4. Feed and Go Smart Pet Feeder
The flexibility with the Feed and Go system goes some of the way to explain its high price tag. With six different compartments for your choice of food, treats, or medication, this is a solid option for caring for your pet while you’re away. The compartments will keep food sealed within the unit, meaning even wet food will stay good for up 48 hours. You could also fill them all with treats, call your pet over using a six-second pre-recorded message, and reward them for enduring your absence.
- Six compartments for treats, food, and medication
- Webcam works on iOS, Android, and Windows devices
- Ability to set one-time or scheduled feedings
- Text alerts to notify you when your pet has eaten or will soon eat
- No two-way audio
- Camera may not be HD
- Only a floor-level view
- No recording capability
5. PetChatz HD Greet & Treat Videophone
This unit features two add-ons that none of the others on this list do. The first is the ability to trigger the release of a calming scent that can help condition your dog and relax them while you’re away. With time, the dog will associate the scent with a video chat from you and a treat, helping to reduce separation anxiety. The other feature is an optional PawCall button. When activated, it will send a message to your device alerting you that your pet wants to video chat with you. With training, this can be an effective way to interact with your dog or cat when you’re away. The price is much higher, but these unique features aimed at diffusing anxiety might be key for your particular animal. Recording is available on this unit, as well as apps for both iOS and Android. Finally, you can stream DogTV to the screen for entertaining your pups during long days alone.
The manufacturer sent me a unit to review. Particularly in comparison to the Petcube, the major drawback to the PetChatz is that it must be installed over an outlet. There’s no pass through slot so you can plug in something else such as a lamp, so to use this, you’ll be giving up two outlets to power one unit. Additionally, the USB wall wart is quite large, which made installation a bit challenging. The instructions say to mount the PetChatz flush with the top left corner of the outlet, though I found that it wouldn’t work until I moved it about half an inch to the left. It requires some trial and error to get right, so measure a few times before you drill holes.
There are two other considerations for this kind of installation. First, you’ll have to shut the power to that outlet off at the circuit breaker lest you drill through the wire in the wall powering the outlet. This seems unnecessarily dangerous, but if your wires are installed correctly, you realistically should have no trouble. Second, if your outlet’s face plate is too large, you’ll have to change it to a smaller one or the unit won’t sit flush against the wall. The goal of this seems to be to hide the cord so pets won’t be tempted to mess with it. This could be improved with the use of a smaller USB adapter, or at least the inclusion of a longer cable so you can decide whether you need it hidden.
Since this camera is mounted at outlet height, which will be about a foot off the floor in most cases, this necessarily limits the viewing area of the camera. On my husky mix, it’s aimed at the bottom of his chest. On my smaller pit mix, I can see his face until he’s right up on it. If you can get your dog to lay down using the two-way audio, they should be perfectly in shot.
Another minor drawback is that to turn on or off the camera or refill the treats, you need to remove a white plastic face plate. The buttons feel solid enough and close with a satisfying click, but the face plate itself feels a little thin and could be prone to breaking since with significant use. You can mitigate this risk by leaving the camera on all the time and being judicious with dispensing treats.
All that said, once you have this camera installed, it works very well. The connection to wifi and then to the app is extremely easy, using a code-based system that syncs almost automatically. When using the two-way radio, the feedback reduction is far superior to the Petcube, on which you mostly hear the noise from your side of the call. With the PetChatz, it’s dead quiet except for the audio from either end.
The app is intuitive and simple to use. Despite the smaller viewing angle compared to the Petcube, I found that the light balance and overall picture was better on my iPhone 6s. The treat dispenser is excellent and only misfires every fifth time or so. I’ve yet to experience a jam in a week of regular use. My dogs figured out the system and learned the tone that plays when you turn on two-way audio very quickly, prompting them to come over to the camera in expectation of a treat. This was handy for verifying that they weren’t in areas of the house where I didn’t want them. (My tester didn’t include the PawCall, so I was unable to test that.) Ultimately, I’m pleased with this and I think it makes an excellent choice if the installation limitations don’t bother you.
Petcube has recently released the Petcube Bites. Read a comparison between the Bites and the PetChatz HD here.
- Two-way audio and video
- Treat dispenser and DogTV capability
- Soothing scent release
- Responsive customer service
- Laggy video at times
- Fussy installation that takes up two outlets
- Placement on a traditional-height outlet means the camera can’t see the whole room
6. Furbo Dog Camera
Taking after the Petcube Bites (which we discussed at length in this post), this model offers another treat-tossing option for the pet camera landscape and is priced between the Petcube and the PetChatz. It’s a fairly sleek unit, taking design cues from the still-trendy bamboo-trimmed small home appliances. It looks quite a bit like an essential oil diffuser or something along those lines.
The manufacturer sent me a unit to review with my dogs. Like the Bites, it’s meant to sit on a shelf and plugs into the wall using a USB adapter and a two-meter-long cord. Setup is perhaps even easier than on the cameras above, with the app opening to a login or sign up screen, which quickly guides you through the process. You’ll use Bluetooth to connect to the camera and get it signed onto your wifi network. Like the others, it will almost certainly require a reset to work correctly the first time, and shortly after your first video session will prompt a firmware update, which takes some time. You might have to prompt it back to life after the firmware update, but otherwise, this was uneventful.
A multicolored light at the bottom of the unit illustrates the status clearly, though it should be noted that the setup instructions are limited to only a best-case scenario, so you’ll probably need to visit their support page during this process. Still, nothing too onerous. One interesting feature is that once you get beyond the account sign up, if Furbo detects that you’re having trouble making a connection, it automatically sends an email to initiate support or help you troubleshoot, which is both somewhat eerie and admittedly convenient.
The treat hopper is similar to that of the Bites, with the entire bamboo piece serving as the lid for a large and generous filling area. Again, the materials included in the box don’t indicate what treats you should use and none are included. Their site has a page dedicated to helping you choose your treats, which contains all the usual suspects for semi-soft, usually cylindrical training treats. For help choosing, see our best dog training treats post; I used the regular Pet Botanics Training Reward treats in my testing, but you may want to go with the mini size to be on the safe side. When you fling a treat, a squeaky toy sound plays, which will pretty quickly condition your dogs to come running.
The app experience is extremely similar to the Petcube, with options for recording video and taking photos, two-way audio activation, and treat tossing. It’s very easy to use, though I do notice quite a lot of pixelation on the video feed from time to time. That said, it’s very usable and the light balance is pretty good. One thing to note: The default picture quality is set to 720p when you first get it, but this can be adjusted in the app. Like the others, there’s an option to setup a profile for your dog.
The differentiator of the Furbo is their new Smart Dog Alerts, which is an AI-powered facial recognition service. It’s a monthly subscription service which, over time, adapts to and learns your dog’s features and behaviors so it can send you better, tailored alerts. (Read more about it in their press release.) It can even alert you when a person comes into view of the camera, such as your dog walker. Each of the three alert types — Person, Dog Selfie, and Dog Activity — are independently selectable within the app. On the home screen, a count of detected activities highlights what it has tracked.
The Support section of the site notes that as of this update in January 2018, a price has not been set to retain the service, so users can take advantage of it for free for the time being. This is likely to help train their AI algorithms for best optimization, so expect a price on the subscription to roll out later this year. This feature compares with the PawCall optional add-on with the PetChatz and the automatic motion detection of Petcube’s Care, but takes it in a more advanced direction.
- Relatively attractive, modern-looking unit
- Two-way audio with bark sensing alerts
- 1080p video with AI-enabled dog facial recognition offering
- Ability to use a wide variety of treats in a generous, easy-to-fill hopper
- Spartan packaging and instructions necessitate a visit to the website during setup
- Occasionally laggy video feed with frequent quality downgrading
- Two-way audio isn’t as good as the PetChatz or Petcube options
- Some amount of patience is required upon setup; you will almost certainly need to reset the unit and perform a firmware update
WiFi Security Cameras
In addition to the expansion of the pet camera market, there has also been a rise in smart home appliances. Included in that is a wealth of home monitoring systems meant for security and general peace of mind. While these aren’t designed for pets per se, if all you need is an occasional visual of what they’re up to, these might fit the bill.
7. Nest Cam Security Camera
Nest products have become a leading name in smart home innovation. This security camera is no exception. Offering full 1080p HD and true night vision, this camera will give you a great picture of your home so you can see what your pets are up to. In addition to two-way audio, you can configure sound and video alerts based on so-called Activity Zones. With the optional Nest Aware subscription, you can also enable 24/7 continuous recording.
- 1080p HD camera
- Two-way audio
- Excellent nighttime picture
- Sound and motion alerts
- Not pet-focused
- No additional functionality
- Somewhat expensive
- Some units may overheat
8. Canary All-in-One Home Security Device
In terms of total house monitoring, this Canary device might have all the others beat. While focused more squarely on security monitoring, including the ability to alert local authorities in the event of an emergency, some of the features make it perfect for pet monitoring. The Canary comes with air quality, temperature, and humidity monitors that will give you a much more in-depth idea of what’s going on in your home when you’re not there. Of course, there is also automatic video alerts for iOS and Android devices. If you have needs beyond just your pets, this might be the one for you.
- 147-degree, 1080p HD camera
- Air quality, temperature, humidity monitors
- Video alerts
- Free video cloud storage (paid plans also available)
- Not pet-focused
- No two-way audio
- May be prone to false alarms
- Reviews complain about customer service (note: the company seems especially responsive to reviews left on Amazon)
9. D-Link DCS-932L Day & Night Wi-Fi Camera
If the other options on this list are all too involved for you, this simple wifi camera may work better. It still offers sound and motion detection alerts, which will give you an up-to-the-minute picture of what’s happening. It includes an SD slot for recording, which you an access remotely via the D-Link app. This is a no-frills option, for sure.
Price: $38.18 (58 percent off MSRP)
- Good price
- Meant for day and night monitoring
- Remote zoom capability
- Automatic sound and movement alerts
- Not pet-focused
- Not HD
- No two-way audio
- Limited functionality
10. Oco Wireless Security Camera
Another simple option clocking in under $100, this 720p HD camera offers motion and sound alerts as well as live streaming. It needs to be plugged in, but once that’s done, all you need to do is download the app and follow the steps to finish setup. It’s a straightforward offering for watching your pets roam around an empty house.
Price: $79 (20 percent off MSRP)
- Motion and sound detection alerts
- App works both on mobile devices and computers
- Two-way audio
- One year of free video archive included
- Not pet-focused
- Not full HD
- Lacks additional features
- Some reviewers note dropped connections
Heavy, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon. Our product recommendations are guided solely by our editors. We have no relationship with manufacturers.
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