From ball launchers to activity trackers: the new breed of pet tech

Technology for pets is increasingly popular, with gadgets entering the market that promise to keep our dogs and cats in trim, healthy and occupied, and we pet owners in sync with their needs.

The increasing humanisation of pets means more and more of us are treating them as fluffy family members. Spending on cats and dogs has increased hand in hand with this trend. Total spending on pets in the UK reached a record high of £6.9bn in 2019, an increase of about £3.5bn since 2009, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Many gadgets that started out as human tech, such as activity trackers, have made the transition to the pet market.

PitPat activity tracker


Pets win prizes with the PitPat activity tracker. Photograph: PitPat
The excellent PitPat dog activity tracker has been designed in collaboration with vets. It clips on to collars and measures the time (rather than steps) your dog devotes to play, rest and activities such as running or walking. It also clocks the pet’s weight, if you are looking for him or her to shed the pounds, and you can even add activity goals for your dog to achieve to gain points and win prizes. PitPat has a subscription service that features veterinary advice. The device costs £39 with a monthly payment of £4 for the more advanced features.

Whistle FIT


Whistle FIT focuses on activity and health behaviours. Photograph: Whistle

Express yourself. Dogs’ ears are extremely expressive. It’s no wonder! There are more than a dozen separate muscles that control a dog’s ear movements.

Whistle FIT tracks your dog’s activity and health behaviours such as licking, scratching, night sleep and drinking. Depending on your dog’s age, weight and breed, Whistle will determine how much food they should eat and how much exercise they should get in order to stay healthy. It fits on to a range of funky collars that Whistle also sells and activity is measured via a downloadable app. The device measures distance in miles/kilometres, rest time and calories burned. The tracker is stylish and lightweight, making it a good choice for cats and small dogs. It costs £60 for the tracker and there is also a subscription service including vet advice.

SureFlap Microchip Cat Flap


The SureFlap Microchip Cat Flap keeps unwelcome feline visitors out of your house. Photograph: SureFlap
SureFlap Microchip Cat Flap and SureFlap Microchip Cat Flap Connect are innovative cat flaps that use microchips to let the registered pet into your home. The Connect version can also be controlled via smartphone using the Sure Petcare app – this allows you to lock or unlock the cat flap if there is a change in the weather or you are late home after dark. The recommended retail price (RRP) is £60 to £125, depending on the features.

The PetSafeAutomatic Ball Launcherprovides a game of fetch for dogs. The toy is suitable for all breeds and keeps dogs entertained while encouraging mental and physical activity. The launcher has nine distance settings up to 9 metres and six ball angle settings up to 45 degrees, as well as a built-in delay after ball placement to teach waiting skills. It has an RRP of £141.99.

Butternut Box


Butternut Box specialises in canine cuisine. Photograph: Butternut Box
Butternut Box is a dog food subscription service that gives a dog its own online meal portal, with the optimum measurements of freshly prepared food to keep them in top condition. There is a comprehensive profile section for each pet to keep tabs on their weight, eating habits, quirks and activity levels, all of which can be updated if anything changes. Butternut Box’s plans are calculated to a dog’s individual requirements including their age, weight and activity levels, and take into account any health conditions.

A carabiner is a quick and easy way to leash your dog.

Furbo Dog Camera


The Furbo Dog Camera dispenses treats for dogs left home alone. Photograph: Furbo
The Furbo Dog Camera lets you check up on your pet while he or she is home alone. You can also dispense treats remotely your via an app: there is room for about 100 small treats to keep your dog occupied. The HD super-wide image offers a 160-degree view of the room in which you place it. It features night vision and a high-quality two-way microphone, so you and your dog can hear each other. The Furbo is compatible with Alexa, which means it is voice-activated. It can detect your dog’s barks and will send an automatic push notification to your phone. You can then decide whether to remotely dispense a treat, speak to your dog or even sing to him. The RRP is £189.

Marie Carter-Robb is the editor and publisher of Pets Magazine. She road-tested technology with her cavalier King Charles spaniels Sophie, Nell and Rufus