Saturday, October 04, 2008

Technology helping pet lovers to become better pet owners

It's amazing what technology can do nowadays. More and more pet lovers today are looking for ways on how they can make their responsibilities easier and to have more quality time with their pets. With the help of technology they find ways to do achieve this. Here's a good article from that shows how technology is slowly helping other pet lovers and revolutionize how we take care of our pets.

It's no secret that we are all way too busy. We commute an hour or more to work, get home late and barely have time to eat dinner before the 11 o'clock news starts. Little wonder, then, that we simply do not have the time to refill Sparky's water dish or change Mrs. Kitty's litter box.

To deal with growing time pressures, pet owners are increasingly seeking out gadgets and other technologies to ease the burden of their pet-related chores. As Julia Hsueh, owner of San Francisco's Furry Tales pet store says, why clean out litter boxes if you don't have to?

Pet owners, however, aren't looking to hire a robotic maid or adopt mechanical playmates like Pleo or Sony's line of mechanical Aibo dogs. They're looking for practical solutions: automatic feeders and water fountains, indoor potty surfaces, self-cleaning litter boxes and warming pads. Owners are also picking up battery-operated toys for entertaining their furry friends when they're away from home.

"People like the companionship [of pets], but they don't have the time or want to take the responsibility for taking care of them," says Hsueh. And owners are always looking to ease their chore-wheel burden. "Let the machines do the dirty work so you can just have fun with your dog," is the owners' mantra, Hsueh says.

In the U.S., you can find a pet in 71 million homes, according to data from the American Pet Products Association. Between dogs, cats, horses, reptiles, fish and everything in between, Americans own a combined 382 million pets, and owners spent $41 billion US on their charges in 2007. Almost $10 billion of that was spent on supplies and over-the-counter medicines alone.

John Simmons, publisher of Pets magazine, says people are getting interested in pet tech as part of a general growing interest in their pets and a desire to take good care of them. "More and more, they are a household member [rather] than just a pet," he says.
Play safe

Beyond convenience devices like "bark collars," which use everything from shocks to squirts of water to teach a dog to stop barking, owners are using technology to ensure their pets' safety.

Invisible fences and microchipping have been around for years, but both products are becoming increasingly sophisticated, Simmons says. Owners are also equipping pets with devices that will alert them to pets dipping into the family pool, for example. Some even treat their pets as surrogate children and have resorted to spying on their animals during the day with webcams to make sure they're safe and happy.

You can always turn to social networks to set up play dates for your pet with other pets. Dogster and Catster, sites that started out as a way to share photos of beloved animal companions, are now repositories of information on everything from grooming to finding veterinarians in foreign countries.

Now nearing a combined 1 million members, the sites have even become places to plan real-world meet-ups. On Dogster, about 100 West Thailand Terriers united recently in South Carolina — with some pets and owners traveling from as far as six states away.

Indeed, pets are no longer creatures you just keep in the backyard and rarely see.

"It used to be [that] the dog was kind of around and someone would often forget to feed it," says Dogster chief executive Ted Rheingold. "Now they have a family-member relationship. When you make plans, you are thinking about what you're going to do about Sparky."

And that's where technology can step in and lend a helping hand.