The Independent’s journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission.

Back in the office? These are the pet gadgets to try if your cat or dog is missing you

Cameras and treat dispensers could help your furry friend adjust to being on their own

Alex Lee
Thursday 02 September 2021 16:28
<p>After spending every waking hour with your pet, going back to work will be a struggle for you both</p>

After spending every waking hour with your pet, going back to work will be a struggle for you both

Last year, when offices everywhere began to close, many people working from home found themselves wanting some canine or feline companionship. According to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association, a mammoth 3.2 million households have acquired a pet in the UK since the pandemic first began.

Of the pets bought between the months of March and August 2020, dogs and cats were by far the most popular. Data from insights specialist Consumer Intelligence reveals that of the pets bought during that period, 40 per cent of them were dogs and 33 per cent of them were cats. Overall, there are now 17 million pets scampering around homes in the UK.

But as we’re slowly returning to life as we knew it, back in the commuting rhythm, the cosy days of home working have come to an end. Now there could be an epidemic of its own. This time a separation anxiety epidemic among our pets.

“If they are used to you being around, and there’s a contrast with you suddenly not being there, they are likely to wonder what has happened,” explains Karen Wild, an animal behaviour expert at PawPrintPets. “If they are dependent on you socially, this may cause confusion and anxiety or even panic.”

New and old pet owners are understandably fretting over how they can make being back in the office comfortable for their fur babies. While Wild says that gadgets and toys can’t replace human contact, in some cases, they can be quite helpful.

Read more:

“Some gadgets can provide the pet with activities, or distractions to keep them busy until you return,” Wild adds. “Gadgets that engage with the pet’s hunting or foraging instincts can be helpful if the animal enjoys these activities.”

There are dog and cat gadgets on the market designed to help make spending time alone a far less stressful experience for both you and your pet. Below you’ll find some of our favourites, and others that come highly recommended.

The best pet gadgets for 2021 are:

  • Furbo dog camera: Was £249, now £189, Furbo.com
  • Skymee dog camera: Was £149.99, now £139.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Nina Ottosson wobble bowl interactive dog slow feeding game: £20, Petsathome.com
  • PetSafe peek-a-bird electronic cat toy: £23.96, Amazon.co.uk
  • PetSafe drinkwell pet fountain: Was £45.99, now £33.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Thundershirt anxiety coat for dogs: £26.80, Amazon.co.uk
  • Relax My Dog subscription service: £31.95 a year, Relaxmydog.com

Dog cameras and cat cameras 

It’s understandable. After spending every waking (and sleeping) hour with your pet, going back to work without them is going to be a struggle for you both. Luckily, there is a range of pet cameras that will help you keep an eye on them, talk to them, and even dispense treats. Most of the pet cameras are designed for watching your dog, but many of them also work great for cats too.

Furbo dog camera: Was £249, now £189, Furbo.com

The Furbo is our top pick for the best pet cameras, featuring a treat dispenser, a two-way microphone so you can talk to your pooch and have it chat back, and a handy motion sensor.

In our round-up, our reviewer said that the Furbo was a neatly built machine with good design. “Its bamboo lid and gloss-white finish look good and the lid, where you add dog treats, is secure enough to prevent canine interference but easy enough to be removed by humans,” they added.

Additionally, the Furbo has an effective 1080p HD camera, and its “good two-way audio means you can see and hear clearly, even in darkened rooms, though night vision is monochrome only.”

Buy now

Skymee dog camera: Was £149.99, now £139.99, Amazon.co.uk

Also featuring in our best pet cameras round-up, was this more conventional camera. “The camera sits on a rotating base so you can pan round the room across 180 degrees, which is handy,” our reviewer said. “The treat dispenser can be activated by a manual press on the top or through the smartphone app, and you can even adjust the angle at which the treats are ejected.”

Motion detection can also alert you the second your pet jumps on the sofa, and there’s a memory card slot so you can save footage locally. “There’s also a surprise extra: it can wirelessly charge compatible devices if you place them on top of the gadget,” our tester added. While it’s called a dog camera, it can work for cats too.

Buy now

Dog and cat toys

As well as watching, talking and listening to your pet, you’re probably going to want to keep it preoccupied while you’re back working in the office. Toys for dogs range from puzzles to chew toys to spinning, rotating gadgets – we’ve rounded up our favourites in our list of the best toys for dogs. Cat toys are a little more fast-paced, and less about them being incentivised by treats.

Nina Ottosson wobble bowl interactive dog slow feeding game: £20, Petsathome.com

Nina Ottoson is world-famous for its brain-boosting dog toys, split into differing levels for puppies and brainiacs. Our favourite toy was the wobble bowl – a maze-like device that dispenses dog treats when nudged.

In our round-up of the best dog toys, our tester said that the bowl “went down equally well with both a puppy and an older dog with a stash of similar toys”.  Treats are inserted via a rubber-bung-covered hole, and the six openings around the base are a perfect size. It’s sure to keep your pet entertained for hours while home alone.

“We upped the difficulty level by covering certain holes, forcing our furry testers to take a more tactical approach,” our tester said. “We also loved the efficient design – the entire lid lifts off for easy cleaning, and a rugged rubber rim prevents damage to skirting boards.” This one can either be bought in store at Pets at Home, or you can buy it now through Amazon (was £22.16, now £20.04, Amazon.co.uk).

Buy now

PetSafe peek-a-bird electronic cat toy: £23.96, Amazon.co.uk

This little white bird will keep your feline friend from getting lonely while they’re at home on their own. When turned on, a yellow feather pokes out on either side of the device in random movements, which our tester says made “it a delight for cats to watch and play with... even with the most attention-seeking cats”.

It has two play modes: a 10-minute mode and the play-all-day mode, which you’ll probably be using more. In our round-up of the best cat toys, our tester said: “The toy self-activates when its motion sensor picks up movement from your cat, meaning you don’t have to worry about them being bored while you’re out.”

Buy now

PetSafe drinkwell pet fountain: Was £45.99, now £33.99, Amazon.co.uk

While we haven’t yet tested this product, 71 per cent of the reviews on Amazon for this automatic water fountain are five-star. It has a 1.8l capacity and features a customisable water flow, letting you adjust the speed of the water. The stream can be turned off for a more quiet operation as well. The foam filter also catches any hair and dirt before it reaches the pump. A solid choice for any lonely cats or dogs.

Buy now

Accessories and services for stressed-out pets 

If you have a pet that you think might struggle a bit more than others in being separated from you, there are a range of products intended to alleviate those anxieties. The items range from diffusers to collars to clothing items that coddle your pet.  

Thundershirt anxiety coat for dogs: £26.80, Amazon.co.uk

The Thundershirt is a wrap-around jacket for dogs and cats with anxiety. It works a lot like a weighted blanket, swaddling your fur baby and keeping them cocooned. It comes in a range of different sizes depending on how big or small your pet is, and currently has 4,542 five-star ratings on Amazon. Testing it ourselves, we found that it worked particularly well at calming our dog down when there were loud noises outside, perfect for upcoming firework displays.

Buy now

Relax My Dog subscription service: £31.95 a year, Relaxmydog.com

Relax My Dog is a subscription streaming service that provides around-the-clock music and videos which the company says are specifically designed to “overcome anxiety, loneliness, stress, boredom and hyperactivity”.

While we haven’t tried it out ourselves, the subscription service has garnered a big following, with more than 10 million subscribers around the world. Relax My Dog says that its subscribers watch its content for an average of eight hours a day. There’s a 14-day free trial available if you want to try it out before you take the plunge and subscribe.

Buy now

Voucher codes

For the latest discounts on essentials for your furry friends, try the links below:

For more of our favourite pet gadgets, why not take a look at our round-up of the best pet cameras, our best dog toys or our best cat toys?

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.