If you’ve got a pet, it’s likely you have something cool that you use to either feed the pet, amuse the pet, watch the pet, track the pet, or travel with the pet. Well, the folks here at The Verge are no different: many have animal companions whom they feed, pamper, worry about — even obsess about — and totally enjoy.
We asked our co-workers to tell us about some of the techie (and not-so-techie) gadgets that they use to keep their pets clean, fed, and amused — along with portraits of the much-loved dogs and cats. We’ve got some great photos to show you. Enjoy.
Mitchell Clark, former news writer
We got the WOpet automatic feeder after our vet informed us that our cat Aslan needed some kitty liposuction. We had been letting him eat whenever he wanted out of a gravity feeder, but he clearly didn’t have enough self-control for that — and I didn’t have the willpower to feed him on a set schedule (or, if I’m honest, to not give him a little extra when he looks up at me with his cute little face). The WOpet solved that issue by dispensing his food four times a day with set amounts, making sure I know exactly how much he’s eating without actually having to wake up to give him his midnight snack. It’s also great when we go on vacation.
Just as importantly, it doesn’t have an app, or Wi-Fi, or anything that will someday become “unsupported,” rendering my feeder a brick. It just has buttons on the top that I can use to set how often my cat gets fed and how much food gets dispensed with each meal. (Though, if you’re the type that wants your pet feeder to connect to the internet, WOpet does make a version with an app and a built-in camera, though I can’t speak to the quality of those features.)
The ChomChom pet hair remover is an extraordinarily simple device — it’s basically a couple of pieces of plastic, fabric, and rubber. But through some dark magic, it’s better at getting cat hair off my couch, cat tree, and other upholstery than even the adhesive-laden lint rollers (though those are still superior if the thing you’re trying to de-pet is yourself). I’d explain more, but honestly, I think the ChomChom can best be explained with this GIF:
I know I’m stretching the definition of “tech” here, but I just had to share the ChomChom because the first time I saw someone use it, my jaw dropped. I hope it can change your life like it did mine. (Note: as far as I can tell, the limited-edition cat ChomChom that I paid extra for is 0 percent more functional than the regular one. It was still worth it, though.)
Elizabeth Lopatto, deputy editor
Jeeves loves to be in the office with me while I work. (I assume she’s supervising.) Anyway, to make her cozier, I got her this fuzzy cat bed. At first, she was afraid of it — she’s extremely shy around new people and objects — but now, a year later, it’s her favorite place to sit that isn’t my lap. Usually, she spends the afternoon snuggled up in it.
So my boyfriend came home from Costco one day — ominous start to the sentence, I know — and said he’d “gotten me a present.” Then he admitted he’d gotten the cat a present. Then he said we could all use it. We do. It’s an electric blanket, and Jeeves loves it. (It’s also great if your back or neck hurt.) You know how cats love to lie on heating grates? She’ll ditch the heating grate for this because I think it’s probably more comfortable, and also, it means she gets to cuddle her humans.
Trico and Kaiser
Adi Robertson, senior reporter
Skoon’s selling point is that it’s made of diatomaceous earth — as in, it’s a literal bag of soft rocks. I cannot explain what makes these rocks capable of almost completely nullifying smells and stopping my trash monsters from tracking dust around the apartment better than any normal litter I’ve ever tried. (It’s also supposedly eco-friendly, what with the “being just a bag of rocks” thing, but I can’t empirically attest to that.) My husband refers to it as “a miracle of science,” and I’m not going to disagree.
Kaitlin Hatton, senior social media manager
Trudee, otherwise known as My Boss, is notoriously insistent on being the focus of my attention. At any given moment, she has 20 toys strewn about my apartment, but she will not play with them unless I’m watching her — like literally, no distractions, sitting within feet of her, just staring at her chew on her toys for hours on end.
Don’t get me wrong. I love staring at my dog, but she doesn’t get the enrichment she deserves when her activity levels are tied directly to my ability to give her undivided attention. That is, until I bought the Pet Fit For Life Plush Wand. It has a toy attached to a long chewable rope that is suspended from a metal pole. Now, I not only toss the toy about the room from the comfort of my couch but also Trudee is so distracted by chasing it that she doesn’t notice if I am not making direct eye contact. It’s a win-win.
Ned and Olive
Sarah Smithers, senior editorial coordinator
My husband and I have two medium-size dogs named Ned and Olive.
I could go on and on about their positive qualities, but instead, I will be focusing on the one negative that they share: they are walking hair balls. I don’t know how two animals could possibly shed as much as they do. It doesn’t matter what season it is — every day, they lose enough hair to make a whole new dog.
I haul my giant vacuum cleaner out at least twice a week in an attempt to keep my floors as fur-free as possible. But five minutes after I’ve put it away, another dog hair tumbleweed will roll across the hardwood.
That’s where my Shark Cordless Pet Perfect Handheld Vacuum comes in. It’s cordless and weighs about 15 pounds less than my regular vacuum, which makes tidying up in between regularly scheduled cleaning sessions a breeze. Every evening, I spend two minutes walking around my living room just sucking up hair balls (or the stuffing from murdered toys) as needed. Sure, it’s not great at getting the hair out of our rugs, but it definitely keeps the hardwood floors neat enough. And as an added bonus, it is not half as loud as a normal vacuum, meaning Ned doesn’t hide from it and Olive doesn’t try to attack it.
Helen Havlak, publisher
Despite many standoffs in pursuit of an acceptable wet food, our cat Olivia remains addicted to dry food. Last year, I recommended the Catit Senses 2.0 slow feeder, a pedestal with five plastic cups that slows down her eating pace.
This year, my in-laws gifted us the even more intense sequel, the Catit Design Senses food maze. This is a three-level tower that you load from the top; your cat then has to reach in with their paw to move food down each level. It’s intense! I would estimate that it takes her about three times as long to finish a meal in the tower as in her older slow feeder.
Olivia has feline asthma and needs to take medication each morning. This got exponentially easier when we discovered the Churu lickable cat treats, which she is so obsessed with she will finish immediately — even if we’ve mixed in a ground-up pill.
If you love your cat but also love your furniture, do yourself a favor and buy a few cardboard cat scratchers. Olivia loves them way more than any fancy cat tree and has pretty much entirely stopped scratching our couch. We get several months’ use out of each one, especially as they are reversible. For extra cuteness, you can even splurge on one shaped like a skateboard.
Gus and Smokey
Jennifer Pattison Tuohy, reviewer
As a puppy, my Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, Gus, was the consummate escape artist. He could leap our five-foot-high fence in a single bound and often would if a dog, squirrel, or leaf happened to catch his eye. The Whistle Go Explore location tracker saved his furry butt a few times, first alerting us to his escapade (when the device disconnects from your Wi-Fi, you get an alert), then helping us track him down with its GPS location tool.
As he’s gotten older and lazier, it’s been a helpful tool for ensuring he’s getting enough exercise. Essentially a Fitbit for pets, the Whistle tells us how many steps he’s taken and how many calories he’s burned. It also has some neat health features on board thanks to an accelerometer that can track how much drinking, licking, scratching, and sleeping he’s doing. This info actually helped us realize that the poor boy has terrible seasonal allergies, and he’s now on a daily Zyrtec regimen and much happier for it.
The downside is the $99 annual subscription fee, which is required to use the device. This does include GPS tracking, but I admit I let my plan lapse in my last round of budget cuts. (I’m currently looking into Whistle’s health tracker, which ditches GPS for a lower $40 annual fee).
I couldn’t live without my automatic pet feeders. I have a total of 14 mouths to feed in my household — one dog, one cat, seven chickens, a bunny rabbit, two kids, and a husband. Making sure everyone gets what they need when they need it could be a full-time job. Being able to delegate feeding the dog and the cat to two separate PetSafe pet feeders means two fewer mouths for me to worry about.
In the PetSafe app, I can program how many meals they get each day and what time each is fed as well as determine how big each portion is — helpful now that my 74-pound puppy, Gus, is on a vet-instructed diet. The cat, Smokey, has his feeder up on a table so Gus doesn’t sneak in any extra portions. (There are some feeders that can recognize your pet based on their chip, but the table works too!) If someone needs a snack, I can just press the button on the feeder, and they get a little extra, or I can ask Alexa to dispense a specific amount. It’s the kind of hands-free convenience that makes the smart home so helpful.
Christopher Grant, group publisher, The Verge and Polygon
I’ll be honest, I have no idea if this is the model I have. Amazon is full of these identical alphabet soup-branded laser pointers with cute stock art of puppies and kittens. But who cares? It’s under $10, and my cat chases it like it’s his job. He prefers the stock pointer-style dot, but maybe your kitty is more of a butterfly-shaped laser fan? You can run your kittums out, and when the internal battery is depleted, just pop the whole thing awkwardly into a USB charger — it just sticks out, so don’t put it somewhere it’s going to get bumped — and you’re back to Cat TV in no time. Are there better cat laser pointers? I don’t know, I guess, probably. But my cat doesn’t know the difference.
Oscar and Pouncey
Antonio G. Di Benedetto, commerce writer
We have two cats, Pouncey and Oscar, who have always shared a litter box. Oscar, the younger one, is quite messy — jumping out of the box with reckless abandon and spreading litter all over. We initially had a covered box to slightly circumvent this, but last year, we opted for a pricey self-cleaning one to keep things tidier. (It was on sale for a little more than $400 then.) Like much smart home tech, it’s excellent in some ways and not so great in others.
I love that I’m no longer scooping litter every day, and if we ever go on a trip, we don’t have to ask friends or family to handle poop duties in addition to feedings. But it’s a blessing and a curse because, if I don’t empty out the waste bin on time, it piles up too high. Ever try opening a jam-packed kitchen drawer with a ladle sticking up inside it? You know that sense of frustration when it hits the top of the frame and the drawer gets stuck? Picture that, but instead, it’s clumped-up cat pee smearing across the underside as you pull it out. Yeah, not ideal. So it handles the daily duties, but it keeps me on schedule, or I end up wrist-deep in the other doodies.
Aela and Jack
Sarah Jeong, deputy features editor
For people with multiple indoor-only cats — especially those who also live in apartments — the Litter-Robot is a godsend. I was a skeptic at first. “You’re going to pay $500 for a litter box, all because you’re tired of scooping?” I asked my partner, incredulously. We may have fought about it more than once. But eventually, we bought the thing. I was pretty curmudgeonly about it. And well, I was wrong. Now that I have experienced the joys of post-Robot life, the price tag no longer bothers me.
The Litter-Robot detects additional weight (your cat entering the box) and will “flush” your cat’s doings a few minutes later. (I currently have it set to cycle out seven minutes after the cat exits). The Robot rolls the litter around, sifts it, and then dumps the lumps into that waste drawer. When it’s done, it’s as though the litter box has been freshly scooped and completely clean. Instead of scooping an entire litter box, you’re opening a little drawer in the front and removing a bag of sandy lumps, tying up and replacing said bag, shutting the drawer, and then topping the Robot off with some extra litter. Cleaning the litter box is a job I can now relegate to every few days. But it’s not the convenience that matters so much — I’m doing this while smelling nothing at all.
My two-cat household currently has a single Litter-Robot. I kept a second litter box out for several months before giving up and throwing it away because the cats never used it. They like the Litter-Robot. It seems like they really enjoy having a clean box every time they go. They also love to stare at it when it’s doing its whirling, turning flushing thing. They’ll walk in and out of the box in the middle of the night just to make it do something. (There is a setting to automatically pause the Robot during sleep time.) Sometimes they’ll jump into the box while it’s going, possibly for shits and giggles. (The Robot will stop when it senses that additional weight and cycle again later.)
We own the previous generation Litter-Robot, the Litter-Robot 3 Connect. It has been two years, and it’s still in good working order, although it errors out from time to time and I have to press a button to manually reset the Robot. I suspect there is some kind of a firmware issue, but it works well enough that I am completely unmotivated to figure out what the problem is.
Yeah, there are a bunch of nice little perks that come with the Litter-Robot, like an accompanying smartphone app that tracks how often your cats are going (maybe good for elderly / sick cats). Also, there are Apple Watch notifications that the poop drawer is getting full. And you end up paying less for litter because of how efficiently it’s cycled. But these reasons in and of themselves are not sufficient to justify a $700 litter box. I have to really emphasize that the basic premise of this gadget is that your cats are going into a clean litter box every time. This will change your life. You probably won’t believe me until you get one yourself.
Victoria Song, reviewer
My cat Pablo is a tech-savvy feline. He loves rendering sunrise lamps useless, typing on keyboards with his tail, sneering at cute robot pet cams, sniffing smart alarm clocks, and supervising my at-home fitness classes on the Lululemon Mirror. He recommends none of the gadgets mentioned above. He does wholeheartedly recommend his poop spaceship, the Litter-Robot 4.
You might think it’s absurd to spend several hundred dollars on an automated litter robot when you can manually scoop the poop for much less. My wallet would agree with you, but Pablo’s not had a lot of success with other covered litter boxes. (He was once stuck in one for an hour even though the exit was very clear.) He is also a finicky boy who needs a perpetually clean litter box or he will take his business to the couch. His turds are also foul thanks to his prescription diet.
The Litter-Robot 4 solves all of these issues. The opening is wide enough so he always knows how to get out. Often, he will joyfully launch himself out the front like a cat-shaped cannonball once his gastrointestinal adventures are complete. It automatically cycles so it’s clean the next time he needs to use it, and the smell never lingers. Plus, he loves watching it cycle almost as much as he likes watching the washing machine. Built-in cat entertainment.
As Pablo’s human servant, I appreciate that this thing is so much quieter than the Litter-Robot 3 — which served Pablo faithfully until it broke down. The poop drawer is also easier to remove and keeps things airtight. The fact that this thing lets me know when it’s time to empty the poop drawer is also excellent. It’s also a lot smaller than the Litter-Robot 3, which is great since I wasn’t keen on a litter box being a focal point of my living room.
Pablo and I rarely see eye to eye on cat toys or gadgets. (Currently, his favorite toy is the laundry hamper and my ponytail when I do yoga.) So the fact that this is cat and human approved? ’Nuff said.
Ash Parrish, reporter
My corgi Ein (yes, I’m a weeb) turns 13 years old this year, and I’ve had him for every single one of those years. But with that venerable age has, unfortunately, come a host of health problems that seemed to hit all at once. Because corgis are bread-shaped with stumpy legs, they’re prone to all kinds of musculoskeletal issues, from hip dysplasia to Intervertebral Disc Disease.
Thankfully, Ein isn’t that far gone, but his issues have left him with limited use of his back legs. He can still move them, scooting about on the floor, his little legs kicking like a baby duckling, but he can’t walk properly — which means he can’t relieve himself properly. We tried everything to help him, starting with a cheap sling that wrapped around his belly to hold him up — that he inevitably pissed on every time we used it. Then, we went for the more expensive full-body sling that had a handle I could grasp to keep his butt from scooting on the ground. He hated that thing so much. His being in that sling was like when you grab cats by the scruff of their neck; he just went limp and refused to move.
Finally, I decided to buy him a Walkin’ Pets Rear Dog Wheelchair, and friends, it has been a literal lifesaver. Ein no longer needs me to pick him up, he no longer drags his hindquarters on the ground, and he is able to poop and pee as normal. It’s a bit on the expensive side — $300 including shipping — but has proven well worth it. (And the website often has $50 to $100 off sales.) The manufacturer makes wheelchairs in all sizes and even specially constructed ones for all the weird-shaped breeds out there. Its website comes with a nifty size calculator to help you decide what size will work best for your pup and a measuring guide.
The wheelchair works with a soft harness that slips over his head and clips under his front legs. You then clip the harness to the chair — it makes your dog look like a harness racer you see at racetracks. It also came with stirrups for dogs who can’t move their back legs at all, but since Ein doesn’t yet have that issue, they’re easily detachable. Ein is a stubborn old goat, though, and didn’t like being wrapped or confined or otherwise harnessed. It was a big learning curve to get him to walk in the chair, but once he realized he could run again, using the chair became easy for him.
Ein is so much happier with his wheelchair. He’s able to zip up and down our backyard, face full of smiles, like he used to when he was healthier. I love that the most, seeing the puppy-like exuberance in my old man. And he likes it, not only because it’s restored his ability to walk but also because he gets so many pets from people who see him in it. I mean, see for yourself! Wouldn’t you want to pet him?
Update April 24th, 2023, 9:40AM ET: This article was originally published on March 26th, 2022, and has been updated to add several new entries.