Here’s how we tested smart pet cams
Hi, I’m Rachel Murphy, senior staff writer for the Smart Home section of Review. My work in this article is built on the original piece, written and reviewed by Review’s former smart home editor Sarah Kovac. I live and work in a real smart home where I can test products in real-life scenarios and be exposed to all the possible hangups and annoyances (and many more).
Pet cams can help a pet owner stay away from their furry friends. You can check-in, chat and toss treats to your dog or cat from anywhere with an Internet connection… but does your dog calm or creep it out? To find out which cameras are worth your time, I enlisted the help of my 12-year-old English bulldog, who tolerated my test for several weeks. I set the cameras through her food and water bowls, an area she visits frequently at various times throughout the day. She wasn’t sure what to think when the treats started to fly out of some of the smart pet cameras we tested.
We have tested the accuracy, connectivity and reliability of these PET cameras through Wi-Fi and cellular data. We downloaded companion apps, reviewed video streams, and interacted with two-way audio to determine which cameras offer the most useful features for pet owners.
Here’s what you need to know about buying smart pet cameras
Pet cameras come in all shapes and sizes, but you don’t need to buy the largest, most expensive model to successfully monitor your pet anywhere. For the most part, pet cameras serve as indoor security cameras, providing clear video, night vision and loud two-way talk, which you need to check with your furry friends from a distance. But what distinguishes pet cams from traditional security cameras is that they can listen to Barks and Meow with some intuitive features, including models from PetCube, or have built-in Wet Chat support. While some indoor cameras can detect animals, you won’t find these deep, pet-specific features on standard home security cameras.
Interactive pet cameras are more expensive but worth the investment if you are often away from home. Some cameras can give your pet a full meal several times a day, while other models can treat treats on demand and play laser games with your pets. However, there is no guarantee that your cat enjoys chasing lasers or that your dog is compatible with a treat-tossing camera. These extras are worth paying only if you think your pet will enjoy them.
Finally, consider carefully the size of a pet camera and where you place it in your home. Most pet cameras are large and take up a lot of space, but there are a couple smaller models for easier deployment. Additionally, some cameras come with suction bases, while others have magnetic mounts to hold them securely. These are important features to consider, especially if you have a hungry pet and can be tempted to knock out the camera and access extra food.
Treat Size Matters
Cameras that double as feeders are not compatible with any size kibble or treat, so you need to make sure the food fits. Dry food pellets that are too large can get caught on camera and cause its malfunction. Treats and pieces of half-inch (or smaller) kibble should be suitable for most food delivery pet cameras. Some models may have more specific requirements, so be sure to read the details before you buy.
Smart assistant compatibility
Whether you’re using Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri, it’s important to make sure the smart pet camera you choose works with your preferred Smart Assistant. This may seem obvious, but not all pet cameras work well with all voice assistants (and some do not work with smart assistants).
For cameras that support voice assistants, Alexa and Google Assistant are the most popular options, although functionality is limited. As with many smart home devices, it’s rare to find a pet camera that supports Apple HomeKit. To avoid any surprises, look for a camera that matches the smart assistant you use most. Compatibility information can be found on the product page or outside the product packaging.
Your pet security camera also needs security. So, what should you look for? Features such as two-factor authentication, end-to-end encryption and local storage selection are all things to consider before investing in a smart pet camera setup.
Two-factor authentication, which sends code to your mobile device to verify that it is you, is available on many smart pet cameras and something to enable. That way, if someone tries to hack your account, you will receive an alert and take care of the problem quickly.
Another thing to consider is how your videos are used and stored. Most pet cameras allow you to turn on and off the app to control when recording and uploading video to the cloud. Look for end-to-end encryption to store videos. Encryption provides a layer of protection that helps prevent unwanted eyeballs from watching your saved and stored videos.
Make sure you have created a strong password that is unique to your pet camera app. While data breaches seem to be the norm lately, it is increasingly important not to reuse passwords across multiple websites and applications.
Finally, when using these tools with smart aids like Alexa, Google and Siri, you can help protect your privacy by regularly deleting your voice recordings and muting the speaker’s mic when not in use.
Looking for more privacy tips? Read our guide to keeping your smart home safe.
Other smart pet cameras we tested
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