Leaving a four-pawed pal home alone can be tough, but a pet camera—similar to a nanny cam —can ease the situation. Synced with a smartphone or a tablet, these pet-friendly home devices let you see what your dogs, cats, and other pets are doing while you’re away. And, depending on the model, may let you talk to your pet or even remotely toss a tasty treat.
The best pet camera for you will largely depend on the level of interaction you’d like to maintain with your furry family member, but there are other features to bone up on before you choose a model. Read on to learn about the latest pet cameras and to find out why the following are considered among the best.
- BEST OVERALL: Petcube Play 2 Wi-Fi HD Pet Camera with Night Vision
- RUNNER UP: WOpet Smart Pet Camera with Two-way Audio
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Petcube Pet Monitoring with Vet Chat Two-way Audio
- BEST FOR DOGS: Petcube Bites 2 Pet Camera with Treat Dispenser
- BEST FOR CATS: VSTARCAM Laser Wireless Cat Camera with Motion Alerts
- BEST UPGRADE: PetChatz HDX and PawCall HDX Pet Camera
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Pet Camera
Bells and whistles abound on some of today’s best pet cameras, but their main purpose is to let you see what your pet is up to in real time. In order to use these devices a with a smartphone or tablet, you’ll need to have Wi-Fi installed in your home.
While not all of today’s pet cameras have two-way visual capability, most do feature two-way audio, so your furry friends can hear you. And that can be quite important; a recent study by the American Association for the Advancement of Science shows dogs are highly responsive to their owners’ voices. Indeed, if a pet suffers from separation anxiety or is simply naughty when the human’s away, hearing you speak soothingly or offer a firm “Stop it” or “No” may improve the situation at home.
High Definition Live Video
For the best view, cameras are designed to be placed in the corner of a room where your pets tend to hang out. Cameras with at least 720 pixels (p) of horizontal resolution, will allow you to see what’s happening in the room while you’re gone. For an even better picture, choose a camera with 1080p; this even higher resolution that will let you zoom in closely to see your pet’s face up close and personal.
Some pet cameras feature motion detection to catch your dog or cat on the move. Depending on the model, you’ll either receive an audio alert on your phone, or the camera may record a short clip (around 30 seconds long), so you can see what your pet was up to at the time the camera detected motion. Motion detection can also be valuable to view someone else entering the room while you’re gone.
If you’d rather not leave the lights on when you go out for the evening, but still want to check in to see how Rufus and Roxy are getting along, consider a pet camera with night vision (an infrared mode that displays a dark room in black and white). Night vision images have slightly less resolution than full color, daylight images, but they’re good enough to allow you to see what’s taking place.
Most pet cameras on the market today sync with smartphones and other digital devices, and can be configured to send audible alerts when the camera detects movement and sound in the room. On some models, you can adjust the camera’s sound sensitivity. So, for example, if your dog snores and you don’t want a reminder of it every 15 seconds, you can simply adjust the sensitivity of the sound sensor and only be alerted if your dog barks.
Live Recording and Playback
In addition to live streaming, some pet cams come with the ability to record and store the video to either a hard drive or the Cloud. To keep from taking up too much bandwidth, most pet cameras start recording when they detect either sound or movement, or both, and then continue to record a few seconds after the noise or motion stops. You can access the videos from your smartphone, and then delete them, save them, or even share them, if desired.
Pet Food Dispenser
Just by clicking on the smartphone app, you can remotely activate the dispenser and toss a treat to your pet. These dispensers work only with hard, dry treats, usually less than ½ -inch in diameter. They may also come with specific WiFi requirements, such as a 2.4Ghz or 5Ghz WiFi system, so read the fine print before buying. When shopping for a treat-dispensing cam, also consider the size of the treat storage container to make certain the device won’t run out of goodies unexpectedly.
Pet Play App
Some of the best pet cameras come with interactive apps that allow you to entertain your furry friend by moving a laser light around the floor and walls. This is an attractive feature for cats, as most dogs don’t really go for the game of chasing a beam of light. There are also cameras that come with apps that allow you to have a face-to-face chat with your pet by talking into your smartphone. If your camera has this capability, your pet will both hear and see you on an LED screen as you talk.
Our Top Picks
The following pet cameras run the gamut in features and fun, but to qualify as a top pick, they have proven to be durable, feature a clear image, and be easy to operate from a smartphone or tablet via a downloadable app. The best pet camera for you will depend on the amount of pet-to-person remote interaction you want. Keep in mind, in order for a pet camera to sync with your smartphone, your home must have installed WiFi capability.
The Petcube Play 2 1080P Pet Camera with Night Vision features a high-definition, ultra-wide, 160-degree view angle to capture your pet’s shenanigans from virtually anywhere in the room. Want a better look at the action? Zoom in remotely from your smartphone for an up to four times closer view. Configure the downloadable app to send you audio alerts if your pet starts barking, or if the cam detects movement nearby.
Designed for maximum audio interaction, the Play 2 features two-way audio, so you can talk to your pets through the speaker bar, as well as listen to the sounds they make. The Play 2 offers a plus for cats, with a beam you can direct remotely for a fun game of laser tag. And night vision mode lets you monitor your pet when you’re out for the evening. This Petcube model has plenty of features to help you keep up with your pets, any time, from anywhere.
The WOpet Smart Pet Camera with two-way audio boasts a wide-angle, high-definition video resolution that live streams to your smartphone in real time. Its advanced microphone allows you to speak in a voice that your pet should recognize. The ability to configure phone alerts, when the camera picks up either motion and/or sound, can provide peace of mind. And the camera automatically switches to infrared night vision when the lights are off.
Your pets’ favorite feature is likely to be the dispenser that holds dry treats you can dispense from your smartphone. Keep in mind, to use the treat dispenser, your home’s WiFi must be a 2.4Ghz system; 5ghz systems are not supported on this model.
Animal lovers on a budget can keep tabs on the furry family without breaking the bank. The Petcube Vet Chat Two-Way Audio Pet Camera includes desirable features available on pricier models, such as a 110-degree angle view of the room and the ability to zoom in up to eight times closer for a clearer view. The camera has 1080p high definition resolution, and it automatically switches to infrared night vision in the dark.
You can give your pets audible commands or talk in a soothing voice to help them relax. Another plus is the on-demand pet care service, Vet Chat; just type a question or concern into your phone to receive a consultation with a veterinarian. One session is free with the purchase of the Petcube camera, after which you can take advantage of one of the various subscription plans to continue the Vet Chat service.
If you reward your pups with snacks when they follow commands like “sit” or “down,” the Petcube Bites 2 Pet Camera with Treat Dispenser is bound to be a popular addition to your home. A high-definition camera with a wide-angle, 160-degree view, the Bites 2 can toss out treats whenever you deem your pups deserving. Its dispenser, compatible with both 2.4 and 5 Ghz WiFi systems, holds up to 1.5 pounds of dry pet treats in its container.
The Bites 2 features two-way audio, so you can talk to your pooch through its quality speakers. And you can configure the camera to send both motion-detection and audio-detection alerts to your phone. The camera also syncs with Alexa smart home systems and features night vision, enabling you to still see what’s happening after the lights go out.
Encourage cats to exercise when you’re off-site via the VSTARCAM Laser Wireless Cat Camera with Motion Alerts. The VSTARCAM features high definition resolution, night vision, and can be configured to send both motion and audio alerts to your phone. And its two-way audio capability lets you talk to your cats. The camera’s head, with 120-degree vertical rotation and 355-degree horizontal rotation, lets you track your purr-babies whether they’re snoozing on the floor, the sofa, or on top of the bookcase. And, when it’s time for action, the laser function is controlled remotely via your smartphone—you can move it virtually anywhere in the room for a bit of beam-chasing fun.
If you’re ready for the ultimate in pet cameras, the PetChatz HDX and PawCall HDX Pet Camera could fill the bill. In addition to high definition resolution and two-way audio, the PetChatz mounts on a wall at your pet’s eye level and features an LED screen allowing pets to see your face as you talk. A solid choice for pets with separation anxiety, PetChatz enables you to visually interact with your furry friend—and even dispenses bursts of aromatherapy to help soothe an anxious pooch.
While the camera offers the standard motion- and sound-detecting alerts and dispenses treats, perhaps the most innovative feature is the wireless DOGTV pad. If you can train your dog to use it, all he or she has to do is step on the pad and the LED screen will display happy dogs barking, running, and playing (a subscription is required for the DOGTV service). You may find that PetChatz goes above and beyond a simple camera to function as a digital doggie daycare.
The Advantages of Owning a Pet Camera
Many animal lovers don’t like leaving pets alone for hours. A pet camera allows you to see what your pets are doing in your absence, and the best models even let you talk to pets remotely and toss them treats. Other benefits may include:
- Motion and sound alerts are sent to your smartphone when your pet is on the move.
- Short (30 to 60 seconds) videos are recorded and stored either on the app or in the Cloud.
- Some cat-centric cams feature a laser beam that lets you play with your feline from your phone.
FAQs About Your New Pet Camera
If you want more information about pet cameras, consider these answers to commonly asked questions about the devices.
Q. What is the difference between a dog and cat camera?
Most pet cameras can double as either a dog camera or a cat camera, and they can also substitute as a security camera to keep an eye on your home (or babysitter) while you’re gone. A few specific features, such as paw-activated DOGTV screens, are designed with dogs in mind, while cams that allow you to move a laser light around the room are more likely to be enjoyed by cats.
Q. Are pet cameras worth it?
Pet cams range in cost from $40 to $400 and come with an array of features. Those who own dogs with separation anxiety may find that simply speaking to their pets over the camera, and thereby soothing them, to be very valuable.
If you’d like to see and supervise pet behavior, giving praise or scolding, the camera could pay for itself. Especially, if one command of, “Stop chewing on that!” saves a pricy pair of shoes or furniture from ruin.
Q. Can I use my smartphone to monitor my pet’s activity?
Yes, most pet cameras can be operated via smartphones and tablets. Some require an additional Cloud storage subscription, while others require a subscription for services such as DOGTV.