Hello, this story is being written by a fish.
All right, you got me — I made that up. Technology hasn’t quite reached the point of letting our water-bound buddies communicate deep thoughts into Microsoft Office just yet. (And, let’s be honest, they probably wouldn’t have much interesting to say. Gurgle gurgle, maybe?)
Still, tech’s come a long way in the past decade, and humans aren’t the only ones reaping the rewards. Gadget-makers are slowly but surely developing more and more tech-tinged tools for the animals in our lives. Some are pretty impressive — an intelligent car temperature monitor for dogs, for example — while others are a bit more baffling (see: paw-powered hamster-mobile, below).
But hey, who am I to judge? Click through and decide for yourself. And if you end up getting that wacky hamster ride, for the love of Bullwinkle, post a photo.
1. Bowlingual Dog Translator
Give the Dog Whisperer a run for his money with the Bowlingual Dog Translator by Takara Tomy. The Bowlingual supposedly translates your dog’s barks and yelps into understandable English. It uses a wireless microphone attached to your pet’s collar to pick up the sounds. It then transmits the barks back to the main unit, where they’re interpreted in real-time.
So what kind of translations can you expect? Let’s just say if Fido’s spouting off Shakespeare, you’re going to be out of luck. The Bowlingual identifies six basic emotional states: happy, sad, frustrated, on-guard, assertive, and needy.
“Annoyed that you dropped two-hundred bucks on this thing instead of a new chew toy,” unfortunately, is not an option.
• Price: $225
• Available: JapanGadgetShop.com
2. ChatterBowl Talking Pet Feeder
Want to leave your pet with the sound of your voice when you’re away from home? Check out the ChatterBowl Talking Pet Feeder, made by Contech. The ChatterBowl records up to 10 seconds of sound, then plays the clip back every time an animal comes to eat or drink.
The gadget uses a light sensor to know when a pet is approaching — so, yes, it could conceivably work with an annoying little brother, too.
• Price: $23.14
• Available: Amazon.com
3. Riddex Pet Collar
Voice recording takes a different twist with the Riddex Pet Collar. The collar’s command center can hold a custom audio message, making it easy for you to leave an emotional plea in case your dog’s ever found far from home. (Plus, there’s nothing stopping you from recording the message in the voice of Rowlf the Muppet. Just sayin’.)
The Riddex Pet Collar also sends out ultrasonic pulses to help eliminate pesky fleas.
• Price: $16.99
• Available: Amazon.com
4. JooZoo MP3 Player
Sorry, pal, but your iPod is old news. In the canine community, the JooZoo is the hot new way to listen to trendy tunes. For the low, low price of $2,000, your pooch can sport the 18-carat-gold- and diamond-encrusted device and become the envy of dogs everywhere. The JooZoo features a remote control and built-in speaker, meaning Mr. Doggie can finally wail out with his tail out wherever he goes.
Just be sure to also pick up the latest Caninus album to complete the gift.
• Price: $1,500 – $2,000
• Available: Only in Korea so far
No, it isn’t a frankfurter: The HotDog is a high-tech device that monitors the temperature in your car. The goal, of course, is to make sure an animal inside doesn’t overheat. If the car gets too warm, the HotDog automatically lowers your windows, activates your car horn or lights, and sounds an alert on a remote pager up to a mile away.
Let’s just hope the alert doesn’t require a Bowlingual to translate.
• Price: $435.31
• Available: CriminalisticsInc.com
For animal lovers who really like to keep in touch with their companions, the PetsCell promises a whole new level of communication. Described as the first voice-enabled waterproof GPS cell phone for pets (that’s a mouthful!), the PetsCell lets you actually call your animal to check in from anywhere. And, thanks to the integrated GPS technology, you can track their exact location at any time, too.
The one problem: It isn’t available anywhere yet. The PetsCell Web site lists a mid-2008 date for retail sale, and the developers don’t seem to answer e-mails — so who knows if and when this thing will actually hit the market.
• Price: Not yet announced
• Available: Maybe one day
7. Tattle Tale Vibration Pet Trainer
Pets just love climbing up on forbidden surfaces, don’t they? The Tattle Tale Vibration Pet Trainer aims to make that habit a thing of the past. The Tattle Tale sits on any surface — a couch, a counter, even the hood of a car — and detects vibrations. Even the faintest little footsteps will set off its alarm, scaring the animal away and training it to keep its paws elsewhere.
The Tattle Tale can be hung from walls as well, so if scratching’s your problem, it has you covered.
• Price: $19.95
• Available: PetGadgets.com
8. Critter Cruiser
Taking the honors for oddest pet gadget of the bunch is the Critter Cruiser, a Flintstones-style vehicle for hamsters, gerbils, and mice. Yes, really.
The paw-powered Critter Cruiser lets a rodent ride around the house in style. A wheel-like contraption controls the car, while the animal’s own energy provides the fuel. Its makers claim the gizmo is great for exercise and entertainment, though it’s hard to gauge whether the entertainment is actually designed for the pets or for you.
The Critter Cruiser can be switched into to stationary mode for the less adventurous. There’s also a companion “Hamtrack Racetrack” kit available, if you really want to frighten your friends and neighbors.
• Price: $32.15
• Available: Firebox.com
9. Fetch-a-Bubble Machine
Who could resist the smell of free-floating chicken-scented bubbles? Certainly not me. The Fetch-a-Bubble Machine, made by Gazillion, sends a steady stream of poultry-tinged bubbles into the air for your pup’s chasing and popping pleasure.
As a bonus, if you ever run out of chicken stock for soup-making, you’ll always have a slightly soapy alternative available.
• Price: $17.95
• Available: ActiveDogToys.com
10. Bada Beam Rotating Laser Cat Toy
Your feline friend may not be into the bubble-chasing, but the Bada Beam could be right up her alley. You simply set the Bada Beam on any surface, and it displays constantly moving laser lines all over your floors and walls. It’s endless entertainment for practically any cat.
Throw some Pink Floyd on the stereo, and you may just be able to mesmerize your teenager, too.
• Price: $11.83
• Available: PetGadgets.com
11. Dog Walker Treadmill
File this one under: “Um, really?” The Dog Walker Treadmill, by Belluna, is built for puppies looking for an indoor workout. The remote-controlled apparatus lets dogs run as fast as 3.1 miles an hour without actually moving so much as an inch. It has side shields and a safety leash to keep the little guys safe during their jog-time.
Just think: It’d go perfectly in your basement next to that regular treadmill you never use.
• Price: $131
• Available: Only in Japan so far
12. Fauna Sauna Heated Spa Bed
After a long run on the treadmill, what better way to reward your pet than with a nice afternoon at the spa? Okay, it’s not a full-fledged spa, but it’s something.
The Fauna Sauna Heated Spa Bed is described as the first “radiant-heat-enhanced fine furniture” designed for both dogs and cats. It’s said to reduce stress and anxiety, help with pain and stiffness, and increase overall health and comfort.
Hell, knock the price down a few hundred bucks, and I might just buy one of these bad boys for myself.
• Price: $695 – $850
• Available: FaunaSauna.com
13. Stink Free Stink-Finder Ultraviolet Light
Let’s face it: Picking up after a pet stinks. Even worse is trying to track down the source of a mysterious offending odor in your home. That’s where the Stink-Finder comes in: Its ultraviolet light is built to identify areas of the carpet or couch that have been flagged by an unfortunate accident.
The cleanup, unfortunately, is still up to you.
• Price: $21.99
• Available: PetCo.com
14. Fish ‘n Flush
Hang on — it’s not what you think. The Fish ‘n Flush aquarium is a full-functioning, non-sewer-connected fishtank that just happens to reside within your toilet. Call it crazy, but you never know: Beautiful creatures swimming around the john might really help spruce the place up.
Once installed, Fish ‘n Flush’s 2.2-gallon tank wraps around an inner toilet tank that handles all the dirty work. It comes with a dual-filter system, a fill-valve, and even some plastic plants.
Quizzical glares from house guests are also included, no extra charge.
• Price: $199 – $224
• Available: FishNFlush.com
15. Drink No More
When keeping pets out of the bathroom is what you need, the Drink No More toilet protector may be just the gadget for you. Drink No More attaches to the underside of your toilet lid. Anytime a creature approaches with the lid up, it’ll sound a loud and annoying series of beeps.
Wait a minute…is this thing designed for pets or for men?
• Price: $24.95
• Available: Solutions.com