TechnoPets: Even our Animals are Going High Tech

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TechnoPets: Even our Animals are Going High Tech

Post by shanaya on January 25th 2010, 8:06 pm

TechnoPets: Even our Animals are Going High Tech

Most households in the U.S., and in many other countries, include four-legged members. The 2007 Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook reported that there were over 72 million pet dogs and nearly 82 million pet cats in this country alone.
http://www.wxpnews.com/0RCBJB/100126-Pet-Ownership-Stats

We love our animal friends, and it's no wonder. They provide companionship and entertainment, while asking for very little in return. And we now know there are proven health benefits, in addition to the psychological benefits, of living with pets.
http://www.wxpnews.com/0RCBJB/100126-Pet-Health-Ins

And we're not about to give them up. People may be sacrificing their big cars, shivering or freezing in their homes, and throwing away their printers to "go green," but when it comes to our furry friends, we draw the line. A recent New Zealand study that suggests pets are "twice as damaging to the environment as a four-wheel drive vehicle" was met with responses indicating that's just too bad and readers will do "pretty much anything" to keep their pets:
http://www.wxpnews.com/0RCBJB/100126-Environment-n-Pets

What does this have to do with technology? Just as other aspects of our lives have been affected by computers and other high tech gadgets, so have our relationships with our pets. It begins with methods for acquiring a new puppy, kitten or other pet. Prior to the Internet era, most people got their pets from the local animal shelter, a pet shop at the mall, or a friend's or neighbor's litter. If you wanted a purebred animal, you might go to a local dog or cat show to connect with a breeder. Newspaper classified ads were also a common way to find a pet.

Today, many of us turn to the web as soon as we start considering adding a pet to the family. When Tom and I recently started talking about getting a dog, my first task was to research different breeds to determine what type would fit best with our lifestyle. You can even find surveys and quizzes that ask you a series of questions about your preferences and how you live and attempt to match you up with the right breed, such as the one at
http://www.wxpnews.com/0RCBJB/100126-Dog-Breeds

These can get you started in the right direction, but they don't usually cover all of the breeds or ask all the right questions. We knew we wanted a small dog that would stay indoors with us all or most of the time, but that wouldn't be "yappy." We aren't extremely active, so we didn't want a high energy dog that would be jumping around all the time. We've long been "cat people," so we needed a dog that would get along with our cats, and in fact that would be as much like a cat as possible - while still being able to do "dog things" like swim with us in the pool, walk on a leash and ride in the car.

Pre-Internet, I doubt I would have found that perfect dog. But with the help of the web, I stumbled across a reference to the Japanese Chin - a breed I'd never heard of before - and more research showed that this breed fit our needs more than any other. A web search also turned up a couple of breeders in our area, and next weekend we're bringing home our little Suki:
http://www.wxpnews.com/0RCBJB/100126-Suki

The web has also made people much more aware of the phenomenon of "puppy mills," and more careful about checking out the credentials of breeders who offer pedigreed animals for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

But the technology angle doesn't stop there. At their first visit to the vet, many pet owners are having RFID chips implanted into their dogs' and cats' bodies so that if the pets are lost, they can be more easily identified and returned. Microchip implants for pets has grown into a multi-million dollar industry, and the Humane Society, the American Kennel Club and numerous other pet-related organizations endorse the practice.
http://www.wxpnews.com/0RCBJB/100126-Microchip

One of the earliest technological developments that had an impact on pets and pet owners is the "invisible fence," an electronic device that some people use to keep their dogs and cats in their yards without a fence. It uses radio signals to activate a collar that causes a slight shock (similar to static electricity) when the pet gets close to a boundary wire. These products have been around for over three decades, with varying degrees of popularity. I've never tried them, but I know a few people who swear by them.
http://www.wxpnews.com/0RCBJB/100126-Hidden-Fences

A less controversial technology is the "pet cam." Once upon a time, putting a surveillance system in your house or yard was expensive and installation wasn't a snap. With today's computer-connected web cams and wireless self-contained IP cameras, it's easy to keep an eye on your pets when you aren't at home. With microphones and speakers built into some models, you can even talk to your pet. If someone else is at home with the pet, you can have them bring your dog, cat, or bird to the computer and you can engage in a video call with the pet. If you're leaving the pet home alone, you can set up cameras in the places where the pet usually hangs out (for example, near its food dish or favorite sleeping spot). Some camera vendors are even marketing their products specifically as pet cams:
http://www.wxpnews.com/0RCBJB/100126-PetCam

There are even "automatic" litter boxes now, such as the Litter Robot, that clean themselves (up to a point). A couple of years ago, one company was even selling a "SunSpa" so that if your pet was suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) on gloomy winter days, you could give it a little dose of simulated sunlight in which to bask. Unfortunately, they seem to have since gone out of business.

I'm not the only person who has created a web site for my pet. Many cats and dogs have their own web pages now, and some of them (not mine) even have their own social networking sites. Dogbook is a Facebook application that's available for the iPhone, which you can use to upload photos and update your dog's status from your phone (or, I guess, in the case of some very pampered pups, from the dog's own phone).
http://www.wxpnews.com/0RCBJB/100126-DogBook

Some of the new pet-related technology borders on the gruesome, though. I recently ran across a company called Perpetual Pet that "freeze dries" your animal after death so you can keep its body around forever. I hate the thought of ever losing my "babies," but I think I prefer to give them a proper burial when the time comes.
http://www.wxpnews.com/0RCBJB/100126-Perpetual-Pet

But if you want a pet that will never die, there's another way. Some companies are betting that people will be willing to trade in their flesh-and-fur animals for metal and plastic ones. Robotic pets are marketed as alternatives for those who live in "no pets" apartments, those who travel too much to provide a proper home for a dog or cat, or the elderly for whom pet care is too much of a chore. Although these robopets have been on the market for a few years, they haven't exactly surged in popularity in recent years. The Sony Aibo, a robotic dog that was introduced amidst much hype way back in 1999, was discontinued in 2006. Maybe it was the high price - or maybe we just aren't ready to make machines a part of our family as we do with real animals. After all, even children can tell the difference:
http://www.wxpnews.com/0RCBJB/100126-Robot-Dogs

Tell us what you think about technology as it pertains to pets. Do you shower your furry or feathered friends with the latest pet gadgets, or do you keep the relationship more low tech? Does your dog or cat have its own web page or Facebook site, or do you think that's just silly? What technological developments would you like to see that would benefit your pets? Would you ever consider having your precious pet "preserved" for eternity? How about a robotic pet - does the low maintenance aspect appeal to you, or do you believe a machine, no matter how lifelike, could never substitute for a living animal? We invite you to discuss this topic in our forum at
http://www.wxpnews.com/0RCBJB/100126-Forum-Discussion
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Re: TechnoPets: Even our Animals are Going High Tech

Post by irishgodfather1 on January 26th 2010, 1:08 am

Of course our dog has her own site.
The Christmas pupper.
It makes our cats damn jealous. santa
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Re: TechnoPets: Even our Animals are Going High Tech

Post by baldwindeb on January 26th 2010, 6:28 am

We found our Yukon from the rescue site on the net.
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