People love their pets, and they're willing to pay big bucks to prove it to their furry companions.
The American Pet Product Manufacturers Association estimates that the average dog owner spends $68 a year on treats, $45 on toys and $107 on grooming or grooming aids. Cat owners spend $43 a year on treats, $29 on toys and $24 on grooming products, the group claims.
To meet that demand, new products debut at a rapid pace, covering traveling and walking with pets, dressing, and cleaning them.
GPS technology has changed the situation every dog owner dreads: losing their furry friend.
Devices that strap onto a dog's collar can locate the dogs using coordinates beamed down from satellites. Using cell phone technology, those coordinates are then sent to a tracking service that can display real-time Internet maps of the dog's location.
Global Pet Finder -- $350 plus monthly subscription fee (available now)
Global Pet Finder offers an eraser-size device that loops into a dog's collar. You can even use it to create a proactive warning system. First you use the device to mark a perimeter around your home. If the dog goes outside that perimeter, the Global Pet Finder will text-message your cell phone, alerting you to the breakout.
Petcell -- pricing unavailable (to be released late Summer 2006)
This prototype product has many of the same features listed with the Global Pet Finder, but it will also allow you to "talk" to your dog. Using a two-way speaker, you can dial Fido's collar phone. The Petcell will automatically pick up (manipulating those cell phone buttons is tough without opposable thumbs) so that you can talk to your dog. If he barks or whines at the sound of your voice, you'll be able to hear that through the two-way speaker. We have not seen a working model of this phone yet, but look for it to debut later in 2006.
Fish School -- $25.95 for kit (available now)
I've always thought that fish in aquariums look bored: What is their purpose in life, what gets them up to the top of the tank each morning? If you want to get your fish going, enroll them in fish school. The fish school kit consists of an instructional manual plus some tank toys like a soccer ball, net, hoop and feeding pole (the feeding pole is the key to this whole system). You use food flakes as an incentive to get the fish to go through the hoop, push the soccer ball and do the limbo under the fish bar. Go to the fish-school.com Web site to watch videos of recent graduates.
The Soniks Squeaky Toys -- $4.99- $9.99 (available now)
Dogs are so cute when they get a new squeaky toy, then five minutes later you regret the purchase of that noisy squirrel with every bone in your body. Enter the Soniks: squeaky toys that dogs hear but humans don't. These plush alien-looking toys (from the "planet NoNoyz") produce sound at a frequency above the range humans can hear. I tested them myself -- the dogs love 'em and I can't hear 'em. Hallelujah! One note: the company that makes the Soniks is in flux, so finding them is a little tough. I ordered mine from radiofence.com.
Traveling With Your Pet
Kittywalk SUV Stoller -- $189.95 (available now)
Cats want to get out too! The SUV Stroller allows you to wheel your cat around in a protected environment without pulling her on a leash and picking her up every time a dog comes by. With its traction wheels, you can even off-road with kitty. This also works for small dogs or older dogs.
GloLeash -- $29.99 (available now)
The Gloleash combines a retractable dog leash and a flashlight into one device. Brilliant!
Doggie Seat-Belt Harness -- $24.99 (available now)
Locking your pet into a seat belt protects your dog and the passengers in the car. If you get into a high-speed accident, the dog could slam into a seat, the window or even other passengers. If your dog has a hard time sitting still in the car, the harness will also prevent them from jumping into the driver's seat.
Quick Control Leash/Collar System -- $18.95, (available now)
If you have ever needed to quickly get your dog under control, you'll appreciate this aptly named product. It's a dog collar with a short retractable leash built into it. If the mailman comes to the door, you can pull the leash out to hold your dog back instead of bending down and trying to hold its collar while also signing for that package.
EasyBrush Toothbrush -- $14.99 (available now)
Last visit to the vet, I was told my 7-year-old chow needed to have his teeth cleaned. $300 later (dental plus general anesthesia), I'm wishing I'd brushed his teeth more. The problem is getting a brush into the dog's mouth for any quality cleaning. It's a battle. The EasyBrush lets the dog brush its own teeth. I usually avoid endorsing products, but I will break tradition here: the EasyBrush is fantastic. Imbedded in the ends of a rubber bone are four brushes, basically sunken bristles. You put a meat-flavored "toothpaste" on the brushes and give it to the dog. The dog chews on the bone sinking his teeth into the bristles that dislodge plaque and tartar. My dog is picky, but he loved it. I had a hard time getting the EasyBrush away from him (the instructions say you should limit the dog's time with the brush to avoid overstimulating the gums). For $15 I may be able to save my dog the anxiety of a vet visit and save myself the $300 his dental care cost.
Poopsadaisy -- $18.95 (available now)
Good dog owners scoop the poop. But then what? If a trash can isn't available you have to carry a nasty warm bag of poo, Ick! I have been known to tie the bag to my dog's collar (I didn't make the mess, why should I carry it?), but the bag is dangling there usually hitting his chest with every step, and I still have to look at it. The Poopsadaisy offers a solution. This small doggie backpack unzips to perfectly and securely stow your dog's plastic bag of poo. When you finally pass a trashcan, unzip the Poopsadaisy and dispose of the plastic bag. Out of sight, out of mind, and doing the right thing.