Technology for Cats: The Present and Future

Technology for cats is more prevalent now than any other time in history.

This trend is part of the wider growth in pet technology and technology overall.

As the world becomes increasingly connected, and the economies of countries from all around the world begin to prosper, the accessibility and affordability of technology for all begins to narrow.

Stick with us as we walk you through the current state of technology for cats and where it’s expected to go in the near future.

The Pet Cat as Part of the Family

According to the National Pet Owner Survey conducted across 2017-2018, 68% of U.S. households own a pet.

This equates to 85 million families.

Of those 85 million households that own a pet, 47.1 million of them own a cat.

To go even further, the recorded total number of cat’s owned as pets in the U.S. is 94.2 million.

These statistics are quite astounding, right? It definitely goes to show that there is a huge market when it comes to pet products, and we’re only talking about the U.S. here.

What’s more, 95% of U.S. pet owners consider their pets to be members of the family (Harris Poll, 2015).

It is not uncommon to see families throw birthday parties for their beloved pets, gifting them treats and toys as to celebrate another year of life accomplished.

Over are the days when pets were simply offered squeaky toys and feather-tailed balls, for technology has firmly planted itself within the pet industry and it’s here to stay.

Cat Part of Family
Cat’s are Considered as Part of the Family.

What is Technology for Cats?

Cat technology is a sub-section of the overarching pet-tech market.

Technology for cats is researched, designed and implemented with the overlying objective being to solve problems that cat owners face on the daily.

There are multiple types of cat technologies available, which we shall touch more upon later, each of which target a different pain point. Below, we will briefly outline some of the categories:

  • Wearables (GPS collars, health monitors)
  • Health (personalized food, illness detectors, DNA tests)
  • Convenience (automatic feeders, water fountains and litter boxes)
  • Entertainment (app-controlled toys, electronic companions, pet cameras)
  • Safety (app-controlled cat flaps)
  • Sustainable alternatives (virtual-reality, robotic pets)

As you can tell, technology for cats spans wider than you may have thought.

The Current State of the Pet Industry

United States of America

Each year the American Pet Products Association (APPA) reports the total U.S. Pet Industry Spending figures while also forecasting the numbers for the following year.

If we rewind 4-years back to 2015, the total spending in the U.S. pet industry totalled to $60.28 billion.

Yes, you read that right, billion.

Fast-forwarding to 2018, the spending increased a tremendous $12.28 billion, totalling at $72.56 billion.

Now that is a lot of money in the pet industry, and it’s only going to increase with the APPA predicting a further $2.82 billion increase by the end of 2019.

A recent report by Packaged Facts (2018) revealed that of the $4.9 billion cat and dog durables product market, $565 million of that is down to the smart pet products market.

For those of you who may be unaware, durables are products that aren’t consumed in one sitting but are instead supposed to last for multiple, if not thousands of, uses e.g., a dog leash or cat collar.

Having analyzed current market trends, the company predicted that the smart pet product market in the U.S. will reach $1 billion by 2023.

From this, it is clear that smart pet technologies are only going to become more common and more effective in improving the wellbeing of our pets, and also how we bond with them.

Europe

Moving on over to Europe, with a specific focus on the pet product industry, EuroDev (2018) reported that almost 25% of the market is captured by the sales of pet accessories.

Japan

How about over the other side of the globe, Japan?

According to a report by Statista, the estimated market value of pet related businesses in Japan totals to ¥1.54 trillion (Japanese Yen), which is the equivalent to $14.24 billion.

While this is only a fraction of the spending in the U.S., it illustrates the fact that the pet industry is rapidly developing all across the world.

These statistics, and market trends, are vastly revealing the global impact that pet technology is having amongst pet owners.

But what’s giving rise to this surge in connectivity and pet technologies? Find out below.

Global Pet Market
The Global Pet Industry is Continually Expanding.

The Internet of Things

Definition: “The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of dedicated physical objects (things) that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment.” – Gartner, Inc.

By no means is the IoT specific to pet technology.

In fact, the IoT thrives mostly within services, it’s just that the recent accessibility of the technology has granted opportunity in all types of industry, including pet-tech.

Gartner recently reported that the IoT will flourish to over 20 billion connected units by 2020.

This is 3x the projected number of smartphones, tablets and PCs (7.3 billion units).

The IoT and Technology for Cats

The IoT has helped establish a multitude of smart technology for cats. Let’s give you some examples:

  • GPS cat trackers are connected through cellular data and WiFi, which then allows you to reveal the location of your cat on your phone, tablet or desktop.
  • Wearable health activity monitors that track and generate data about the health of the cat that may otherwise have gone unnoticed.
  • Automatic pet feeders make it possible to feed the cat without being there by setting up daily feeding schedules and then receiving mobile notifications when your cat has been fed.
  • Cat monitoring cameras allow you to engage with your cat in multiple ways while away from home, strengthening and prolonging your bonding time.
The Wider Implications of the IoT.

The Current State of Technology for Cats

In this section we will touch further on some of the specific technologies that are out there right now, today. Keep reading as we guide you through examples of wearables, microchip, entertainment, convenience, health and sustainable technology that are here to improve the lives of both you and your cat.

Wearable Technology for Cats

Grand View Research recently published a report that valued the global pet wearable market at $1.4 billion in 2018.

They also forecasted that the market will more than double in size with expectations of reaching $3.5 billion by 2025.

The majority of the market value is taken up by GPS trackers as there continues to be an increasing demand for real-time tracking in response to the growing concern of pet theft and wellbeing.

An example of a company that has recently innovated their GPS wearables to accommodate separately for cat dimensions and sizes has been Tractive.

The Tractive GPS Cat Tracker allows users to track their cat in real-time through the live tracking application on their smartphone or desktop.

As well as this, users can set virtual fences, known as geofences, on the map and receive instant notifications as to when their cat may have strayed into out of bounds territory.

Users can also relax knowing that there is a breakaway collar mechanism for the chance that their cat becomes stuck in a sticky situation.

As well as GPS trackers, there is also a surge in pet health monitoring via smart collars.

Companies such as Felcana and PetPace have engineered their collars so that they track health features such as calories, body temperature, activity levels and heart rate.

Not only that, but these smart health monitoring collars also offer services that directly link with veterinarians. Whether it be for queries, in the case of Felcana, or sharing real-time data with your local vet, in the case of PetPace, the advance in technology is reducing the gap between users, their cats and their vet, which resembles an increasing interest in the wellbeing of our pets.

Microchip Technology for Cats

Microchip chips have been around for a while now.

You’ll find that most people who own a cat will end up getting them microchipped if not for anything else but so that they can be identified if they go missing.

However, there is more to microchips than just that.

As most of you reading this will know, microchip cat flaps are incredibly popular.

They provide an added layer of security over a normal cat flap, allowing cats to feel safe inside their own home knowing that other village cats, or raccoons for that sake, can’t enter and steal all their food.

The majority of microchip cat flaps have manual buttons to change their limited amount of settings, apart from one particular technologically advance cat flap: The SureFlap Connect.

SureFlap offers a cat flap that can be controlled through an app on the user’s phone as long as they have the Hub.

Cat owners with the SureFlap Connect can lock and unlock their cat flap from anywhere simply by pressing a button.

What’s more, the app allows users to set scheduled curfew times as to when the cat flap will open or not.

This ensures that cat owners will have peace of mind before going to sleep knowing that their cats will be safe inside throughout the night, while then also relieving them from the hassle of having to manually open the cat flap again first thing in the morning for it will automatically open again as scheduled on the app.

If that wasn’t enough to impress you, then this sure will be.

The SureFlap Connect has DualScan technology which means that users can customize settings for each particular cat.

For example, if the cat in question had a vet appointment early in the morning, the user would be able to block their ability to leave through the cat flap, without permitting the other cats from leaving, ensuring an on-time vet appointment.

Not only that, but the app will send notifications as to when the cats have entered or left the house, and users will also be able to monitor their cat’s cat flap activity for behavioral changes.

SureFlap Connect Cat Technology
How the SureFlap Connect works.

SureFlap also have another genius piece of technology: The SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder.

This works similarly to an ordinany microchip cat flap, but for a different purpose.

The microchip pet feeder allows the user to assign the device to one particular cat, which means that only when that cat goes near the feeder will it open and present the food to it.

This is a great piece of technology for situations such as when one cat eats all the other cats’ food, but also for when only one particular cat needs to go on a specific diet or is being fed prescription food.

It should be mentioned that although both of these devices are compatible with microchips, SureFlap also has RFID tags available that work similar to microchips, only that they are attached to the cat’s collar as opposed to implanted.

Cat Technology for Entertainment

One of the biggest concerns that pet owners have is worrying about the well-being of their pets while they’re away from the house either at work or elsewhere.

Cats can often become dependent on their owners’ company for feeling of security and entertainment.

When their owner suddenly leaves the house for long periods of time, they can often find themselves worried, stressed and bored.

Of course, it works the other way around too in that the cat owners find themselves bored at work or suddenly worried about what their cats are doing to entertain themselves (hopefully not shredding up the loo-roll!).

This is where technology steps in.

There are some pretty advanced technologies available today that are built to keep your loved one, and yourself of course, entertained throughout the day.

Felik has developed the world’s first AI-powered pet companion.

Using a camera and Machine Learning (AI), Felik tracks your cat and reacts to their movements automatically, much faster than a human can.

This piece of tech takes laser games to the next level.

The app allows cat owners to schedule automated play sessions throughout the week to make sure that their cat is thoroughly entertained.

Users can watch on their phone as the AI-powered companion plays with their cat without them having to do anything.

A really cool feature is that users can set restricted zones where the laser is not allowed to go, which means that there is no chance of coming home to a room turned upside down by their excited cat.

Petcube, arguably the leaders in the pet camera industry, offer a pet camera called the Petcube Play 2.

This camera boasts a range of impressive features.

Users can tune into the vision of the camera while away from home, see and speak to their cats through the two-way audio system, play a game of chase with the app-controlled laser toy and snap photos of their cat in action before sharing them on social media with ease.

Petcube Play 2 Cat Technology
The Stunning New Petcube Play 2.

As technology progresses, and research advances, more and more is uncovered about the intelligence of animals.

Through this movement has come the world’s first games console for dogs and cats.

CleverPet has been researched and designed by cognitive scientists who focus their attention on animal intelligence.

The CleverPet console stimulates your cat with a whole range of puzzles that differ in difficulty.

Cats are clever animals, and when they solve a puzzle they’ll be rewarded with a treat, as they should be!

Users will be able to track their cats progress on the mobile app, making the puzzles harder if need be.

It’s not uncommon for a cat owner to go out to the shops, buy a whole load of fluffy and feathery toys for their cats only to find out that the cats actually prefer playing with the receipt scrunched up into a ball.

Funny creatures, right?

Taking the paper ball to the next level, PlayDate offers an interactive app-controlled smart ball.

The durable ball has a wide-angle camera with two-way audio and a range of sound effects.

This piece of technology for cats allows cat owners to play and bond with their cat even when they’re not at home.

Ever heard of a cat exercise wheel?

They’re similar to hamster wheels only a lot larger…

PetDing, a Korean company, have manufactured an IoT exercise wheel called The Little Cat.

This cat exercise wheel syncs to a mobile app which allows users to track their cat’s activity and set weight loss goals: a great way to encourage exercise for indoor only cats.

Convenient Technology for Cats

Things don’t always go to plan in our day to day lives.

Whether it be heavy traffic, working late or some awful illness, there always comes a time when our normal routine is broken and we are unable to do what everyone else expects of us, including the cats.

Luckily, there are technologies out there that automate the processes that ensure the wellbeing of our cats.

Take Catspad, for example, the smart cat feeder and water fountain.

Their automatic cat feeder makes sure your cat maintains a healthy, consistent diet by allowing users to schedule several small meals throughout the day.

The feeder also recognizes multiple cats by reading the provided Catspad collar tags, which users can then track each of their cats eating and drinking habits.

This is a great way of automating an essential part of a cat’s life, allowing cat owners to notice any irregularities in behavior that may indicate health issues.

On the other side of things, more so what comes after having eaten and drank, is the litter box business.

Possibly the most frustrating and unpleasant part about owning a cat: having to scoop through dirty, smelly litter.

For cat owners that have experienced an ordinary litter tray, they’ll know that awful smell that often follows the cat out of the room.

Now, fortunately for the modern cat owner there are a range of self cleaning litter boxes.

However, nothing compares to the Litter Robot 3 Connect.

The Litter Robot is an automatic litter box like no other.

Never again will cat owners have to scoop through dirty litter.

Instead, the out of space looking sphere takes control and does it all.

The Litter Robot 3 Connect in all its glory!

The Litter Robot efficiently separates the dirty litter from the clean, reducing litter usage by up to 50%, while also removing all foul odours in the process.

All the user has to do is wait for a notification telling them that the draw is full, remove the bag, bin it and then replace it with a fresh empty bag.

There really isn’t an easier way to deal with cat litter.

Health Technology for Cats

Cats are notorious for hiding any signs of illness.

Most of the time they’ll tend to themselves and keep themselves clean, but rarely will a cat be so overt in any illnesses they’re facing, and rarely will a cat owner know that their cat is ill unless they know what signs to look for, or, unfortunately, until it’s too late and the damage has been done.

But this doesn’t have to be the case.

There have been significant advances in technology for cats that help us uncover any illnesses that they may be hiding.

An example would be PrettyLitter.

PrettyLitter is a type of cat litter that changes color to indicate any health issues that may be impacting a cat’s wellbeing without the owner knowing.

This then allows cat owners to closely monitor the health of their cat, meaning that they can act early before a potential illness spirals out of control.

BasePaws allows cat owners to take a non-invasive DNA test which will later reveal their cats breed, traits and any health dispositions.

This lets cat owners found out some important genetic information about their cat which will then allow them to act effectively with regards to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and avoiding any decisions that may have unknowingly caused harm.

AnimalBiome allows cat owners to test their cat’s microbiome (digestive system and how they handle food for nutrition and energy) and adjust as such.

They also provide a course of capsules that will help restore an unbalanced microbiome should that be the case.

It should be known that an unbalanced microbiome leads to a range of health issues e.g., diarrhea, skin issues and weight problems.

What we are seeing here is the application of scientific research that allows us to ensure the maximum wellbeing of our beloved pets.

Health Technology for Cats
PrettyLitter’s revolutionary health monitoring kitty-litter.

Sustainable Alternative Technology to Replace Physical Pets

Sustainability is a trending topic of discussion as of late, and it will continue on for years to come.

Research into sustainability impacts almost every sector, including the pet industry.

As the world continues to expand, in all senses of the word, it becomes important to reflect on the actions we are taking and whether or not they are sustainable.

Most cat owners, or pet owners in general, will rarely look at the bigger picture as to how well the world will be able to handle the continuous expansion in pet ownership.

Sure, as we’ve outlined above, the advances in technology are vastly improving the wellbeing of pets, but it is also important to acknowledge the areas that are often ignored such as space, waste, resources and ethical treatment.

Without diving too deep down the sustainable rabbit hole, it’s important to discuss how technology is innovating alternatives ways of engaging and bonding with pets.

In recent years we have seen the rise in Virtual Reality (VR).

The technology itself, VR, it going to impact the world on many different levels, but here will we focus on how its impacting pet ownership.

There is a VR game called Konrad’s Kittens.

This game can be experienced across multiple platforms and consists of caring for and engaging with a virtual cat.

Konrad’s Kittens is one example of a sustainable alternative to pet ownership, now let’s look at another.

Another trend that is impacting all industries is robotization: the automation of processes by a robot without the need for a human.

But we’re not talking about manufacturing here, instead we’re talking about robotic pets.

Whether or not you’re already sceptical, this movement is already happening.

Sony has offered a robotic pet dog, known as the Sony Aibo, for a while now.

If you haven’t yet heard of it, you should definitely check out this video of it, you’ll be blown back.

This robotic dog, which currently costs $2900, moves and behaves impressively similar to that of a real dog.

It reacts to voice and touch, obeys commands, and recognises over 100 different voices.

You can also take photos through the camera lens in the dog’s eyes.

It is truly incredible and somewhat a glimpse into what may become normalized in the future.

Think about it, there is no waste, no food to be bought and no chances of furniture being damaged.

You don’t even have to take it on a walk.

Sony Aibo Robotic Pet Dog
The Sony Aibo Robotic Pet Dog in Action! via DigitalTrends

Now, it’s easy to be sceptical about a robot dog, we understand, and some of the points listed above are what makes a large deal of looking after a dog, but we’re serious when we say that it’s going to become a big trend in the future.

Researchers are currently exploring the differences in bonding between that of a real dog and that of a robotic dog.

Sure, you may never give it a chance, but it’s inevitable that the more technology progresses, the more ‘real’ a robotic pet will become.

There are currently no robotic cat prototypes out there, as we know, but we’re sure the future will correct that soon.

What are your thoughts on robotic pets?

The Future of Technology for Cats

If the technologies discussed above have already impressed you, prepare to be blown away.

We now move onto discuss some of the future trends in the pet-tech industry, most of which aren’t too far-fetched at all.

The pet-tech and pet-care industry is at an exciting time.

There is an increasing amount of investment from venture capital companies, such as Kinship, into startups within these industries.

As you’ll soon learn, there are a lot of nascent technologies that promise new products and services aimed at helping the modern-day pet owner and their pets.

Let’s take a look at some of them.

3D Printing

One aspect of pet-tech that we haven’t yet discussed is the advancement of veterinary technologies.

3D printing, a major trend across a lot of industries, can be used to print prosthetic bone replacements for pets that have been heavily injured or born defective.

In fact, there are many stories where this has already begun to happen.

The rise in 3D printing technologies makes for faster surgery turnovers, and speedier recoveries for the animals.

Stem Cell Therapy

Stem Cell Therapy has been used successfully in various human medical procedures, and is well established in the treatment of human cancer patients.

Researchers have now begun investigating its effectiveness in veterinary applications.

Already there have been multiple clinical trials investigating stem cell therapy as a treatment of a number of inflammatory, degenerative and immune-mediated diseases of cats, most of which currently require life-long medication treatments that often carry adverse side effects.

For example, one medical report has said that trials of stem cell therapy for conditions such as feline chronic gingivostomatisis have produced encouraging results.

Nonetheless, researchers are still figuring out the logistics behind stem cell therapy for feline diseases.

These two examples, 3D printing and stem cell therapy, should remind you that technology for cats isn’t just about keeping them entertained, but also ensuring their longevity and health.

Big Data and VetCompass

The Royal Veterinary College of the University of London has constructed a large-scale project called VetCompass.

The aim of VetCompass is to share and analyse veterinary clinical information from thousands of practices all across the UK to help understand the disorders and improve the welfare of companion animals.

By using Big Data analyses techniques, the project aims to decode raw data into noticeable trends and patterns that can then be shared with practices and pet owners.

The project has also made its way over to Australia, with support from local academic institutes such as the University of Sydney.

As the world becomes increasingly connected, and large-scale data analyses techniques become more attainable, we should expect to see more projects like these in the future.

Veterinary Clinic Cat Health
A safer and healthier world for our pets.

Robotic Pet Sitters

Back in 2015, IBM filed a patent for a Drone Pet Sitter.

The idea behind it is that pet owners can leave for work knowing that their pet is in safe hands and won’t be tearing up the house.

This drone companion would be able to sensor the pet’s behavior and make specific adjustments as needed.

For example, the drone could be linked to other IoT devices around the house, such as the thermostat or an IoT pet device, and when it senses that the pet is either cold or bored, the drone would be able to active the necessary devices to ensure that the pet is comfortable and or entertained.

This idea sounds incredibly futuristic, right?

What’s next? Drones taking the dog out for a walk? A drone monitoring the cat from afar ready to break up the next cat fight?!

AgTech and Pet Food Safety

The AgTech industry has been adopting IoT and Blockchain technology to ensure safety and quality through the whole of the pet food supply chain.

Using these two technologies has enabled thorough quality-assurance checks throughout the process, allowing both producers and consumers to verify the quality of the food provided, making the pet food market a safer place for all.

Not only this, but the Blockchain technology allows a potential weak-link, be it a farmer or manufacturer, to be rapidly identified, while then also speeding up the process of retrieving faulty or dangerous food supplies.

Blockchain and the Pet Industry

Blockchain is arguably the most exciting and talked about trend in the tech world.

Bitcoin, the decentralized cryptocurrency, instantly springs to mind whenever the word blockchain is mentioned.

But what about blockchain being used in the pet industry?

Let’s dive in!

HealthyTail

One of the largest blockchain projects with major potential, backing and credible players involved is HealthyTail.

HealthyTail is a platform for sharing pets health data between scientists, breeders and pet owners.

Their goal is to acquire extreme amounts of data that will then be processed through next-generation sequencing technology enabling the identification of disease-specific genomic variation patterns.

With this information they will then be able to work closely with scientists to develop and provide personalized treatments and recommendations for pets, with the ultimate objective being longevity and health in cats and dogs.

The operations will revolve around their TAILS cryptocurrency.

Users will be rewarded TAILS for uploading their pet’s biological data, making sure the data is up to date, for each time researchers download and use their pet’s data and providing valuable pets for breeding.

Breeders can use the database to choose the healthiest pets with the longest lifespans for efficient breeding.

The cryptocurrency can then be spent on breed certificates, genetic diagnostics or for buying new drugs for pets.

HealthyTail Blockchain for Pets
The HealthyTail website front page.

Other Blockchain Brands

CogniPet is an AI-based image recognition and blockchain technology service that allows for easy identification of pets for both pet owners and breeders, ultimately removing the need for pets to be chipped.

CryptoKitties is a first of its kind marketplace where users can buy, own, breed and trade virtual cats on the blockchain.

PAWS is a not-for-profit animal charity ledger powered by the blockchain that is free from ads and data-for-sale.

They offer blockchain registry collars that allow for rapid identification and rescue ability.

Their PAWS coin can be used for philanthropic crowdfunding for pets and animals in need of help.

Ultimately, blockchain technology will function as a secure repository for owner-permissioned pet medical records and data.

This improves the connectivity between pet owners, breeders and veterinary clinics, ensuring a constant development of pet wellbeing.

Summary

Wow, we’ve covered a lot of stuff here! Let us summarise with some main key points about where technology for cats, and the wider pet industry, is going:

  • The pet-tech and pet-health industry is rapidly expanding.
  • Investment into these industries is soaring.
  • Pet owners will see faster and more efficient diagnostics.
  • The overall wellbeing of pets will significantly increase.
  • The rise of AI will bring a whole new series of products for pet entertainment.
  • Technology for cats will become more affordable.
  • Blockchain will make it easier than ever to identify lost pets.
  • IoT devices will prolong bonding time with pets.
  • The general security of pets will drastically improve.

We’re currently at an exciting time in the pet industry. Keep your eyes peeled. Technology for cats is only just beginning.

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