By Reyna Gobel
New York (Reuters) - Erik Hagen bought an interactive camera that dispenses treats to amuse his pets, but he is the one who has become addicted.
The self-employed Minnesotan has posted more than 300 photos of his five cats and one dog to a human social media network via his Petzi Treat Cam.
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While not everyone will shell out $169 for a gadget that lets you take candid photos of your four-legged friends and say hello via high-quality audio, pet parents love to buy stuff for Fido and Fluffy.
Americans spent $62 billion on pet products and services in 2016, according to the American Pet Products Association.
Here are some new and noteworthy high-tech gadgets:
FEEDING AND FUN
Your pets may need to eat more than once a day, but you may not be able to be there when they are expecting a meal. Automatic feeders (like the Catspad, coming in April for around $250) can distinguish among pets and accommodate their unique diets.
Whilean electronic feedermay seem to solve problems when you work long hours, it may not be a good solution when you leave town for the weekend and have to stock it with days' worth of food.
"Your dog couldopen the lid to the top of the feeder and eat all the food at once,"said Dr. Mike Topper,president-elect of the American VeterinaryMedical Association.
Many feeding gadgets are purely for fun.For example, the Petzi treat cam rewards dogsand catsfor coming when owners call them from their phones. When pets hearthe special song, tiny treats shoot out from a dispenser.
If you are home but feel too lazy to get up from the couch, you can use a remote control to command Sharper Image's $59 Remote Dog Treat Dispenserto dole out a snack.
The most useful products involve safety.
Homeowners have often found that standard pet doors with an open flap can lead to visits from strays and rodents, high utility bills from heat and air conditioning leaks, and burglaries from humans slipping through entrances made for large dogs.
Smart pet doors, however, are controlled by a transmitter in a collar and will open and close on demand.
An electronic dog door like the PetSafe Electronic SmartDoorcosts about $140, with an additional $20 per collar opener beyond the first one.
High-tech collars can help you find your dog, even in the middle of a national park.
Roy and Kimberley Siegel lost Tika, their terrier mix, when she bolted out of the front gate of their home in Flemington, New Jersey. Thanks to Whistle 3, she was discovered in front of an old factory by the highway less than an hour later, safe and well.
At $80, the Whistle 3 is at the high end of the spectrum. There is also a monthly subscription charge of $6.99 to $9.99 for the three-pronged tracking system: Bluetooth, 3G cellular and GPS.
On the lower end is the Daxin Bluetooth Tracer Locator for about $4. It only works with iPhones and within 80 feet.
HEALTH AND FITNESS
Many devices can also track your pet's activity level, akin to their human counterparts. Prices range from $60 to $100, depending on fashion and precision.
Take the WonderWoof Bow Tie ($95), which clips onto collars. The bowtie-shaped device works like a Fitbit for dogs and tracks activity, but not location. Through an app, you can also keep track of your dog’s social life, with reminders for grooming and play dates.
Make sure any tracking device you purchase is not too big for your pet, as itcould get stuck onoutdoor or indoor obstacles, Topper said. You want technology to add to health and safety, not bring additional dangers.
(The author is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed are her own.)
(Editing by Beth Pinsker and Lisa Von Ahn)