5 Ways to Pet-Proof Your Tech
Protect your electronics investments against inquisitive household creatures.
Pets and humans get along great; pets and human machines—not so much. A few years ago, a study for insurance company SquareTrade found that cats and dogs were responsible for damaging 8 million devices, costing owners over $3 billion. (And you thought a $500 vet bill was a lot!) It turns out tech is hard for animals to resist: Dangling power cords make for inviting playthings, as do blinking lights. Fortunately, there are ways to pet-proof your tech.
Cats love chewing cables. This is what led to the birth of Paracable. The company's co-founder, Travis Beck, adopted a kitten named Baxter for his wife's birthday in 2012, (That's Baxter in the main image).
What Beck didn't foresee was what Baxter would do to Apple Lightning cables on the couples Apple devices. "The super soft rubber cables were no match for his razor-like kitty teeth," Beck said. After going through $80 worth of replacement cables, Beck called his friend David Fisher, and together they came up with a way to cat-proof cables: Paracord.
Paracord can be woven into many attractive colors and patterns, and Beck and Fisher took advantage of that to make some great-looking cables for both Apple and Windows devices. Paracables vary in price from $16 to $24 depending on the length of the cable and whether it's a micro-USB or lightning cable
Pawsense is software that detects when a cat walks across your computer keyboard. When it does, it locks the keyboard so the cat can't do any inadvertent (or diabolical) damage.
Like Paracord, Pawsense traces its genesis to a naughty cat. Chris Niswander, a computer science graduate from Arizona State University, came up with the idea for Pawsense after his sister's cat strolled across her computer and managed to delete important files, uninstall software, and crash her machine.
Niswander's software runs in the background when you turn on your machine. It can detect little cat's feet typing vs. human typing in about two steps. Pawsense also causes the computer to emit an annoying sound to drive the cat away. Pawsense is available only for Microsoft PCs through Windows 8 and retails for $20.
Keyboards act like a magnet for pet hair. It can get pretty gross—and mess up your keyboard. Silicone covers are a great solution to this problem. They overlay your original keyboard to create a protective film. The best ones—like KB Covers—are as unobtrusive as possible. KB Covers fit on snugly and don't interfere with the action of the keys.
KB Covers come in various colors so you can accessorize even as you protect your computer. The company also offers specialty covers for people who may need to type in a different language or work with video editing software or other major programs such as Illustrator or Photoshop.
KB Covers retail for about $30. They are available only for Apple keyboards.
Now for some deep psychology. With CleverPet, you're not just pet-proofing, you're meeting your dog's needs. Why does your dog attack your tech? Maybe the motive is jealousy. Evidence exists that pets may recognize when their owner spends more time with their iPhone than with them—and maybe Roscoe has decided that there's room in your house for only one "best friend." Or maybe he's just bored. Whatever the case, CleverPet is dedicated to keeping your dog engaged while you're away and your tech is vulnerable.
Think of the CleverPet console as a kind of video game for pets. It gets increasingly challenging as your pet learns. The device consists of three multicolor touchpads and a rotating dispenser containing treats that the touchpads activate. Things start out easy. The console dispenses a treat each time your pet presses a button. Then it only dispenses a treat when your pet presses a lighted button. The game keeps getting more interesting, so your pet never gets bored.
CleverPet is also fully controllable via Wi-Fi, and new games update automatically. You can even teach your dog commands. For example, your dog can learn to press the left touchpad when your recorded voice says "Left!"
CleverPet will ship in November and retail for $299.
If your motto is "Only the paranoid survive" or "Trust but verify," you may want to keep a long-distance eye on the effectiveness of the pet-proofing measures you've adopted. If so, I recommend Petcube, a camera designed to surveil your pets when you're not at home.
The camera is housed in a 4-inch aluminum cube. It covers a range of 138 degrees and streams in 720p. It connects to your home Wi-Fi, is iOS and Android compatible, and includes motion and sound detection notifications, so you don't have to stare at the video feed all day while you're at work. It will tell you when Lassie or Sylvester gets feisty.
It has two-way audio as well—so if you see your pet taking liberties with your tech, you can order it to stop. ("I mean it, Fifi: Put down the router! Don't chew the router, Fifi! No!") And of course, your pet can talk to you, too. ("Arf! Arf-arf! Crunch!") The Petcube camera also comes with a built-in laser toy that you can use to distract your pet if it starts taking aggressive action against your computer, speakers, or anything else of value. All of this assumes, of course, that Pavlov or Schrödinger doesn't figure out that it needs to take out the Petcube first and then go after your $2,000 laptop.
The Petcube camera retails for $149.