At the start of lockdown in 2020, we rapidly had to adapt to a new way of working. As we were all at home a lot more, many of us could finally fulfil a dream of owning a pet. Now we no longer had to contend with tedious commutes and long days in the office; instead, we could spend our evenings playing with Kitty or Fido, and take time out of our working day to give them strokes.
But now many of us are starting to head back to the workplace, and pubs and restaurants are opening up, giving us the option to head out for a few hours in the evening. So how can we ensure that our pets are happy when we are out of the house?
Petcube Cam promises to be an affordable way to keep an eye on your furry family members when you’re out and about. I’ve recently adopted two Jack Russell puppies, and while I’m still working from home at the moment, my office is upstairs. Could the Petcube ease my conscience about being away from my beloved boys, and keep them happier too?
At the more affordable end of the pet camera market, Petcube Cam isn’t full of whistles and bells. But that doesn’t matter, as it is equipped with all the essentials that matter. There’s two-way audio, so you can hear your pet and they can hear you. The sound is clear and doesn’t distort your voice – my dogs were able to recognise me through the device.
It’s got a 1080 HD camera, with 110° view and night vision that works to 10 metres; it can even zoom in, so you can get a closer look at what your pet is up to. I placed the Petcube up on a shelf in the kitchen to maximise the view of the room, which may have impacted the clarity – the picture quality didn’t look HD to me.
It’s a breeze to get started. Simply download the app and set up a free account, then connect it up to your home Wi-Fi and follow the steps to get it all installed. You can fiddle with your settings so that you receive push notifications when motion or sound is detected.
If you want, you can share your Petcube stream with friends or family members, provided they download the app, so they can keep an eye on your pet and interact with them too.
Even if you don’t want to share with other people, you can use the app to record video or take pictures at any time. These moments are saved into your phone’s gallery so you can have a record of your pet doing something particularly cute (which you can then bore all your friends with next time you’re down the pub).
Via the app, you can sign up for a Petcube Care subscription, which offers automatic video recording triggered by sound and motion. It also gives you AI-powered smart alerts, so you get notifications if your pet is barking or meowing a lot, or if humans are detected. The cheapest plan comes in at $5.99 (£4.44 approx) per month, with the priciest one costing $14.99 (£11.12 approx) per month. If none of the standard plans take your fancy, you can personalise them somewhat to get one that works for you.
There is also the option to sign up to a subscription to receive 24/7 veterinary advice for common issues such as diarrhoea, itching, sneezing and ear problems. We weren’t signed up to this is as part of the review package, but think it could be a good idea, particularly if you struggle to get appointments with your local vet. It goes without saying that in an emergency situation you should contact your nearest veterinary practice as soon as possible.
Design and build
The Petcube is made of sleek white plastic, and is small and unobtrusive. Despite being at the cheaper end of the market, it feels pretty sturdy and not too ‘plasticky’. The little stand has a non-slip rubber base, which you can use to pop the camera on a shelf or table; it’s then possible to tilt it to give you the best view of the room. If preferred, you can place it on a wall or attach it underneath a shelf using the supplied mounting plate. The only thing is, as it’s mains-powered, you’re a little restricted on where you can set it up.
While the camera worked well, the app could do with some improvement. Despite having a superfast Wi-Fi network in my house, when I open the app it often says that the camera is disconnected when it is not. If I then quit the app and reload, it says it is online again. When it does work, it would frequently only stream for a few seconds before freezing, or would ‘hang up’ on me.
I used the Petcube Cam a lot. When I was working upstairs, I could keep an eye on the pups and tell them they were being ‘good boys’ if they were sitting nicely. They definitely recognised my voice, as they would instantly respond to it. While it certainly shouldn’t be seen as a substitute for spending time with your pets, it does offer that extra level of safety and reassurance, especially if you need to quickly nip out.
Compared to some other pet cameras on the market, the Petcube Cam is single-minded in its approach, making it a decent entry-level option for new pet owners, or could even be used as a secondary pet cam. This simplicity means it comes in at a far more affordable price than some other models on the market.
The big drawback is the app. It isn’t particularly intuitive and simply didn’t work effectively enough. The whole point of a pet camera is to let you check on your pets when you’re out and about, and the PetCube app didn’t always allow me to do that. Once the app is sorted, it will be a decent little camera that can help keep you and your pets reassured and happy.
Here are a couple of different options if you’re looking for a pet camera:
Furbo Dog Camera
As well as offering video and two-way audio, the Furbo can be filled with 100 treats that you can remotely toss to your pet to reward them for good behaviour. Subscribers to Furbo Dog Nanny can receive notifications for dog activity or people in the house, and can even get alerts when smoke or fire alarms are going off.
Ring Indoor Cam
While strictly speaking it’s not a pet camera, the Alexa-enabled Ring Indoor Cam is a good option for people who are already hooked up with a Ring Video Doorbell. The tiny security camera can be easily added on to your Ring system, and offers all the features you’d expect, like motion notifications and two-way audio so you can speak to anyone (including pets) in your home via the app.