Looking for a last-minute gift for the cat or pet lover in your life? Look no further, because I’ve got two great options for you! Whether you want to go the handmade route or you want to just throw some money at that problem, you’ll be happy with your options. And warning: Buckle up, because this is going to be a long post!
THE HANDMADE ROUTE…
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The handmade route also happens to be the super cheap route. 🙂 All you need is felt, a small bell, catnip (we bought this kind in bulk and keep it sealed until we use it), and a needle and thread.
First, cut out two pieces of felt. Sew a small bell to one piece:
Once you’ve sewn on and secured the bell, sew the two pieces together. Sew around three sides and then sew the last side halfway. Fill the toy with catnip using a small spoon and then finish sewing it shut.
Done! I did this while I was watching TV with Mike one night. Really easy to do.
AND IF YOU’RE NOT CRAFTY…
If you’re not so crafty or don’t have a kitty, man do I have a product review for you! The very kind people at Petcube sent me a Petcube Camera to review, and you still have time to order one for a holiday gift if you like what you see here. First I’m going to give you the specs on the Petcube Camera, then I’ll give you my full Petcube Camera review, including thoughts about setting it up and using it. As a reward for making it to the end of the post, I’ll show you a little video clip of Henry playing with his new felt toy, and the video was taken through the Petcube so you can see the quality. Sound good? Good!
The Petcube Camera is a Wi-Fi camera that connects to your smartphone (iOS and Android compatible) and lets you check on your pet while you’re away. It’s 4in x 4in x 4in, making it easy to place. But it’s also heavy enough that our cats won’t knock it onto the floor (I hope). If you have a tripod, the Petcube Camera also has a standard tripod mount on the bottom. It comes in three colors: matte silver, carbon black, and rose gold—I went with carbon black.
The Petcube Camera has 2-way audio so that you can hear and talk to your pets, and it streams video in 720p HD. It has a 3x zoom, and you can capture pictures and videos from the video stream. You can also let friends, family, or even anyone with the Petcube app watch and play with your pet—they just have to download the app on their phone and get permission from you to access your video feed. The Petcube Camera uses sound and motion alerts notify you of major events at home—I’d imagine that would be something getting knocked over, a dog barking a lot, etc. It is supposed to filter out background noise, but I haven’t tested any of that yet and honestly don’t see us using the Petcube for that purpose. You can turn the alerts on “do not disturb” mode.
The built-in laser toy is what really differentiates this from a run-of-the-mill nanny cam. It’s a great feature for us because our cats LOVE to play laser! Now I’m not saying I’m going to be the loon playing laser with her cat via the Petcube while she is out at dinner with friends, but I am saying it is a fun feature to have while traveling. Or when you’re just plain bored. Oh, and one of the laser’s features is “auto play,” which lets you set it to turn on at certain times while you’re gone. Brilliant.
Now that I’ve told you a little bit about it, let’s move on to my thoughts on the product.
MY PETCUBE CAMERA REVIEW
Setting Up the Petcube Camera…
One of the biggest complaints I read about the Petcube Camera is that the setup process is really difficult and frustrating. Setup did take us 30–45 minutes, which is longer than we’d anticipated. I’m going to provide loads of tips below on what things went wrong for us and how you can avoid them. (Hint: read the damn directions, which is not what I did.)
The Petcube Camera comes in a cute little box. I was surprised to find only a short quick start guide to get us up and running. Per usual, I breezed through the directions and thought, “I can do this myself!” Do not do that. 🙂 I did the steps out of order and ignored one critical part of the setup process.
I thought it’d be most helpful if I walk you through the setup process and provide some tips for each step. Here’s a labeled diagram of the Petcube Camera, which will help the steps below make more sense!
Here’s how you set up the Petcube Camera:
1. Download the Petcube app and set up an account. Plug your Petcube Camera in and wait up to 30 seconds until the LED light starts blinking.
2. Temporarily disable data so that you are only using Wi-Fi during setup. (Important Tip: I skipped this step, which led to trouble. Do not skip this step!)
3. Open the app; go to the “Home” menu and select “Connect Petcube Camera.” If the LED light on the camera is blinking any color other than green, push and hold the start button on the back of the Petcube for about 2 seconds. You’ve been successful if the blinking LED light changes color to green.
(Important Tip: The instructions say to push and hold the start button on the back for 3 seconds; however, I did that and kept holding for a bit too long and turning the device off! Therefore, I suggest holding for 2 seconds to start. Also, do not confuse the yellow and green LED light colors. They look very similar, and I kept thinking yellow was green and getting super frustrated that the camera wasn’t connecting to my app. Once Mike came in and said, “your eyesight sucks, that is yellow,” we were able to figure out the issue.)
4. Once the light is blinking green, follow the instructions in the app. When it gives you the option to “Connect to Petcube network,” click that. I ran into an issue here: My phone wouldn’t connect to the Petcube wireless connection because it was a limited connectivity network. To get around this, I simply had to go into my phone’s settings, pull up my list of Wi-Fi networks, and manually connect to the Petcube Wi-Fi network by clicking on it.
(Important Tip: The Petcube network will only show up if the Petcube’s LED light is blinking green, not yellow or any other color.)
5. After selecting the Petcube network, the app will ask you to connect to your home Wi-Fi network for the streaming video. Our home Wi-Fi network was not showing up, so we just selected “Enter Manually” and typed in our network’s name and password. It connected without any issues. Once you’ve connected to your home Wi-Fi network and the LED light on your Petcube Camera turns white, it’s go time.
On the Petcube Support page, you can watch videos, download the full user guide, and troubleshoot based on your phone’s operating system. I used the search function on the support page to search for answers to my issues and thought it was all very user friendly.
Using the Petcube Camera…
Once we were up and running, I was so excited to torture our cats. I am going to share a lot of info here, so I’m going to break it out into things I like and things I don’t love about the Petcube Camera.
Things I like:
>>The picture and video quality is good enough to clearly see your pets from anywhere in the world as long as you have a Wi-Fi or data connection. Just seeing them would have made us happy during past trips we’ve taken!
>>I like the ability to capture still shots or record videos from my phone. It’s a neat little feature. Here’s a still shot of Henry and I:
>>You can add people to your feed or make it public so that anyone can watch it. Rescue organizations use this feature so you can play with the animals. Mike and I were both able to jump on and see the camera feed from each of our phones. But don’t worry, when you first connect your Petcube Camera, the default sharing setting it private (i.e., only your account can see your video feed!). Here’s a rescue organization with a public feed. I was playing laser with their kitties and took a screen grab:
>>The support guides available online were very helpful while we were troubleshooting during setup.
>>It’s nice being able to talk through the PetCube from your phone, but I’d imagine this would be more beneficial for dog owners. Like most cats, our cats just aren’t into coming when they’re called. (More on the voice capability in the what I don’t love section below…)
>>I like the Petcube’s sleek look. We have it sitting under our TV on top of a speaker, and it doesn’t stick out.
>>I was surprised at how good the connection to the Petcube was while my phone was on data only (no Wi-Fi). It was a bit choppier, but I expected that.
>>The laser pointer is a really fun option that got the cats’ attention right away!
And that is a nice segue into chatting about what I don’t love about the Petcube Camera.
Things I don’t love:
>>While we love the laser option, there is a bit of a delay. I suppose that’s to be expected since you are controlling it from your phone’s touch screen to the Petcube via wireless. It’s not a deal breaker, but I am a little frustrated with how off the laser seems to be. For example, if I press a spot on the screen, I expect the laser to show in roughly the same spot in real life, but it’s pretty off. I tried one round of laser calibration and it helped a bit. I want to do some more troubleshooting with that because this is such a great feature.
>>When speaking through the Petcube from your phone, the sound is a bit rough. It’s very loud, and it would be nice if there was a volume button. However, I don’t see us using that feature much at all with the cats (it kind of scares them, actually), so it’s no biggie for us.
>>This might be nitpicky, but the yellow and green colors on the LED light indicator looked so similar to me that it really tripped me up while setting the Petcube up.
>>I’d love to have a desktop version of the app so that I could access the feed from a laptop or desktop. I can’t have my phone with me all day, but it’d be nice to check in when I need a break. Maybe there just isn’t a demand for that option since most people are tethered to their phones.
The cool things far outnumber the things I don’t love about the Petcube, so I would recommend it as a great gift for the pet-obsessed people in your life—especially those who also love technology! It’s such a cool idea (especially the laser aspect), and I’m positive that we’ll get use out of it. I’d love to hear from someone who has used the Petcube Camera with a dog, because it seems like the added functionality of being able to call the dog would be a bonus. Do you have any questions? I can try my best to answer them!
OTHER PETCUBE SERVICES
In addition to the Petcube Camera, there are a few other services and products Petcube offers. Full disclosure: I haven’t tested or used these.
- Petcube Care: Petcube Care is an optional cloud recording video service that records the video your camera takes. So, unlike the Petcube Camera, it’s not just streaming video. You can rewind and playback just as you would any normal video. Petcube Care records 10 or 30 days of history in a video timeline, and you can access your Petcube Care subscription via the Petcube App.
- Petcube Play: Petcube also recently came out with Petcube Play, which is a redesigned version of the Petcube Camera (although they still sell the Petcube Camera). It’s a more compact design—3x3x3 instead of 4x4x4. It also streams at 1080p HD instead of 720p HD and it has built-in night vision to view in low- and no-light conditions.
- Petcube Bites: If you want to *really* spoil your babies, you can also check out the Petcube Bites, which will be out soon. It has everything the Petcube Play has, but it also dispenses treats! It can remotely fling treats on demand or schedule them, and it holds up to 100 treats (designed for treats up to 1 inch).
And as promised, you made it to the end of the post, so here is a little video of Henry playing with his new handmade felt toy taken through the Petcube Camera. 🙂 <3 my boy.
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