By Rachel Cericola
Pets are like family—family that pees on the carpet and likes to eat out of the trash. And one of the questions we get most (even from Wirecutter colleagues) is, “What’s the best way to keep tabs on Bailey, Bella, and Simba when we’re away from home?” You can find a variety of so-called pet cams that can toss treats or even keep furry friends occupied with automatic laser pointers while you’re away, but we don’t recommend them: They run about $200, more than our top picks for security cameras, and we think they’re absurdly overpriced for the job they do. Depending on your needs, we recommend one of the following more affordable, more flexible options. Although they may not be our top picks for stopping crime, they may help stop pets from eating (or pooping in) your shoes.
Compact and cheap
Sometimes you just want to peek at what your pet is doing. Is the cat on the sofa? Is the dog drinking out of the toilet? If that’s the case for you, the Wyze Cam could be the best $25 you’ll ever spend. It’s the cheapest security camera we’ve reviewed, but it still provides impressive live video and short recordings, which is all you really need from a pet camera. So why isn’t it a Wirecutter pick for use as a security camera? The audio has been known to snap, crackle, and pop, and currently it’s only capable of recording 12-second clips (which are sent directly to the cloud) before needing a five-minute break. That isn’t desirable in a security camera, but Wyze is planning to launch Complete Motion Capture, an optional service that the company says will record all motion events to the cloud for just $1.50 per month. You can also opt for longer recordings saved to a microSD card, but the user interface for that feature can be frustrating. In other words, if your pet does something truly funny, expect to put in some effort to capture it.
Eye in the sky
The TP-Link Kasa Spot indoor security camera is another inexpensive option, with a great 1080p image, better two-way audio than on the Wyze Cam, and free cloud storage for up to 12 hours of recordings. It records clips in 30-second increments, more than twice what you get from the Wyze Cam, without suffering from gaps in between (a common issue with security cameras), so you shouldn’t miss any action. Although it has a power cord, the lightweight, bendable design is excellent for hanging anywhere: against a window, in a corner, or suspended under kitchen cabinets. Note, however, that in our tests we found a handful of recordings missing or inaccessible despite their having an entry in the app. Still, for a noncritical use like spying on pets, the price and versatility make the TP-Link Kasa Spot hard to beat.
Furry friend or foe?
All Arlo cameras have a feature that’s especially useful for pet owners: They can distinguish between animals and people, so you’ll know when it’s your dog begging at the door and not the UPS driver knocking. That ability comes with Arlo Smart, a subscription service that also gives you up to 30 days of recording storage along with the ability to filter alerts by animals, people, and other motion. I currently have the Arlo Pro 2 sitting at the bottom of my back stairs, where it keeps tabs on my dog but has also caught coyotes, bunnies, and neighborhood cats in its lens. This outdoor camera is the most expensive model on our list—in fact, it’s one of our recommended picks for security cameras—but the cost could pay off in convenience for some people since the cordless, weatherproof design makes the camera easy to move around indoors and outside as needed.