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Great Pet Apps

Get more joy (and less stress) from your pets with these web and smartphone tools.
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Illustration by Shigeko Okada

We share our home with quite a cast of furry and feathered friends. Mason, our rescue dog, is a natural-born worrier who takes responsibility for seeing that the other animals—a rambunctious hound, two cats and a free-range chicken—are clean, cared for and following the house rules. Believe me, he has his work cut out for him, especially with Hoover, the hound, who is notorious for finding his way through the fence to freedom.

Enter technology to close the gap. In the past, when Hoover made a break for it, all Mason could do was bark his head off. Now Hoover wears a Tagg Tracker, and I promptly receive a text message when he breaches the border. A tap to open the app on my smartphone reveals his whereabouts so that I (or my husband or one of the kids) can go get him. Talk about an upgrade: Efficiency-wise, this method is far superior to wandering the streets calling his name. It also keeps his adventures short and unexciting, which should make the Great Escape prospect a lot less appealing.

In our pre-Tagg days, Hoover once went missing for several days. Turned out a concerned citizen had taken him in to "keep him safe"—a kindhearted gesture for sure, but then our hapless hound couldn't come when we were outside calling him. In that type of scenario, the Finding Rover app offers a solid solution by pairing facial recognition software with a searchable database to reunite lost dogs and their owners.

I've even installed home video surveillance so that I can check on the pets when none of us are around. Apparently, after Mason has taken care of important tasks such as grooming the cats and sampling everyone else's breakfast, he curls up for a long nap in my favorite—and most definitely off-limits-to-canines—armchair. Seems he has no trouble whatsoever breaking that rule.

Great Apps

Tagg—The Pet Tracker: This collar (suitable for cats or dogs that weigh over 10 pounds) alerts you right away via text or email if your furry friend leaves home, and pinpoints his location on an easy-to-read map. It also tracks physical activity—as in, a sudden uptick could mean trouble. Pettracker.com, $100 for collar and first three months of service, then $8/month

Finding Rover: At the core of this app—which claims 98% accuracy—is a database of registered animal faces to connect lost dogs with their owners. Obviously, Finding Rover can only be as effective as its database, so the company is on a mission to get owners everywhere to snap photos of their canine companions. Findingrover.com, free for iOs, Android and the web

Samsung SmartCam HD Pro: An easy-to-install camera taps into your home Wi-Fi to let you peek in on the pets via the Internet or your smartphone when you're elsewhere. It even lets you talk to them. Samsungsv.com, $189

DogVacay.com: If traveling is tough because of the what-do-we-do-with-the-dog dilemma, this site can connect you with nearby fellow pet lovers willing to board yours. Rates start at $25/night and include pet insurance.

Rover.com: Check out this community of animal lovers who are willing to watch your pet at your home or theirs. Prices range from $10 to $75 per night and include pet insurance.

Originally published in the April 2014 issue of Family Circle magazine.