They're so cute when they're young, and even make for trendy fashion accessories, but eventually that new pet is going to need training, cleaning, feeding, exercise and a long list of other responsibilities you never realised were part of the package. So here are seven tools that allow pet owners to avoid as much of that muss and fuss as possible.
Without a doubt the worst part of owning a pet is having to clean up after it, and I'm not talking about food crumbs. If the idea of literally dealing with their crap truly disgusts you, you might want to consider getting a cat over a dog. And instead of going the litter box route, this Litter-Robot makes things even easier, collecting the clumped waste and depositing it into a standard kitchen-sized garbage bag for easy disposal. It's expensive, but it does a better job at dealing with the smell than the cheaper let's-just-let-it-pile-up-on-the-carpet solution. $US340.
I'm tempted to believe that for all their scientific and technological uses, lasers were originally invented as an effective means of exercising a pet with minimal effort. But thankfully this laser chase toy manages to make things even easier. Instead of having to manually direct a red dot around a room with your hand, this little pod does all the work for you, randomly moving it about at four different speeds. It's sure to keep your dog or cat occupied for hours, or until its AAA batteries run out. $US30.
As if having to get up and let the dog or cat out isn't enough of an interruption when you're trying to watch the game, at some point they get hungry, thirsty or tired, and will inevitably want to come back inside. Since you don't want to have to spend your time staying vigil for when they return, this easy to install doorbell includes a SmartKey tag you attach to their collar. When your dog or cat comes within three feet of the door, an audible chime will sound letting you know you have to get up and let them in... eventually. $US67.
While just cutting open a 50 pound bag of food and dumping it on the kitchen floor is easier, portion control is an important part of your pet's healthy diet. So if measuring and staying on top of feeding schedules isn't your thing, this programmable pet feeder holds 10 pounds of food, automatically serving it up in 1/4 cup increments up to three times a day. It unfortunately requires a bit of button-pushing on your part to set it up, but once it's running you can at least forget about this responsibility for at least a few days. $US80.
The downside to this solution, for easily exercising your active little weiner dog, is that you not only have to build and program it yourself, but you also have to train your dog to retrieve the ball and return it to this automated launcher. It's probably not worth the effort if you're actually taking serious notes on this toolkit, but once it's up and running it can easily give your dog more attention than they'll ever need. And probably tire them out so they spend the rest of their day sleeping, instead of being so needy. DIY.
Hamsters might seem like one of the easiest pets to own. You just stick them in a cage, bury them in cedar chips, and then keep their water bottle full. But just like cats and dogs, they need exercise to avoid becoming perfectly round balls of fur. A hamster ball is a fun way to let them safely get out and run, but dangers like stairs and other obstacles mean you're going to have to keep a watchful eye on them; and that's an eye you're not keeping on the TV. So think of this Hamtrac kit as a kind of slot car track for a hamster ball. You drop them in and they'll scurry around doing laps until you feel they've had enough fun in their Nascar-like prison. $US19.
Of course a hamster doesn't need nearly as much exercise as a dog. If you've got yourself a smaller variety you can probably get away with a quick spin around the block, but if you found a golden retriever too irresistible, you're looking at a longer excursion every day to keep them in shape. Unless you happen to have an exercise room with enough space for a treadmill of their own. This smaller version, designed specifically for canines, has a sturdy rubber belt that's soft on their paws, and side rails keeping them from getting turned around. A set of simple button controls lets you adjust the incline, speed and distance they run, and as an added bonus, I'm pretty sure it's just as useful for tuckering out a crawling infant too! $US550-$US900.
Lead image: San Antonio Express-News, Jerry Lara/AP