We have had pet cams around our house for at least 15 years. We set up the cameras to find out what the animals do all day. (Sleep, mostly. No surprise there.) My cameras of choice tend to be Internet Protocol (IP) cameras, which include their own web server and don’t need to be connected to a computer. However, they are a pain to set up. That’s why I was excited to learn about Petzi’s new Treat Cam. Not only is it easy to set up, it tosses goodies to the beasties.
Installing the camera
The Treat Cam comes with one screw and drywall anchor to hang it, or Velcro straps to strap it to furniture. Petzi recommends that you put the Treat Cam at a height where the camera is at the same level as your pet’s eyes. You can also just stand it on a counter if you have animals either short enough so they can’t get to it or without the ability to jump that high.
In my case, a counter location would be disastrous. I have a cat that knocks things off a counter just for grins, and a dog that will stop at nothing to get food. (They frequently work together to find food.) When I put the Treat Cam on the floor, they tipped it over and started banging on it to get food to spill out. The camera survived the attack quite well.
You need to be careful where you install the Treat Cam. The treats come out with some amount of force, so you don’t want to put it where the treats hit an animal’s face. Because of our crew’s food-seeking behavior, high was the way to go for us. The range of the camera at four feet high can cover an entire room, which is handy if you have more than a couple of pets. You just don’t get the cute, up-close and personal shots.
The back of the case includes channels to run the cord in various configurations. If you’re going to put this device on a wall, you will want the cord to be flat inside the case. However, once you’re done wrapping the cord into the channels to allow the casing to be flush, you don’t have much left, and you end up with an ugly extension cord climbing up your wall.
Setting up the Treat Cam
Setting up the camera is pretty easy. It uses a now-standard method of connecting to your WiFi network. From your mobile phone’s WiFi settings, select the Petzi wifi network. It looks something like Petzi_XXXX. Next, open the app and connect to the camera. I had to unplug the camera twice, and go through the WiFi connection step several times, but eventually it connected just fine, and it has stayed connected.
Using the camera
To see your animals, you need to open the Petzi app and connect to the camera. It has to search for and find your camera each time you open the app. While this is inconvenient, it does save on bandwidth, which is a good thing if your Internet and cell phone providers saddle you with data quotas. The Treat Cam chimes when it connects, which in my household is a call to action. When the animals hear that chime, they run to the Treat Cam and sit there, waiting for an inevitable shower of treats.
To take a photo, press the Snap button, which looks like a little camera. There is a short delay between when the camera captures the motion and when the photo appears on your smartphone. There is also a short second delay from the time you press the button and the time the camera takes the picture. Don’t count on this camera to capture fast movement.
The camera quality is on par with most of the IP cameras I’ve used. Not the best, but it’s usable. Petzi touts the camera’s low-light ability, and just recently updated the app to use the camera’s infrared lights to capture shots at night. In our poorly lit front room, the colors wash out, but we can still see the animals.
Talking to your pets
To talk to your pets, press and hold the microphone button on the app and then talk. When you let go, the Treat Cam repeats what you said. There is a short delay between when you talk and when it comes out of the speaker, so don’t expect an instant reaction from your pets. Note that the audio is only one way. You cannot hear your pets.
However, my animals didn’t pay any attention to my voice. They noticed two things: The chime the Treat Cam emits when the app connects to it, and the whir of the motor as it prepares to launch the food. That’s it.
To add treats, you have to take off the Treat Cam’s cover and pour the treats into a hopper. This is pretty awkward, especially if you install the unit high. It would have been much better if the treat opening were on the outside of the case, with some kind of easy-to-remove cover over the hole.
Petzi recommends treats no larger than 1 inch wide at the widest location. I tried it with the sample of mini Milk Bone treats included with the device, and the Treat Cam shot out 2-3 mini bones at a time. These mini bones are just under 1 inch long and half an inch wide.
I tried the sample Meow Mix Irresistables cat treats as well as the cat kibble we use as treats. Both are about 1/2” diameter, and the device spit out nearly 60 pieces per activation. While that’s fine for my crew of three dogs and two cats, someone with only one or two pets might find the animals’ waistlines expanding. My beasties did not complain at the quantity tossed out, but you might need to refill the camera every morning before you leave for work.
I also tried Fruitables Natural Dog Treats, which are flower-shaped, crunchy treats that measure just a hair over 1 inch. The Treat Cam dispensed two at a time, but after two activations, the treats got stuck and wouldn’t shoot out.
The day I planned to submit this review, I plugged in the Treat Cam to get one more screenshot of the Petzi app. Unfortunately, the camera failed to turn on.
The next business day, I emailed Petzi support with the issue. Within minutes, I received a return email from Petzi asking for my phone number. They called within the hour and walked me through some troubleshooting steps. Turns out, something wasn’t working correctly, so they offered to send me a replacement.
I was extremely impressed with the swift service. (Note that they didn’t know I was a reviewer when they made the offer to replace the unit.) I received the replacement unit in a very reasonable amount of time, and it works just fine.
The Petzi Treat Cam is easy to set up and easy to use. I love that I can talk to my dogs and cats before I send them treats, even though they ignore me. It’s a comfort to see all their eager faces during the day, although I doubt the beasties care about anything other than the treats about to drop into their waiting jaws.
Petzi needs to lengthen the power cable so that hanging the Treat Cam on the wall doesn’t involve an extension cord. Also, the cover needs to be redesigned so that you can access the food hopper without taking it off. And it wouldn’t hurt to have a bigger food hopper. These are minor quibbles, though. Petzi’s got a winner here.