How to make a pet monitor out of an old smartphone

Peace of mind without the high cost of specialized hardware.

Photo taken in Graz, Austria
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Dog and cat cameras are one of modern life’s greatest luxuries for pet owners. Checking in on Fido to make sure he’s not chewing up the couch? Without buying a whole home security setup? Incredible.

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This peace comes at a price, though. A high price. With few exceptions, pet cameras are pretty expensive. Same goes for any sort of robot companions. They’re smart and pricey.

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There’s a much less expensive way to watch over your pets. All you need is two internet-connected devices. And no, it’s not FaceTiming your dog the whole time you’re out (as cute as that would be).

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With just your phone and another device — tablet, laptop, or smartphone — you can easily watch your pet from afar. All it takes is the right app. We tried a few to find the best of the best.

Dog Monitor

A simple two-way video app available for just about any operating system. Includes the ability to record commands for your pet, log their activity throughout the day, and set up smart notifications for noise.

Download dog Monitor here

The good:

— Reliable connectivity

— Easy setup

— Available for all major platforms (even tvOS)

The bad:

— $5 for every version of the app you purchase

— No free trial

— Rudimentary interface


We had no connectivity issues at all with Dog Monitor.


A more recent app with motion detection, live video, and the ability to replay audio recordings for up to three weeks.

Download Barkio here

The Good:

— Offers a free three-day trial

— Just one fee (weekly, monthly, or annual) to access across your devices

— Windows version available

The Bad:

— Video connection won’t load sometimes

— Mic can be a little too sensitive

— Can get expensive with long-term use


Barkio provides a quick overview of your dog’s activity without turning on the camera.

Dog Monitor: Pet Watch Cam

An app that focuses on live video with the ability to add a multi-pet lineup with separate camera inputs.

Download Dog Monitor: Pet Watch Cam here

The Good

— Can connect multiple devices in different rooms

— Includes a free trial

— Can use front and back camera on a phone setup

The Bad

— Buggy setup that can take a few tries to work

— Limited product support (can’t use MacBook as monitor device)


Dog Monitor can be a little difficult to set up, but its interface is very slick.

Pet Monitor VIGI

A very popular pet monitor option with a detailed activity log.

Download Pet Monitor VIGI here

The Good

— Watch multiple cameras in the same window

— Full-featured activity log complete with photos and videos

— Easy setup via email login

The Bad

— No free trial option

— Have to buy Mac and iOS apps separately

— No two-way video option (though it is promised in the description)


Pet Monitor VIGI works quite well, but not every promised feature is available in the app.

Overall, it turns out most pet monitor apps available on the market offer very similar features. The main differentiators include which platforms the app is available for, free trial availability, and fee models.

The good news: they all work quite well for keeping watch on your cat or dog while you’re out and about. I’d suggest trying one with a free trial to begin, just in case you find the experience doesn’t work for your setup.


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