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CleverPet promises fun, interaction, engagement for pets, even when you're away

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A new pet toy may soon be on the market that trains and engages your pet through the use of reward-based training. CleverPet, a toy and feeder all in one, can provide your pet with increasingly difficult puzzles to master, even while you're away from home, and rewards success with food and treats.

Leo Trottier and Dan Knudsen, CleverPet's co-founders and developers, are currently focusing on single-dog households with their first iteration. However, they've received many comments from cat owners who want to try CleverPet for their cats. In fact, Leo has two cats of his own, and he's tried CleverPet with them.

"What I found so far is that [my cat] Jonas kind of stopped paying attention," he said, but stressed that his other cat seems far more eager about it. He and Dan both believe that CleverPet can work for cats as well as dogs, but may need some adaptations to keep cats' interest.

And those are adaptations they're already looking into. CleverPet isn't on the market yet, but the high level of interest from backers who are cat owners gave them ideas, like more sensitive touch pads and some other adaptations that are just starting to take shape in their minds.

The most important aspect of CleverPet, however, is its ability to "alleviate the boredom that pets suffer when they're home alone." It can also help immensely with separation anxiety; something that both dogs and cats can suffer. CleverPet does this in two ways: The first is its engagement and interaction. It starts off by lighting up all three buttons, and then produces a treat or a small amount of food when your pet touches any one of them. From there, rewards come when your pet touches the right button, whether that's the only button that's lit up, or the one that's a different color. As your pet learns, sequences get more complex, forcing your pet to learn as well as keeping its interest with rewards for correctly solving the puzzles.

The other is that it comes with different sounds, including a feature that lets you record commands and praise in your own voice. Dan and Leo feel this is especially important when it comes to addressing separation anxiety, because your voice is soothing to your pet. She recognizes it, and is used to it, so when she hears it and associates praise and reward with it, it can help calm her down, even when you're not there. While they don't have a lot of data yet on how well this works to relieve separation anxiety, what they have seen so far is promising.

Right now, CleverPet focuses more on single-pet households. For people who live in multi-pet households, they recommend getting more than one CleverPet. In fact, according to Dan, several people got one for each of their pets, and put them in different rooms. Given the example of Leo's cats, this would be especially good because one cat tends to be the dominant cat in multi-cat households, and would consider the CleverPet their property.

Another advantage of CleverPet is gradual feeding. If you free feed your cat, this could be a way to help ensure she doesn't overeat during the day, while at the same time, keeping her mind sharp, helping her to expend pent-up energy, and rewarding her behavior.

You can program CleverPet from your phone, tablet or computer, so you can give your pet new games even while you're away from home, and you can monitor your pet's progress through their app. At their $300,000 Stretch Goal, CleverPet will have ID recognition hardware inside it. So, you can put a little battery-powered tag on your pet's collar, and CleverPet will recognize which one is currently at the bowl and respond accordingly.

If they reach their $400,000 Stretch Goal, pet owners could watch how their pet's progress stacks up against others online.

Basically, CleverPet is a new way to provide cats and dogs with the activity and engagement they need throughout the day, even if you're not home, and can help to keep your pet happy and healthy, mentally and physically. Their Kickstarter campaign ends on June 2, though. They've already surpassed their primary goal, but if you'd like to learn more, and possibly receive a CleverPet of your own by helping them to reach their next funding goal, click here.

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