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Treat yo’ pet: Petzi is a camera that dispenses treats when you’re not home

Even without a smart watch, I’d know when 7:30 hits, because that’s my cat’s designated treat time. The second I’m off the couch, he’s winding around my legs, meowing for some of fish-flavored nugget that’s apparently far tastier than his normal food. But I’m not always home during the late evenings, and Petzila knows this, which is why it created the Petzi Treat Cam.

The connected device has a 720p camera and microphone, letting you watch and interact with your cat or dog when you’re away from home. But it also holds and shoots out pet treats, which you can also control via its accompanying app on your smartphone. After an Indiegogo campaign a few years back, Petzila partnered with Big Heart Pet Brands (makers of Milk-Bones and Meow Mix) to bring the camera to retailers for $170, starting in July.

“It’s done in a way that’s Pavlovian,” Petzila CEO David Clark tells Digital Trends. A tone sounds, alerting your dog that you’re connecting and some treat magic is about to happen. You can affix the dispenser to the wall, strap it onto the table, or let it sit on the counter. It has a launching mechanism, so you don’t have to keep it at the pup’s eye-level. Hopefully that will keep your extra-clever pet from dismantling the whole shebang in a feeding frenzy.

Related: Nikon’s dog camera takes a photo every time your mutt is excited

“We wanted to be treat agnostic,” says Clark, so the opening will fit lots of treat options that are smaller than a quarter in diameter. While users can designate one, two, or three pieces of food, cats may get more, just because the treats are smaller in size. That’s why a lot of their beta users have been using it as a feeder for their cats while they’re away from home. It has about a 100-treat capacity. There’s also a social aspect: Pet owners can snap a photo of their dog anxiously waiting for the treat and share it via the app.

Thanks to the Indiegogo campaign, the device has been in about 1,000 homes since December, giving Petzila lots of insight into how people are using the device. “We found that separation anxiety is very real, but they view it as fun, as the ray of sunshine in my pocket when I need it most during the day,” says Clark. But Big Heart is also interested in learning what kind of treats pets are eating, how often they’re eating them, and during what time of day people are feeding their pets.

Petzi Treat Camera PetThanks to the pet profiles owners can set up, Petzila also knows breed, size, and location details on the feline and canine users of Petzi. “That information becomes really valuable to understanding more about the pet-owner relationship,” says Clark. “We see great value in being able to collect this data and return it to our user base in a very beneficial way that makes them more informed pet parents and gives them tools and access to information that has otherwise never existed.”

The trade-off, says Clark, is that people get to use smart-home technology to interact with their pets no matter where they are: “In the connected home, how more of a heartfelt way could you possibly imagine — and what greater of reason could you think of to connect with your home — than to check in with your pet?” I’m pretty sure this just means my cat is going to give all his affection to an inanimate object now.