Browse pet store aisles and you’ll find programmable feeders, digital dog tags that store up to 40 lines of information in five languages, lightbulbs that promise to eradicate pet odors, and a huge array of sophisticated products that feed, clean up after and amuse pets with little human effort.

High-tech pet products started taking off about five years ago and are now the fastest-growing segment of the nearly $8 million a year pet-product market, says Bob L. Vetere, executive vice president of the American Pet Products Manufacturers Assn. Most manufacturers have come up with some sort of high-tech device.

While bark “translators” such as the $80 Bowlingual and an $18 “PollyVision” DVD edited specifically for a captive bird’s viewing pleasure are mainly for fun and fascination, other gadgets are more practical.

“Electronic restraint systems keep animals safe and close by. Automatic water dispensers and timed feeding devices allow working people to leave pets for a whole day without worry,” Vetere says. “Products like that increase the market of potential pet owners because they allow many people to have pets who couldn’t care for one before.”

Self-cleaning litter boxes can take over the least pleasant task associated with owning a cat. A sensor detects when a cat has entered the box, then a rake collects and deposits the waste into a plastic dispenser. The product retails for around $100, so when Wendy Hand of Thousand Oaks found one on EBay for less than $80, she snapped it up.

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