I’ve been living with a pet-friendly robot for the past few months that’s made to entertain cats. (Or dogs, if they’re into this sort of thing!)
Enabot’s Ebo Pro is a circular bot that fits in the palm of your hand with a cute pixelated digital face. Like a fun WALL-E knockoff, it even lets out an excited “Eebow” in a childlike robotronic voice as it powers up. It has wheels to move, a camera to see, a laser to tease your cat with, and a built-in speaker so you can chat with your pet from afar (or kids, as the website notes).
You can use the Ebo Pro in a few ways: Drive it manually using the controls in its app, turn on automatic mode, or set schedules for it to activate at certain times of the day and play with your pet. You won’t always want to manually control it, so the automatic mode is nice.
When you open the app and select Play Now, the Ebo Pro will light up, wheel off its dock, and begin broadcasting a live feed from its camera. You don’t have to actively steer it or tell it what to do (though you can). It will seek out your pet and play, giving you the chance to take photos.
To set a schedule so it turns on at certain times of day, click the three dots next to your Ebo on the app’s home screen and choose Auto Mode. You have to set a schedule if you want the bot to use its laser when you aren’t actively in the app. It can run in Auto Mode for 20 minutes at a time.
When I’m going to be away for longer than a normal work day, I usually set up a couple of security cameras so I can check in on my cats. But even the best security cameras can’t search for a pet hiding under the bed. The Ebo Pro can check out those hidden nooks and crannies, offering more peace of mind to anxious pet parents like me. It has a 1080p (HD) lens—the same as most standard home security cams.
It’s speedy enough, but the feed is shaky, likely because its tank-style caterpillar track wheels don’t offer enough stability. They barely jut out from the bottom, so its small spherical body wobbles back and forth. It functions pretty well on my carpets, but the wobbles make it difficult to steer—not a deal breaker, but there’s certainly room for improvement. The Ebo may also topple over if a large enough obstacle, or a menacing cat paw, knocks it off balance, but that only happened to me once.
Like some robot vacuums, the Ebo Pro has trouble properly returning to its dock to recharge. It tends to back up, move forward, and back up again for several minutes. For weeks, mine never actually managed to roll over its dock’s edge and charge. I thought my carpet was hindering it from getting enough momentum, but one day it magically figured out how to do it. However, if I use it for close to an hour and the battery starts to die—it dies rather quickly—the Ebo usually forgets how to latch again. This robot will need a hand returning to its dock at times, which isn’t the worst thing if you happen to be home. It’s more frustrating if you’re not.
On and On
The Ebo also has no “off” switch. Like many wireless earbuds, it has no power button. It’s just on … all the time. Properly docking will put it in standby, but it’s still on. To fully turn it off without the dock, you must use a pin to press a hidden reset button on the bottom and set it up again next time you want to use it. Or you can let it run out of battery.
You may not mind that Ebo is always on, but it’s inconvenient. If you or your cat accidentally knock it off the sensors—or you lose power during a middle-of-the-night storm as I did—Ebo will just turn on, let out a loud “Ebo,” and start roaming about until it dies or redocks itself. It’s quite terrifying when you’re trying to sleep.
The fact that it’s always on and it has a camera can be an alarming combination. All data is stored internally, so there’s nothing in the cloud, and livestreaming from the camera to your phone is done through peer-to-peer technology, so it doesn’t go through a server to share live data. I probably wouldn’t dress in front of it, but I also wouldn’t do that in front of my computer out of an abundance of caution (or paranoia).
Does Your Pet Need a Robot?
Some people believe cats are more independent than dogs and don’t need stimulation or love from their owners. Not true. Cats need, and want, playtime and affection. A bored cat may overeat and over-groom, destroy its surroundings, or taunt its siblings.
For my cat Huxley, the Ebo is basically just a laser pointer on wheels, which he loves. If the laser isn’t on, he stares at it until it is. Eely-Rue watches it run but doesn’t like to actively play with it. Other cats or dogs may be interested in simply chasing a moving toy.
It also comes with silicone feathers you can stick in the top, but neither of my cats wanted anything to do with them. The company has posted pictures of the Ebo with non-silicone faux feathers but doesn’t plan to add that as an option, for sanitary and durability reasons. Hopefully other enticing attachments will be released so it appeals to a wider range of pets (and pet personalities). Too much laser time can be frustrating for a cat. It’s basically hunting for uncatchable prey.
There are a few different hats and outfits available for the Ebo, like Santa and reindeer costumes, which might be fun if you have kids. They’re $5 to $15 at the Enabot shop.
If you’re home, you should always take time to personally interact with your pet, but the Ebo Pro is a nice way to occupy and keep an eye on them when you’re busy—if you can afford a $299 robot. A standard Ebo model is available on the Enabot site for $249, but it has no laser pointer, lacks collision detection, and cannot steer itself.
The Ebo Pro is a nice toy, and one of my cats absolutely loves chasing its laser, but the expense is hard to justify—especially it fails to recharge when you’re out of town.
Check out our favorite cat toys and supplies for more ways to distract your pet.