Fervent purring and turbo-speed zoomies are bound to follow when you unpack a pet subscription box filled with treats and toys. After testing 416 pet products in 73 boxes from eight companies over three months, we found Meowbox and PupJoy Box to be the best for the outstanding quality and variety of their gear, their customizable boxes, and their flexible shipping options.
We love Meowbox for its selection of high-quality cat treats and toys, customizable shipping options, and timely deliveries. Each cat subscription box is curated with a theme, which is something our human panelists adored. For example, there was a foul-weather “When It Rains, It Purrs!” box, which contained well-constructed toys shaped like rain clouds, rubber boots, and lightning bolts. The catnip-infused toys were well stitched and well stuffed. The US-made treats came in a variety of flavors and textures (and each had a long shelf life). Meowbox was also the only cat subscription-box service we found that offered monthly and every-other-month shipping options—and its shipments arrived like clockwork.
PupJoy Box makes it easy to spoil dogs, thanks to its wide selection of high-quality dog gear and treats. The toys (both stuffed and rubber) outlasted those from other services we tested. PupJoy Power Chewers boxes featured tougher gear and arrived with extra chews for dogs who love to gnaw on things. The treats were a favorite among our human testers for the range of dog-approved flavors, focus on natural ingredients, and long shelf life. (But duplicate treats or toys would occasionally arrive two months in a row, something our human testers found to be a letdown.) PupJoy Box can be extensively customized, which is especially handy if a dog has food allergies or is finicky about its toys. It’s also the only service we reviewed with built-in monthly, every-other-month, and quarterly shipping options, so subscribers can adjust the deliveries to match their particular budgets and schedules. The box offers a better value than any other service we tested, with the contents of each box being worth $18 to $24 more than the cost of the subscription, which ranges from $26 to $39 per box (depending on the version of the box you get and how long you sign up for). And it was the only dog subscription-box service we reviewed that had a loyalty rewards program. Deliveries arrived on time, and they were faster than those of most of the competition.
We recommend PupBox for people who are raising a puppy or those who like more variety month to month. Each shipment includes a tip sheet tailored to the age of your pup, along with matching accessories—for example, one box included teething advice and teething chews for our puppy panelist. However, the cute accessories weren’t included with most PupBox boxes we tested for adult dogs, and some boxes didn’t consistently have the same number of goods each month. PupBox repeated toys and treats less often than PupJoy did, but there was also less flexibility in limiting materials and ingredients, and in setting less-frequent shipping. Pet owners who prefer surprises will like this box’s variety, but those who have picky pets or pets with stomach issues may not.
In October 2020, PupBox disclosed a serious data breach (PDF). Customer information, including names, addresses, passwords, credit card numbers, CCV codes, and expiration dates, was exposed for orders made between February 11, 2020 and August 9, 2020. If you ordered during this time period, we recommend that you change your PupBox password and consider requesting a new credit card (or at least watch your statement carefully). To keep your information safe online, we also suggest using a password manager, which generates and stores unique passwords for every site.
Everything we recommend
Why you should trust us
I’m Wirecutter’s pets writer, and I’ve covered everything from pet carriers and automatic feeders to pet adoption advice and vet visit tips. For this guide, I inventoried, priced, and examined every toy, treat, chew, and accessory in each box we reviewed. Then I had seven Wirecutter staffers and their pets test eight subscription services: That’s a total of 73 dog and cat boxes over three months.
Who this is for
Pet owners love pampering their pets. In 2018, pet owners in the US spent $16 billion on pet supplies alone, according to the American Pet Products Association. Pet subscription boxes are an easy way to spoil your pet because you get a collection of toys, treats, and gear delivered to your door, usually every month. They’re convenient because you don’t have to make time to shop, and the gear is curated by species, age, temperament, and (for some boxes) dietary restrictions. Also, sometimes you’ll discover compelling products that your pets have never tried before—all for around $35 a month.
Yet pet subscription-box services aren’t the best way to shop for all pets—those with food allergies pose particular problems. The best services allow you to specify any meat proteins your pets can’t tolerate and then make adjustments. Less-flexible services let you replace treats with extra toys in the box when you register, and the worst services don’t allow for any customizations, so problematic treats may pile up in a kitchen cabinet. In addition, most subscription-box services don’t reveal what’s shipped every month, so you can’t select a pet’s preferred treat or easily opt in or out of treat allotments. If a dog or cat doesn’t handle brand-name treats well, we recommend that you purchase their preferred treats in a store.
How we picked and tested
I dug into pet subscription-box services and found 47 options for everyone from cats, dogs, and pocket pets (like hamsters) to birds, fish, and horses. We had to limit our scope, so in order to help the most pet owners, we looked at boxes for cats or dogs only. I pared the list further by comparing price, delivery frequency and restrictions, number of items per box, toy durability, customization, single- or multiple-pet options, return policies, treat manufacturing locations, and third-party reviews. Based on those factors, we decided to test the following services:
Cat subscription boxes
Dog subscription boxes
Dog subscription boxes for aggressive chewers
Next, I evaluated each box for the quantity, quality, and monetary value of its pet gear. To calculate the net value of each box, I tracked the individual cost of each product, on average, at such major retailers as Amazon, Chewy, Petco, and PetSmart. For gear that wasn’t available through other sellers, we used the prices on each service’s website, since they usually sell toys and snacks piecemeal. I also reviewed each service’s consistency of offerings across box sizes and shipping timeliness.
Simply put, I reviewed 416 different pet toys, treats, chews, and accessories.
Then I assembled a panel of seven testers and their pets, with each pet falling into one of the following categories: cat, traditional dog, or aggressive-chewer dog. I assigned the dogs boxes based on their size (they ranged from 8 pounds to 70 pounds) and chewing preferences. Then every month, I distributed the boxes to our panelists. In total, our pets and humans reviewed 73 boxes from eight companies over three months.
Our pick: Meowbox
Meowbox is the best cat subscription box because it delivers a wide variety of toys and treats that cats adore (with themes that cat owners love, too), and it offers flexible delivery options that consistently ship on time.
Our testers and their cats couldn’t get enough of the pint-size toys in each box, all of which had cute themes, from “When It Rains, It Purrs!” to “Kitties Who Brunch.” Each box included four toys and one to two full-size treat bags. Some other boxes we looked at had cute themes that were great for people, but the poor-quality treats and toys shortchanged pets. Meowbox was the only service that managed to get both elements right. The boxes we received included a selection of crinkle toys, dancer wands, and high-quality freeze-dried treats. The stitching on the toys was clean. The catnip- or polyfill-stuffed toys were always plump and never flat, and the treats were made in the United States. The owners of picky cats may replace their pets’ treat allotment with additional toys for free.
Our testers also thought Meowbox’s adorable factor and high-quality offerings made it hard to beat. “As always, Meowbox’s theme was exceptionally cute,” said Wirecutter’s assistant updates editor Medea Giordano. “All toys seem pretty high quality and have held up. The handmade [catnip toy] was an immediate favorite of Eely-Rue’s, and despite kicking, scratching, and biting, it's still intact.”
We researched 15 cat subscription boxes, and Meowbox was one of only two with monthly and bimonthly shipping options. (The other was Cuddle Crate, which we didn’t test for this guide because it’s more expensive than Meowbox yet ships fewer items in each box.) Most of our human panelists said they preferred the bimonthly option, mainly because the Meowbox treat bags were big—so big that at the end of each month, there were usually plenty of treats left over. (We’re pretty sure their cats would disagree with this decision, though.) And less-frequent deliveries are great for saving money, reducing waste, and keeping cats trim. Cat owners can also pause or skip deliveries on either shipment plan by visiting a user dashboard on the Meowbox website.
Shipping was included in the cost of the Meowbox subscription, which was true of most of the boxes. The first box arrived three days after we placed our order, and subsequent boxes arrived on time every month, approximately every 28 days. By comparison, KitNipBox arrived every 27 days, and VetPetBox for cats arrived roughly every 35 days.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
If your cat falls in love with Meowbox’s adorable toys, you should know that you won’t be able to find replacements at your local pet store. All toys are designed exclusively for Meowbox, so replacements are available only from the company’s online storefront—and they may sell out quickly.
Meowbox also offers one of the lowest net values (calculated value of contents per box above the subscription price) out of all the cat subscription boxes we tested. We calculated the net value at $2, while those of most of the competition were markedly higher, at $6 for KitNipBox and $9 for VetPetBox for cats.
Price: $23 per month
Items per box: four to six
Shipping frequency: monthly, bimonthly
Ships to: United States (free), Canada (free)
Return policy: 30-day return policy for damaged items
|Cat subscription boxes||Average value||Monthly cost||Net value|
Our pick: PupJoy Box
PupJoy Box is our favorite dog subscription-box service because of its variety of high-quality goods, customizable boxes, overall value, and prompt deliveries.
Each PupJoy box we received contained, on average, two toys, two treats, and one chew. The toys were well made—as with most of the products we reviewed, there weren’t any loose strings on the stuffed toys. And the seams on the nylon and rubber chews were clean and free of breakable pieces of bubbling plastic. The toys in our boxes included a Hatchables Blue Bird, a SodaPup Can, and a SteelDog Fox w/ Tennis Ball & Rope Toy. The treats and chews were made in the United States, and most of them didn’t expire for a year or two. And our dogs definitely put on a few pounds (in the case of our small dogs, a few ounces) after enjoying the 4 Paws Butcher Shop Artisan Chicken Burger, PupJoy Chicken Jerky, and Shameless Pets Applenoon Delight treats.
This service is more customizable than any pet subscription service we tested. Options include a box with toys, treats, and chews; toys and treats only; or toys only. You can specify whether you want plush or a variety of toys, as well as choose all-natural, organic, grain-free, or protein-sensitive treats. And there are five different dog-size categories. Most of the other boxes we researched allowed you to pick just one or two options, such as choosing between toys and treats or toys only.
PupJoy is the only service we tested that offered monthly, bimonthly, and quarterly shipping options. Pet owners may also pause shipments if their needs suddenly change or if they get overwhelmed by too many deliveries. The toys we tested weathered a month or so of use—unlike BarkBox’s toys, which tended to survive just a couple of weeks—so our panelists felt comfortable switching to less-frequent deliveries. Our testers agreed that the quality of goods and the tailored shipments made PupJoy the dog subscription-box service to beat.
“Getting a box every month would be overwhelming,” said Wirecutter editor Tracy Vence. “I would consider a quarterly subscription or easy opt-in, opt-out subscriptions.”
“Holy cow it came with so many treats, such a variety, too. But if I were getting this every month, it’d be too much,” said Sarah Kobos, senior photo editor.
For dogs who love to chew, opt for PupJoy Power Chewers Box, one of seven services we researched that were designed with tougher chewers in mind. It’s $9 more, on average, but it typically includes two extra treats or chews and has many of the regular PupJoy Box’s customizable features. The Power Chewers toys were durable, yet they were also lightweight enough that all of our dogs were able to manipulate and gnaw on them with ease. By comparison, BarkBox Super Chewer and Bullymake Box both had heavy nylon toys that most dogs ignored. Our dogs easily pawed and pulled on PupJoy’s rubber treat dispensers, bacon-flavored nylon chews, and buffalo horns.
PupJoy and PupJoy Power Chewers boxes have some of the highest net values (the calculated value of the gear above the subscription price) of any service we tested, at $18 and $24, respectively.
|Dog subscription boxes||Average value||Monthly cost||Net value|
|BarkBox Super Chewer||$38||$39||-$1|
|PupJoy Power Chewers Box||$61||$37||$24|
PupJoy is the only service we found with a free loyalty rewards program, which takes $10 to $100 off a box purchase or renewal plan. Pet owners earn points for every box subscription or renewal and online store purchase. Members also earn $20 for referrals, and shipping on gear from the PupJoy store is included.
PupJoy ships to the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada (for a $5 surcharge). Initial boxes were delivered one week after ordering, and later boxes arrived every 26 days.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
PupJoy Box doesn’t curate shipments based on themes, as BarkBox and Bullymake Box do. We were immediately drawn to the idea of seasonal themes, but the lower-quality toys didn’t fare as well in our pups’ jaws, and though we thought the themes were fun, we quickly realized they didn’t actually matter in the eyes of our pets.
Wirecutter project manager Allen Tingley put it best: “PupJoy is my overall winner. I never would have guessed it based on the first boxes I received, but then I kind of realized what was happening. BarkBox was focused on making me happy with fun drawings and themes and Instagrammable stuff. But PupJoy wanted my dog to be happy, and realized my dog doesn’t care about the pretty drawings.”
PupJoy had fewer varied treats than some other boxes. The 4 Paws Butcher Shop treats arrived in both March and May 2019, and the same SodaPup Can toys and PupJoy Chicken Jerky treats appeared in April and May 2019. (Though our testers who had picky pets or pets with sensitive stomachs appreciated PupJoy’s consistency.) Some of the toys were also the same between PupJoy and PupJoy Power Chewers, which seemed to defeat the purpose of selling a box for aggressive chewers.
Dan Kim, Wirecutter’s deputy deals editor, loved the variety in his first shipment, with its high-quality toys and all-natural treats and chews. But he found his second box—with redundant items—to be a letdown. “I’m kind of disappointed since last month’s PupJoy was my favorite. It seems way less worth it,” he said. Still, by the end of the testing period, Kim rated PupJoy as his preferred service. Most panelists agreed that every-other-month or quarterly shipments reduced the chance of repeats.
Price: $26 to $29 for PupJoy Box; $33 to $39 for PupJoy Power Chewers Box, depending on the subscription plan
Items per box: five to seven
Shipping frequency: monthly, bimonthly, quarterly
Ships to: United States and Puerto Rico; Canada ($5 surcharge)
Return policy: Satisfaction guaranteed
Also great: PupBox
Get PupBox if you have a puppy or you prefer a service that rarely repeats itself. The selection of goods matures as your puppy grows, and there were fewer instances of duplicate items than with PupJoy Box. But the number of items in PupBox can vary from box to box, deliveries are slower, shipping cadences can’t be changed, and the company has a limited return policy.
We like PupBox for its high-quality dog gear that keeps puppies in mind. Pet owners tailor their boxes based on a dog’s age, biological sex, weight class, coat length, and food allergies. And each box designed for puppies ships with a training insert and a corresponding accessory. The box assembled for our 4-month-old puppy offered socialization and teething advice, and included a Petstages Cutie Chewies Hedgehog rubber dental toy and N-Bone Puppy Teething Rings treats.
We liked the included age-specific advice and accessories, but experienced dog owners may have little use for them. “This was a close second in terms of the boxes. I really did like the extra info on raising a puppy, and it would’ve been more useful for me if I didn’t have that sort of knowledge,” Kim said. “If it’s been a long time since you’ve had a puppy or never had one before, this would definitely be my first choice.”
The toys were free of defects. Most of the treats had an expiration date of about a year and were made in the United States or Canada. PupBox never shipped identical toys or treats, unlike PupJoy, whose boxes occasionally had duplicates during our tests. (Overall, we still prefer PupJoy over PupBox because it’s $6.50 less, on average, each month, and the net value is about $8 higher, too.)
Shipping is included in the United States; there’s a $5 surcharge to ship to Canada. Initial boxes arrived eight days after ordering, and new boxes arrived every 30 days.
PupBox disappointed us by varying the number of items received each month, so the corresponding value varied each month, too. (For example, we valued an April 2019 box for a small dog at $28 and a May 2019 box for a small dog at $50.) Every box included five to seven items, but the breakdown among toys, treats, and chews fluctuated more than with other services we reviewed. If dogs are partial to toys rather than treats (or vice versa), they may be occasionally shortchanged. BarkBox, Bullymake Box, and PupJoy boxes were more consistent in their allotments, and they always included two toys.
This was another dog subscription box that didn’t consistently curate boxes based on a theme. PupBox carries your pet from puppyhood to doghood, so boxes for puppies arrive with an extra accessory relevant to your dog’s age (like a leash-walking leaflet and a 6-foot-long leash). Adult dogs, though, don’t receive any special treatment, even though the puppy and adult boxes cost the same. Our adult-dog panelists did receive, in one box, a jar of discontinued, pet-friendly Burt’s Bees soothing skin cream. Does a discontinued item really count as a special extra?
Deliveries are slower, too. Shipments arrived every 30 days, four days slower than with PupJoy. And like most of the dog subscription boxes we tested, PupBox ships only monthly. Pet owners may email customer service to skip a month or switch to every-two-month delivery, but our testers preferred PupJoy’s process, which lets you manage your subscription yourself via the website.
Finally, PupBox’s return policy isn’t as generous as those of our other picks. PupBox doesn’t offer refunds and doesn’t accept returns. But it does consider problems on a case-by-case basis for “extenuating circumstances.” (PupJoy says user satisfaction is guaranteed, and BarkBox and Bullymake offer replacements for defective items.) Pet owners may have better luck contacting the pet toy or treat manufacturer directly if an item is defective. Darren Silverman, vice president of national sales at Petmate, one of PupBox’s suppliers, said: “We encourage customers to call 1-800-Petmate, and our consumer services team will try to resolve any issues with our products.”
Price: $29 to $39, depending on the plan
Items per box: five to seven
Shipping frequency: monthly
Ships to: United States; Canada ($5 surcharge)
Return policy: Case-by-case only
Cat subscription-box services
Our panelists’ cats easily demolished the KitNipBox’s toys—and far too quickly. The service also didn’t send confirmation emails with every shipment, which made it harder to track missing boxes. (All of the other cat services did.)
We weren’t impressed with the quality of KittyCatKrate’s toys. Most were crafted with felt, which wasn’t durable, and stuffed with catnip that wasn’t potent enough to attract our cats’ attention. The quality was so poor that we valued each box at -$15.
Dog subscription-box services
The BarkBox kits assembled some of the cutest seasonal themes and corresponding toys that our testers reviewed. But our dogs easily destroyed BarkBox’s toys month after month because the stitching wasn’t as durable as with our picks’ toys. Meanwhile, the full-size bags of unopened treats were piling up. (BarkBox offers monthly shipments only.) Our panelists considered it wasteful to continue their BarkBox subscriptions (and to continue to amass treats) simply to replace disfigured toys each month. (You can email customer service to pause delivery; our testers preferred the dashboard interface that PupJoy offers.)
The BarkBox Super Chewer box’s themes were just as adorable as those of its counterpart for less-chew-prone dogs. However, testers thought the toy quality was poor because the painted designs on the rubber varieties often looked sloppy. And the tougher (usually nylon) toys were too heavy and too difficult for some dogs (especially our toy-size and senior dogs) to maneuver and enjoy.
Bullymake Box had the toughest chews and toys of any service we tested. But testers said the nylon toys were too heavy and tough to be appealing to their pets; most dogs ignored this box during the test period. And rubber-based toys were quickly torn into bite-size pieces by our strongest chewers, which made the toys a safety risk. But if your dog is a “bully breed” who destroys the most indestructible toys, we think the Bullymake Box is a good place to start, as long as your pup is under supervision.
Cat and dog subscription-box services
VetPetBox for cats and dogs is owned by licensed veterinarians, and each box is curated with a pet’s health in mind. Pet owners can personalize their boxes based on a pet’s age, allergies, vision impairments, and anxieties, among other health needs. Some boxes focused on urinary tract health in cats and springtime skin allergies in dogs. But during testing, our human panelists thought the boxes were too medicinally focused. They appreciated the health-conscious treat and gear recommendations but were hesitant to use the products without consulting their own vets first.
Darren Silverman, vice president of national sales, Petmate, email interview, June 14, 2019
About your guide
Kaitlyn Wells is a staff writer covering all things pets and commuting gear at Wirecutter. She has a decade of experience volunteering with animal shelters, and, of course, commutes to work. Since joining us, she has recruited over 150 cats and dogs (and their owners) to test things. She’s always excited to share photos of her pets—just ask her.