What is a cat tracker? How do cat tracking devices work? My cat is microchipped – why do I need a cat tracker too?
I asked myself these questions recently and very quickly a bit of research online led me to the answers…
A cat tracker is essentially a device that utilises different technologies such as GPS or radio frequency to keep tabs on the whereabouts of your pet. Therefore they are very useful gadgets should your furry friend go missing. Some also include extra features such as activity monitoring – keeping a log of the recent history of your pet’s movements for example if you want to keep a track of their health and fitness or are simply interested where they roam at night! Some are stand alone devices that attach to your pet’s collar, some are cat tracking collars, like the Tractive, which is one single unit. Have a read below to find out more about the features to bear in mind when choosing a tracker.
I’ve read that 1/3 of cats go missing in their lifetime. A third?! According to the Kennel Club database Petlog, over 100,000 cats were reported missing in the UK between 2003 and 2014, and only 45% were reunited thanks to a microchip. The main reason reported for pets not being reunited was a failure to keep microchip details updated. Microchip has it’s advantages as it can be used with microchip cat flaps to control unwanted entry to your house by foreign cats, we will discuss this in another article. But, even microchipping your pet is not foolproof. And the downside of microchipping is that it doesn’t actually help you find your lost pet, it only helps to reunite you if they are found and taken specifically to someone who can scan the chip, i.e a vet.
So how can we reduce the numbers of lost cats? Well, alongside strongly advocating for a microchip, we suggest that you equip your cat with a tracking device.
It may be worth considering some of the reasons your cat may have gone missing too, such as an un-neutered cat (we’ve had this scenario with 7 beautiful kittens as a result!), a change in the home environment such as a new pet or baby, or even boredom. These could all be dealt with too, try introducing some new toys, a cat tree or scratching post, gently introducing new things to their environment.
So you’ve decided a cat tracking device is necessary, what features might you look out for? Here are a few:
Many modern trackers use GPS satellites to find your pet and the mobile phone network to relay that information to your smartphone or web browser. Therefore a tracker that uses this technology needs to be in range of both for it to work. Some trackers still use radio signal and it does have its place especially for tracking cats rather than dogs because their activity is different. Some devices will also utilize other technology for example in the home can pick up on Bluetooth or wi-fi signals where mobile/satellite signal may be poor.
Battery life – another thing to consider if your cat is actually lost is, will the battery last long enough to find her? Battery life can vary quite a bit depending on the use of the tracker, and other variables like phone signal.
Geofence – This is a virtual fence that can be set by the owner and means if your cat strays outside the boundary the device will alert you.
Live updating – how often does the device update you of your pet’s movements? This may be crucial when trying to locate a lost pet who is on the move.
Location history – A summary of your pets’ activity over a period of time. You can work out where kitty likes to prowl!
Use of Smartphone App – Something to bear in mind is if the device requires an app to send data to, is your phone compatible. You will be able to find this information on the manufacturer’s website.
Integrated SIM Card? – Some devices already have integrated SIM cards and you choose a subscription plan with the device. Some require you to purchase a SIM separately, allowing you to choose – some devices specify what network, some don’t. Of course, any devices that work on the 2G/3G mobile phone network, therefore, have additional monthly fees associated, but they typically are only a few pounds.
Finally, I should mention that I look for products that are good value for money, although prices vary greatly depending upon the device’s capabilities, technology, and so on.
We’ve recently updated our article to increase our range of options – we chose our ‘best 9’, a fitting number for those felines and their 9 lives..!
The new Tractive IKATI Cat is a great value cat tracker, from the best selling brand. Tractive has now produced separate trackers for cats and dogs. With real time tracking every 2-3 seconds and activity monitoring of your cat’s movements with heatmap, along with the geofence feature which we think is a must have feature of a pet tracker, this does everything you might hope for and more.
The tracker is ergonomically designed to fit comfortably on most cat collars with rubber flexible clips. The tracker is complete IPX7 waterproof and shock resistant, with a battery life of 2-5 days depending upon signal and usage. It is recommended for cats over 4kg, and weighs just under 30g. If you are trying to locate at night, an LED light and sound feature aids with this. You might get a free HUNTER® leather collar with cat-safe buckle if you are one of the lucky few to order this today.
The Weenect for cats is a great little device with lots of useful extra features. As well as live tracking every 10 seconds, the Weenect has the first ‘telephone for cats’ with a voice call function that allows you to make contact if they stray. It also has a ringer and vibrate function which can be useful for training your cat to associate a ring to say, a meal, or it can help you locate the device if it is close by.
The Weenect uses an app like many trackers, and when locating your pet the app uses a map, compass and augmented reality function to make it as easy as possible to find them.
We like the territory mapping feature which uses a history of positions and heat spots to work out where your cat likes to prowl!
Weenect certainly raises the bar when it comes to a device that packs in lots of extras, for the price we think it is good value for money and comes highly rated.
The Tabcat is different in that it uses radio frequency to track your cat, unlike most other modern trackers on the market at present. What advantages does this confer? Radio frequencies are more effective than GPS, for example when you are trying to locate indoors, as GPS satellite or mobile phone signals may be lost. They are also more accurate at getting to the pin point location of your cat.
The other advantages of a radio device are the tiny size, only 6g in weight! Some GPS trackers are pretty bulky for a wee nimble puss. They also use up much less battery than a GPS device so there’s less worry that it will fail on that account.
We love the simplicity of the handset and the way it uses colour coded lights and beeps to guide you to your pet. When you press locate on the handset, a beep on the collar may be enough to even train your cat to come back! Another benefit is that Tabcat can locate up to 4 cats at once. The Tabcat pack comes with 2 ‘homing tags’ (with splashproof cases) and you can purchase extra if needed.
The downside? It is hard to see an obvious downside when you actually analyse what the average cats territory is like. They don’t tend to wander that far, so the range of up to 122m (in line of sight) is, according to Tabcat, long enough to locate upto 99% of cats once you have a little wander around looking for them with the device. However if you have a wanderer, this may not be for you.
Tabcat is not the cheapest cat tracking device, but we can’t ignore the benefits of using a radio tracking device over GPS, so this is well worth some consideration.
We’ve also been looking at dog trackers recently, and Pawfit is definitily in the running. It is another GPS tracker combined with activity monitor, and the feature we like is the Audio ID Tag which converts the information you entered about your pet, into audio data. Press the power button and this will be broadcast, should anybody else find your pet. It also features a temperature alert for example if your pet is in adverse temperature conditions, and an alert when the tracker is removed from its collar attachment. The tracker has the geofence feature, and live updates every 5 seconds.
In addition to using several technologies to locate your pet, Pawfit uses light and sound to help accurately locate in the last few metres.
It is suitable for pets 3.5kg and above so can be worn by cats, and attaches to any collar upto 32mm wide. At 30g, it is isn’t the heaviest device we reviewed, but worth bearing in mind if you have a slight build of feline friend. A good value for money GPS device with a nifty audio feature.
#5 –Findster Duo+ Pet Tracker Free of Monthly Fees – GPS Tracking Collar for Dogs and Cats & Pet Activity Monitor
This is a new addition to our previous listing. Why did we choose it? Well, it wasn’t even on our radar last year, and the first thing that caught our attention was the fact that it didn’t involve paying a monthly subscription fee, like the other GPS trackers. It isn’t as cheap up-front as other GPS trackers, but it is well worth taking a look at.
Instead of using a mobile phone signal, it works by utilising GPS only. There are 2 modules, one for each you and your pet. Using Findster’s ‘MAZE’ technology, the modules can communicate wirelessly in a radius of up to 3 miles (4.8 km) or approx 0.5 miles in urban areas.
This makes the Findster Duo significantly different to GPS trackers which do use mobile phone signal; it does have a small and finite radius and is specifically designed to add a layer of security for your pet while out walking, rather than for use indoors or very remotely (searching for a long lost cat for example). This does, however, bear some resemblance to Tabcat, in that both of them have a specific radius, but that this may not cause a problem when trying to track your cat, as they tend not to wander far anyway. The difference though is that the radio signalled Tabcat is preferable for tracking indoors/built up areas.
Findster does, however, utilise all the other features we like to see with pet trackers. Real time tracking and instant alerts via a mobile phone app, and the ability to define safe areas around your pets position, alerting you when they leave the area.
In live tracking mode the battery life is 12 hours, and upto 3 days if used live for 2 x 30min walks per day. As an activity tracker only, it lasts upto 7 days.
You can track more than one pet if each pet has a module attached to them, and 2/3 pet bundles are available to purchase.
Bearing in mind the limitations of the range of the device, we like this tracker for its features, lack of extra fees and small, lightweight design.
#6 –Girafus Cat Tracker
We’ve added the Girafus this year too. A tiny 4.2g tag with a radius of upto 500m using radio frequencies, makes this a good choice for our feline friends. Upto 4 pets can be monitored on one base unit.
Directional tracking helps guide you in the right direction to your pet using safe radio frequency technology. The case is water splash resistant, and the battery life can last upto one month in ‘smart sleep mode’.
Like other radio frequency cat tracker devices, the Girafus tracker is great for trying to locate your cat indoors, such as if he has got lost in a garage or garden shed. The range stated is longer than that of the Tabcat device for example, in clear line of sight, giving ample reassurance of being able to find a missing cat.
In our summary, we think there isn’t much between this cat tracker and the Tabcat. Both have user reviews which highlight pros and cons, and are similarly rated by buyers. For a little extra money, you do get a device with a longer range in the Girafus, and a radio frequency device for tracking cats is certainly worth considering.
Another new addition to our listing, we recently came across the TKSTAR tracker when looking for dog trackers. This is a slightly different model to the one we found for our canine friends, and although isn’t the lightest or smallest tracker, it would suit a larger cat who likes to roam. It works using GPS/mobile technology and therefore requires a 2G SIM card to work either with pre-paid credit or pay monthly plan.
What we like is the way it sends its location information to you. If you want to locate your pet, all you do is call or text the SIM phone number, and once connected the tracker will send you an SMS with a Google Maps link. You can also configure it for using via computer/internet.
You can monitor the location, movements and route history of your pet. You can choose to get sent 3-second signals sending locations to Google maps, or just updates when you decide to text the device.
The TKSTAR also features a geofence, which can alert you when your cat moves outside the defined area. A low battery alarm is another useful feature.
The unit itself weighs 50g, and as we say, some cat owners feel it is a little oversized. It does come on a collar but can be detached and added to your pets own, if preferable. Other reviewers praise the long battery life (up to 300 hrs on standby, which by our math is 12.5 days!), and the fact that it is good at what it’s made for, tracking your pet.
It isn’t going to set you back a huge amount either, at one of the lower priced GPS trackers out there, with a novel way of communicating with the device, it’s worth a closer look.
The Kippy is stylish in Italian design but loses points for being slightly bulkier and heavier. It is recommended for cats over 4/5kg and on a harness rather than a collar. It is both a GPS tracker and an activity monitor at a reasonable price.
Its ‘Vita’ function allows you to stay connected to your pet and get tips on improving well-being. You can also set activity goals – though I think the aloofness of cats means you’ll have a hard sell getting them to do what you ask for on any given day! Get info on your pets sleeping/walking/running and calorie burning activity, and status updates throughout the day.
Kippy also features; geofence, live updating every 5s (after 5 mins of inactivity it will stop transmitting to save battery), and it captures data on each activity of your cat for analysis. You can see your cats’ location history of up to 2 months on the app.
It comes with a 2 year warranty, an easy to use app for smartphone and android, and can be used in multiple countries around the globe. I’d say Kippy is a GPS tracker and activity monitor with the balance in favour somewhat of its Vita well-being function, and perhaps a little bulky for simply wearing without a cat harness, but a nice stylish lower priced option with plenty of the extra features we’d look for in a tracker.
Dynotag is somewhat off the beaten track from the other devices I’ve been looking at! A different concept altogether, Dynotag can alert you to a lost cat anywhere in the world. Essentially, this is NOT a tracker in the sense that it is not locating your pet, but an alternative idea that may be enough peace of mind to the owner.
This is a smart tag with QR code that can be scanned by a smartphone, or just enter the private web address on each tag if using a web browser. As smartphones use Wi-fi/cell towers and GPS for location information when the tag is scanned, a precise location is given and the owner is alerted to their lost pet.
Information you include about your pet is included in the Dynotag Cloud Service, can be updated anytime, and is never lost. You can remotely disable tags for security, and password protect information.
The advantage over microchips is the ease at which you can store more information about your pet, change it easily at any time, and it can be read by anyone rather than just by the special device needed to read microchips. I think of dynotag as an extra layer of security as well as a microchip.
As it is different to the tracker devices above, here is some extra information about the features of a Dynotag:
Simple to use: Just create a free account at Dynotag.com, sign in, then click activate tag on top.
Secure activation makes sure only the tag owner can manage the tag, others can only view it.
No app needed every dynotag has a private web page that is addressed by the QR code or the provided unique web address – this enables a dynotag to be easily readable by smartphones (scan the QR code) or any web browser on any computer by visiting the included unique web address.
Works anywhere on the planet with Internet. You do not have to be in the vicinity of your tag to update its contents, just sign into your Dynotag account and update your tag content as you need.
Tough, waterproof, weatherproof. NO electronics to break, NO batteries to die when you need them most. All needed functionality and ample room included for life.
NO subscription plan is needed.
Offer advanced security features that include enabling/disabling of the tag by the owner.
Password protection of the tag information as directed by the owner, as well as password protection of individual files uploaded.
Made from tough stainless steel core and protective polymers on both sides
I’d definitely recommend having a look at a tag like this, they are bright, funky colourful designs, a low cost solution to pet identification, and may provide just the reassurance you need when letting your cat out on the prowl.
Finally, I hope you’ve found a cat tracking device from having a read of this article, and we always welcome feedback from other cat owners to share your experiences and find out what really is the best on the market!
Remember to do your research and visit the manufacturer’s website for the finer details and most up to date information. Happy tracking folks and enjoy capturing the movements of your feline friends!