How To Choose The Best Tracker For Your Cat

How To Choose The Best Tracker For Your Cat

When the first real-time cat tracking devices trickled onto the market about a year ago, I thought I’d seen the future of cat safety!

After experiencing the trauma of a lost cat, which motivated us to start Supakit, I thought these new tracking devices meant our lost cat worries were over. But then, we never bought one. Why? When we looked into the products they just weren’t up to the job. They were either too bulky or too expensive or had ridiculously short battery lives.

Luckily, a year is a long time on the bleeding edge of new tech and now we’re glad we didn’t commit a device. The number of companies making trackers that are suitable for cats is steadily growing, offering a wide choice of designs and technology. Now there’s so much choice that it can be overwhelming.

So in this week’s post I wanted to take you through the current tech that’s available now and help you learn how to choose the best device for your cat’s needs. It’s fair to say that none of them are the perfect tracker of our dreams, but if you’re really keen to get some sort of device on your cat, there are definitely some usable trackers out there now.

I don’t have any affiliations with or financial links to any of the brands listed below. All information and prices are correct at the time of publication.

Radio Frequency Trackers

Current examples

TABCAT

Tabcat Cat Tracker

Price: £69.99 / $99.99
Annual fees: £0 / $0
Weight: 6g
Range: 122 metres (400ft) in clear line of sight
Technology: Radio Frequency
Battery life: Up to a Year, replaceable
Territories: Worldwide

This is the only device on our list that uses radio frequency. It comes with two tracking discs (+ splashproof cases) that you can pop on a cat’s collar, plus a handset to track them. The handset uses the radio signal strength between the tag on your cat and the handset to tell you if you’re getting warmer or colder via the lights on the front.

It has a range of 122m (400ft) which is quite limited, but if you’re prepared to roam the streets with it in your hand until you pick up a signal, you should be able to locate your cat. That’s the theory at least! It’s a bit like a device you’d see in a 1960’s spy movie, but I quite like the simplicity of it.

Another benefit is that it will work through buildings and indoors, whereas the GPS that other trackers use can struggle to see through buildings. Worth a thought if your cat has holed up in warm, dry basement.

There are no rolling costs, just one up-front payment. And it’s the second lightest of all of the trackers on our list (it misses out on top spot by just 0.4 of a gram!).

One thing to note, though, is that the Tabcat tracking device threads onto the collar. This avoids the disk hanging from the cats neck but it is a sizeable device (3.3cm / 1.3 inch diameter) and it could possibly limit movement, say in the contortions that cleaning entails. Some cats will find this disconcerting, others won’t mind so much, so it may be a case of just trying it to see.

Bluetooth Trackers

Current examples

TRACKR PIXEL

Trackr Pixel Cat Tracking Bluetooth

Price: £23.99 / $24.99
Annual fees: £0 / $0
Weight: 5.6g
Range: Up to 100 feet
Technology: Bluetooth
Battery life: Up to 1 year, replaceable
Territories: Worldwide

TRACKR BRAVO

Trackr Bravo Cat Bluetooth Tracker

Price: £24.99 / $29.99
Annual fees: £0 / $0
Weight: 9g
Range: Up to 100 feet
Technology: Bluetooth
Battery life: Up to 1 year, replaceable
Territories: Worldwide

The TrackR Pixel and Bravo are two products from the same company – the Pixel is the newer version of the two. It has a plastic case that is a few grams lighter, has a slightly louder ring and incorporates LED lights. The Bravo, however, with its metal case has the benefit that it can be engraved, so it can replace a cat ID tag too. Otherwise, they’re pretty much the same so I’ll refer to them both as the ‘TrackR’ from here on in.

The TrackR is another really affordable option that is also among the lightest of all of the trackers we have found, and like the Tabcat it has a very long battery life.

These advantages of the Trackr are possible because it uses bluetooth technology (between the tracker and your phone) to locate the tracker. However, the drawback is that this signal will only travel 30 metres / 100ft from your cat which means that if your cat wanders further than this (and it probably will) then your phone won’t be able to locate it.

All, however, is not lost. In addition to the direct communication between the tracker and your phone, Trackr products are also able to ‘ping’ their location when they pass within 100ft of anyone else who also uses Trackr.

That means that if your cat passes within 100ft of another Trackr product, you will receive its location via the Trackr App. The coverage can be seen on their website. It’s good in populated areas. For instance, we looked in our area in London and the coverage is fairly good. Obviously, the more people that use the system, the better it will get.

Once you get a notification that your cat has been picked up by another person’s app, you can go to that location and wander around trying to locate your cat using your bluetooth connection to the tracker. The TrackR will light up and has an audible alarm that you can trigger when you are in range. Once in range, your App will give you an indication of if you are getting closer or further away, in a ‘hotter / colder’ sort of way. Like the Tabcat, you basically have to do a bit of leg work.

One of the best things about the TrackR is that it’s the only tracker we’ve found that hangs from a collar like an ID tag. That means if your cat is already comfortable with wearing a collar and tag, migrating them to the TrackR should be an easy switch. And as we know, gaining kitty’s stamp of approval is the most important thing when it comes to considering a tracker! If they won’t wear it, even the best tracker is going to end up gathering dust on a shelf.

GPS Trackers

Current examples

POD 3

Pod 3 Cat Tracker

Price: £119 / $129
Annual fees: £47.40 / $98.45
Weight: 31g
Range: Anywhere there is mobile / cell coverage
Technology: GPS
Battery life: Standby mode 4-5 days, Safe zone mode 1.5-3 days, Adventure mode 6-8 hours.
Territories: 175 countries including UK, US and Australia

WHISTLE 3

Whistle 3 Pet Tracker

Price: $79.95
Annual fees: $95.40
Weight: 26g / 0.92oz
Range: Anywhere there is mobile / cell coverage
Technology: GPS
Battery life: Up to 7 Days
Territories: USA Only

 

TRACTIVE GPS 3G

Tractive GPS 3G Cat Tracker

Price: £44.99 / $69.99
Annual fees: £39.96 / $59.88
Weight: 35g / 1.2oz
Range: Anywhere there is mobile / cell coverage
Technology: GPS
Battery life: 2-5 Days
Territories: 80 Countries, including US, UK and Australia

 

PAWTRAX HALO

Pawtrax Halo Cat GPS Tracker

Price: £95
Annual fees: £25
Weight: 21g
Range: Anywhere there is mobile / cell coverage
Technology: GPS
Battery life: Up to 5 Days
Territories: UK Only

 

GPCATS

GPCats GPS Tracking Device

Price: £119 / $129
Annual fees: £19 / $19
Weight: 15g
Range: Anywhere there is mobile / cell coverage
Technology: GPS
Battery life: 3-6 days in energy saving mode
Territories: 69 Countries, including UK and US.

KIPPY FINDER

Kippy Finder GPS Cat Tracking Device

Price: £99
Annual fees: £59.99
Weight: 50g
Range: Anywhere there is mobile / cell coverage
Technology: GPS
Battery life: Up to 10 days
Territories: Europe, Turkey, India and South Africa

 

TRAX

Trax GPS Pet Tracker

Price: £89
Annual fees: £49
Weight: 24g / 0.85oz
Range: Anywhere there is mobile / cell coverage
Technology: GPS
Battery life: Up to 3 days
Territories: 100 Countries including USA and UK

GPS trackers use satellite and cell phone networks to locate your cat. Most of them display your cat’s actual location (to within 5-10 metres) on an app or website, so you can find them straight away. Many also have extra bells and whistles such as showing you your cat’s activity levels, location history and so on.

Unlike the bluetooth or radio frequency options above, the fantastic thing about GPS trackers is that they have unlimited range. Anywhere there is cell phone coverage, you should be able to locate your cat.

However, there is a price to pay for this, both in hard cash and practicality. The tech in these devices is larger, heavier and more expensive.

The cost is not just an upfront cost. You will also need to have a yearly contract with a mobile phone network for it to continue working. If you let that contract lapse the device won’t work.

And the weight of a GPS system can be pretty critical for a cat, especially if they are on the small side. Which brings us on to a related question –

How much weight is it safe to put around your cats neck?

It is worth looking at a study by the Department of Zoology, University of Otago in New Zealand which asked, ‘Do collar-mounted devices affect domestic cat behaviour and movement?’ (Coughlin, C. E. & van Heezik, Y. 2015) 

They concluded that a cat should carry no more than 2% of its body weight around its neck.

I calculated what this actually means for our cat Lola and here are my workings. This should make it easier for you to work out what is the maximum weight you cat should have around its neck.

Lola’s last visit to the vet revealed she weighed 3.65kg
Multiply this by 20 x 20
to find what 2% of that weight is in grams = 73g

You can use the same process to find the maximum weight of tracker your cat can comfortably take. Just take their weight in kg, multiply by 20, and that is the maximum weight in grams your tracker should be.

It’s worth remembering that weight is the total weight that your cat should be carrying. So, you’ll have to take into account the weight of the collar, bell, and ID tag (a tracker isn’t a replacement for an ID tag).

Our adult collars weigh 15g and our ID Tags 5g. That leaves a maximum of 53g for a tracker before it has a negative effect on Lola.

The range of weights of the trackers we found was 6-50g. So, for Lola, as an average cat (if ever there were such a thing!) there shouldn’t be any issues with any of them. However, it’s easy to see that a smaller cat or kitten would be limited by the tracker’s weight, so, it’s worth doing the math.

So Which One?

Well, unfortunately none of them are perfect. That year since we first saw trackers being talked about has really moved things forward…. but not enough. I think the reasons we didn’t rush out and put our money down on the bright new future of trackers still apply.

This is cutting edge tech that has just about been made viable to work in small, battery powered devices, at a viable price point. There has been a rush to market for many of the devices out there and it’s safe to say that there will be teething problems. I also think that manufacturers saw a market in dog owners and just assumed it would work for cats too. But as we know with collars, cats have very different needs than dogs. They are physically smaller, climb, jump, curl and tie themselves up in knots. Some of the designs on the market I think would be unsuitable for a cat and possibly make it miserable. That’s not worth the benefit to us.

In my opinion, the smaller, lighter Bluetooth devices from Trackr look to be the best compromise at the moment. They give a reasonable range provided you live in a populated area, are reasonably priced and are no bigger than an ID tag.

The next 6 months will no doubt see even more improvement in this competitive industry, which is still in its infancy. If you can wait a little longer I think you’ll see big improvements with the GPS products after the all-important customer feedback is analysed and acted upon. If you do buy, then I think you have to accept that you will be one of the brave first users of these products and may discover some of their shortcomings first hand.

Talking of which, we’d love to hear from you with stories of success or failure with your tracking devices. Most of the information we used to compile this guide was from the manufacturer’s own marketing. As always, the most valuable information come from you guys, the users. Please feel free to share your experiences.

Kevin

 

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