How can I track where my cat goes?

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Whether you're worried about your cat’s safety or just curious about what they get up to when they’re not at home, a cat tracker could help you discover your kitty’s secret life!

There are thousands of cats currently missing in the UK. And, sadly, many of these kitties will never find their way back home. So for the heartbroken owners who are currently clueless about their cats’ whereabouts, a tracker could have saved a lot of anguish and suffering.

Thanks to the growing world of pet trackers, we are now able to track the movements and discover the locations of our cats, without having to move from the sofa.

Trackers have already helped reunite many owners with their cats, thanks to the devices locating them in the most impossible situations — from university lecture halls to school nativity plays, pubs to churches, and even, somewhat surprisingly, hurtling along at 60mph on a busy A-road in the back of a fish van (maybe there are worse ways for a cat to travel!).

Most trackers work by using a device attached or built into a collar, with the majority of them using GPS to locate an animal’s whereabouts, which communicates with satellites to fix the location of the tracker. With most GPS-based trackers, information about the owner’s cat’s whereabouts is sent to an app on their smartphone, which shows them where their kitty is on a map, opening up a whole world to owners that cats previously kept to themselves.

For anyone with an adventurous pet, undergoing a house move, or whose cat seems to be growing in girth, despite being on a strict diet, trackers can give peace of mind and provide answers to some troubling questions. And, what’s more, tracking a cat can be a lot of fun!

What can trackers show?

Most trackers require a one-off payment for the device itself and then a monthly subscription fee. For that, not only can your customer see regular and real-time updates of their cat’s location, but also a history of their wanderings as well as ‘hot spots’ of where they spend most of their time.

And what’s really great is that you can follow their exploits from anywhere in the world with a WiFi connection — be it an armchair in Hull to a deckchair in Hawaii! And many trackers come packed with clever features too. Some devices offer the user the chance to ‘buzz’ or ‘call’ the device while their cat is wearing it, giving them the chance to train their cat to come for food at meal times. This feature also helps the owner locate the cat’s device if they somehow lose it (inevitably in thigh-length grass or nettles!), so the collar can be tracked to where they last wore it and then buzz it when they’re nearby so they can hear it.

Another nifty feature some have is a geofence — a virtual boundary that can be set up on the owners map which alerts them when their cat gets near or passes it (no doubt a useful feature when they’re nearing a road, but the jury is out on what might be possible to do to stop them crossing it).

Some trackers also allow the user to detect their point of entry into a building, or enable them to share their cat’s whereabouts with other people. They can track more than one cat at once using the tracker’s app, and some even switch themselves off when the cat is home (to save battery). And nearly all of them can survive a good soaking.

Expert views

For Dorset-based Jeremy Price, it was the stress of losing his Burmese, Monty, for five days that made him give up his career in accounting to launch a business developing cat trackers. After remortgaging his home, and spending years working on variations, he founded GPS cat tracking company Pawtrack.

“People are often gobsmacked by how far their cat can travel, particularly when they think they’re tucked up in bed,” says Jeremy. “Trackers give a fascinating insight into cats’ behaviours, as well as peace of mind.”

He does point out, though, that GPS-based cat trackers do have their limitations. He says: “Expectations are always going to be high, given the capabilities of modern smartphones.

“They’re not perfect yet. In built-up areas, they don’t work at their best, as the satellite signals can cut out and don’t work well through concrete and brick. Inside our smartphones, we have huge antennas to receive GPS signals — and we hold them high up — but cats are usually low down to the ground.”

Although, according to product market analysts at Swedish firm Berg Insight, some 300,000 pets wear GPS trackers in Europe and North America alone; if this trend continues, it says numbers will swell to 2.8 million by 2021.

That’s no surprise to Adrien Harmel, founder of pet tracking company Weenect. “The market is just at the beginning; tomorrow, every cat owner will have a tracking device,” he says.

As for the future? “The breakthrough will be when we can detect a health problem in your cat and warn your vet directly. This will be possible pretty quickly thanks to artificial intelligence,” says Harmel.

Chief executive of pet tracking firm Tractive, Michael Hurnaus, agrees: “Cats can’t talk. Artificial intelligence will be there to detect anomalies in behavioural patterns and activity profiles, which can then be passed on to owners.” Meanwhile, Pawtrack is already working on a system that can detect when your cat has been in a collision, after its most famous customer, Rolf, Warwick University’s cat, was recently hit by a car. After a period of recuperation, Rolf is now back up and about — complete with tracker and high-vis jacket.

It seems that, in the future, cat trackers will have a huge impact on how and where we view our cats, help us to understand them better, and play a role in monitoring their health and fitness — giving us an insight into a world that we previously knew nothing about.

Words by Beena Nadeem.