by Barbara George
Tellington Ttouch Behaviourist
Cats are free-roaming and regard our boundaries as incidental, walls to be scaled, gates to walk through, electric fences to cross. Indoor cats can jump out of windows, or slip through open doors. A collar with a name tag or microchip will only bring them home if they are found and checked. Fortunately, modern technology allows us to rack our cats – with a little help from them.
There are various types of trackers, all requiring the cat to wear a device on their collar which generates a signal that can be identified by a receiving device. Trackers are good for those cats that like to wander, ones that live on large properties, or valuable cats.
Very simply, GPS locating works via satellites. The sender device on the cat’s collar sends out signals which are collected by the satellites and sent to your phone or computer. Another technology, global systems for mobile communication (GSM) is used to transfer information between the GPS and your device.
GPS tracking makes it easier to find your cat when he goes missing whether he is hiding or on the move. Low battery, poor signal strength, buildings or other obstacles, and lost collars can reduce the efficiency of the tracker. All trackers require cats to wear a sender device on their collars, and a receiver device.
There are three basic categories of trackers; GPS trackers record the movement of the cats which is downloaded when they return home (i.e. not interactive), Bluetooth or Wi-Fi (near-field) trackers can locate cats within a limited range of about 30 metres providing there are no signal obstructions, while Cellular GPS (real-time) with a mobile app can locate a pet almost anywhere. Some apps and models of trackers can be used in groups, where many people can help in the search for a missing cat.
There are a number of makes and models of trackers on the market, with varying prices and features. Here are some areas to consider when looking at trackers.
- Easy to set up and use, including user-friendly manuals and technical support.
- Easy to attach to the collar, and remain firmly fixed.
- Weight in a range that the cat can easily carry without being weighed-down, irritated, or put off balance.
- Size of the sender – if too large for your cat it can impede head and neck movements. The cat must be free to eat and drink easily and comfortably while wearing the sender on his collar.
- Cost of tracker, registration, monthly fees including data, apps, replacement sender units.
- Guarantee period and what it covers.
- Battery life of sender unit, is it rechargeable, how easy to replace the battery
- Battery life indicator, to avoid low-battery conditions at the wrong moment.
- GPS Signal strength and accuracy of location.
- Type of Tracker – select the type you need for your cat.
- Durability is important for cat that spend time outdoors, climbing, investigating and getting wet.
- Looks – more for our benefit, so your cat still looks good, and proud of his new acquisition.
- Features – know what features are available, which are optional extras, and which are not possible.
As with all items, some makes and models offer features above the standard ones. These are some that may be useful to you and your cat.
- Local technical and end-user support.
- Ability to set the tracking interval, for plotting routes.
- Allow for replays of previous days’ roaming data.
- Water resistant sender device.
- Rechargeable batteries, with easy option to disconnect the sender and/or battery from the collar.
- Set a boundary fence – if he wanders outside of this fence a warning is generated on your receiver app.
- Using an app that is map-based will more clearly indicate where he is.
- Allow multiple users to access the app simultaneously to assist in tracking a missing cat.
- Listen-in to hear the sounds of his surroundings.
- A light-sensitive LED light that lights up in dim and dark conditions is useful.
- Sender units that emit a signal on your command can be used in the same way as clicker devices to bring him home when called.
- Monitor activity is a useful option to determine how active he is.
- Apps can have extra features too, such as reminders for medication, vaccinations, and other regular events.
There are also areas to be aware of.
- Establish, investigate, check and confirm the costs, both up-front and ongoing costs.
- The cost of batteries, at the standard replacement rate, should be considered; even rechargeable batteries have a limited lifespan.
- Support and replacement parts can be an issue for trackers purchased or brought from other countries; they should be universally compatible.
- Active cats can become caught in trees or fences so they will need quick-release collars; this can result in the purchase of a number of sender units and collars.
- Older trackers may no longer be supported, serviced, or have parts available.
As with all technology, advances and new ideas make today’s items out of date almost as soon as they ae purchased. Look for new models and versions of trackers that may be available, and what benefits they can supply.
Until technology creates a sender device that does not require a battery or antenna, and is small enough to be inserted into the cat, similar to or incorporated into the microchip, cats need to play their part by keeping their collars on when they roam, and we need to ensure that the batteries are charged.
To contact Barbara, please email firstname.lastname@example.org