GPS trackers rely on satellite signals and can remotely tell you where you cat is located as long as it can pick up a signal. The location can often be transmitted to your computer or cell phone. The main drawback to GPS trackers is that they may not be able to transmit a signal if your cat is in a building or underground or sometimes even if the sky is heavily overcast. However, some GPS trackers also use cellular signals and this can increase reliability depending on coverage. These are called A-GPS or Assisted GPS. There is usually some error in the transmitted location and you will probably have to physically search an area to find out exactly where your cat is located. GPS trackers also require payment of a monthly service fee or prepay program similar to cell phones.
There are numerous dog GPS trackers but most are too heavy for a cat. The recommended maximum weight for a cat to carry is 40 grams or approximately 1.5 ounces. There are several GPS trackers designed for cats that are available in the US, but even these are generally only recommended for cats weighing 10 lbs or more. These include the GPS CatTrack Live (TK201) available from Mr. Lee’s CatTrack and Tagg the Pet Tracker. PawTrax, which offers a pre-payment plan rather than a monthly fee, may now be available for purchase in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
With a radio-tracking device, your cat wears a small transmitter on his/her collar, and you have to walk around with a receiver to try and locate the cat. The basic principal is that the receiver will beep louder the closer you get to your cat. Radio-trackers can transmit signals through buildings, so you can still locate your cat if s/he was trapped in a shed or basement. The main drawback to radio-collars is that they usually have a limited range, generally anywhere from 100 feet to 1 mile depending on the strength of the signal and the terrain you are searching. The signal will travel much farther in open areas compared to wooded areas or through buildings. There are currently two radio-tracking collars available in the US: the Loc8tor Pet and the LoCATor. The Loc8tor Pet costs around $100 (for 2 transmitters and 1 receiver) and has a maximum range of 100-400 feet. The LoCATor costs $50 per radio-collar and $250 for the receiver and antenna, and it has a maximum signal range of 600 feet (city) to 1 mile (open country). To operate the LoCATor you are also legally required to obtain an Amateur Radio Operators license from the FCC.
I think that the radio-tracker is generally the better option for finding lost cats for several reasons.
- Most lost cats do not travel more than a mile or two from home (and many are found within 1/4 mile).
- Lost cats have a greater tendency to get lost and trapped within their own homes or outside in sheds, garages, and basements.
- Cats are excellent hiders and a lost cat will frequently run and hide even from their owners. A radio-tracker allows you to track down the exact location of your cat while a GPS tracker will just give you a general area.
- Radio-trackers are much smaller than GPS trackers and can easily be attached to a break-away cat collar. Also if your cat loses their collar, you should still be able to locate the collar and tracking transmitter.
See also my review of the Loc8tor Pet.