Selecting a Location

Indoor-only cats:

  • Place one camera near the point of escape.  Some cats may attempt to return home on their own, but often at a safe, quiet time such as the middle of the night.
  • Place a second camera farther from your house but still within 100 feet of the point of escape.

For a dog or cat that escaped from a location not close to home (i.e. kennel, vet, car accident or while walking), place a camera within 50 feet of the point last seen.

Cameras should be used in conjunction with some form of advertising such as lost pet posters, and the cameras can be moved to locations of any possible sightings.

The most important factors for a lost cat or dog are shelter, food, and water.  If possible, select a location with one or preferably more of the following features:

  • Near some natural shelter, such as dense vegetation (e.g. thorn bushes) or near a rarely used human structure such as a shed or garage that offers easy access.
  • Cats, especially, also like to travel along the edges of structures or habitats, and this may be another option (e.g. near the edge of the woods).
  • In general do not place the camera in a very open location.  The lost pet will most likely want to stay near cover and you don’t want to attract unwanted human attention.
  • Near a water supply, especially in drier climates.  Alternately, you may also provide your own water supply.
  • Either near a naturally occurring food supply such as a dumpster or, more likely, you will create a feeding station at the camera location.

Setting Up the Camera

  • Often one of the most difficult aspects of setting up the camera is finding something suitable to attach the camera to after you have selected your location.  As a general rule, there is never a tree where you need one.
  • Cameras may be attached to trees, poles, fences, lawn furniture or house fixtures (to name a few), but make sure that there is something to lock your camera onto.
  • Alternately, you may use a tripod or a few cinder blocks stacked on top of each other.  This offers greater versatility but less security.
  • For lost cats or small dogs, the camera should be placed 6-12 inches off the ground.  For larger dogs, 2 feet should be sufficient.  The camera manufacturers may recommend that you place the camera up high and facing downwards, but this reduces the area that the motion sensor will be triggered.
  • The best location to place a camera is one that is relatively flat, where you can place the food and/or trap between 5-15 feet from the camera.  If the area has too much of a slope, then a cat or small dog may pass under the camera sensor.
  • Avoid pointing the camera toward sunrise or sunset as this makes for difficult to see pictures at best, and some more sensitive cameras may be triggered by direct sunlight.
  • Try not to point the camera towards low branches or bushes though this may be impossible to avoid.  On windy days, waving branches or smaller plants may set off the motion sensor.
  • Use a security box and/or cable locks to prevent theft of your valuable camera.

Testing the Aim of the Camera

  • Some cameras have a laser pointer built into the camera to help with this.  However, you can purchase your own laser pointer placed next to the camera and still get a good idea.
  • Alternatively, a flashlight can be used if you set the camera up at night.
  • Some cameras have a test setting, where the light will flash whenever the motion sensor is triggered.
  • Alternately, you can set the camera up and try taking a few pictures.  Bring a small camera to check the pictures after you take them and adjust as needed.  This can be time consuming, but may be the most effective.
  • You can test the camera’s aim by setting it off yourself but this may not tell you if the sensor is higher than the height of your missing pet.  You can try setting it off by crawling along the ground yourself (definitely not for everyone) or staying off to the the side and slowly moving within range waving your hand at the height of your cat or dog.
  • With any of these methods, it would be most effective to test the motion sensor with a “dummy animal” rather than using yourself since you are probably much larger than your missing pet.  Useful “dummy animals” include a milk jug or other container filled with warm water and tied to a rope so you can drag it in front of the camera.
  • The angle of the camera can be adjusted by inserting a door wedge, sponge, stick or other object behind part of the camera.

Checking the Camera Pictures

  • Most cameras have a similar set up with one switch that turns from “Off” to “Set Up” (or “Test”) to “On.”  Always make sure that the camera is off when you remove or insert the SD card.
  • Some cameras require that you always stop in the “Set Up” or “Test” location before turning the camera on.  Make sure that you don’t leave the camera in the “Set Up” mode and forget to actually turn it on before you leave.  There is nothing more frustrating than coming back a day or later and finding that you have no pictures because you forgot to turn the camera on!

Technical Difficulties

You may need to contact the camera manufacturer for any technical difficulties, but here are a few things to try first:

  • Check the batteries: make sure that they are charged and inserted correctly.
  • Manual reset: try removing the batteries for a few minutes and then putting them back in.
  • SD Cards
    • Check the tiny “lock” switch on the side of the card and make sure that it is unlocked.
    • Make sure that your card is compatible with your camera (e.g. some cameras won’t work with cards over 2 G).