Pet trackers let you see what your pet is doing, and what they’ve done. They open up a fantastic and strangely compelling window into your pet's day-to-day activities, and can help to make them far safer. There’s a broad mix available: some offer pinpoint accuracy on your furry friend’s whereabouts, some are more focused on monitoring pet activity, and some land at a point in between.
The best GPS pet trackers are perfect for skittish pets, for frequent wanderers, or for those dogs who take every off-lead opportunity to sprint headlong into the trees and do their own thing. They give you peace of mind if your pet spends a long time outdoors, and they can even help you call cats in when it's time for food.
GPS pet trackers are, for the right pet, a real investment in safety and your own mental well-being. Where exactly does that cat go when it's out for eight hours at a time? A good GPS pet tracker, with the right app, can tell you. You don’t always need GPS, either; the Tabcat, one of our favorite cat trackers, uses simple radio frequencies to help you find your wayward moggy.
Pet activity trackers, which are often a secondary feature of GPS trackers, give you data. How active is your dog really? How often does your cat bother to get up from its favorite cushion? With a pet activity tracker you can keep track of those vital metrics, and if your pet needs it, use it to help drive weight loss or a fitness routine. Even if they don’t specifically need to be burning a certain number of calories every day, just having the information is interesting.
Whether you’re going for a complex tracker, or something more simple, here are the best trackers for dogs and cats.
Best pet trackers for dogs
1. Pawfit 2: Best overall pet tracker for dogs
A feature-packed tracker at an excellent price point
GPS tracking: Yes | Activity tracking: Yes | Waterproofing: IP68 | Battery life: 4-5 days
Pawfit takes the idea of a GPS pet tracker and adds some neat touches of its own. The unit itself, which is IP68 waterproofed for submersion up to three metres, click-fits into a collar mount, so it's reasonably straightforward to remove for charging without needing to take the whole collar off, and just drops onto a custom charging dock to juice up. The unit itself is marginally more cumbersome than Tractive's tracker below. This is particularly noticeable if you're using it to track a larger cat, something Pawfit suggests: it's light enough, but probably a little large.
There are a number of safety features too, such as alerts when the tracker is removed from the collar, geofencing to tell if your dog strays beyond a certain boundary, and a temperature sensor to make sure they're not getting too cold. It'll also play an audio alert if someone finds your dog, with all the information they need to get your pet returned to you.
You'll find plenty of activity monitoring smarts in here too, with an app to help make sense of them. If you're looking to increase your dog's fitness, this is perfect. Pawfit's second-generation tracker does require a subscription to get running, mainly to pay for the costs of running its cellular-connected live tracking hardware. It's not too expensive, and there's a discount if you pay for a whole year at a time, compared to pay-monthly costs.
2. Tractive GPS Tracker for Dogs: Best GPS Tracker
Full activity monitoring in a discrete and compact package
GPS tracking: Yes | Activity tracking: Yes | Waterproofing: IP67 | Battery life: 2-5 days
No matter what you’re looking to get insight on – from location tracking to fitness and activity monitoring – Tractive’s newly revised tracker seems to cover it, all in a handsome-enough dark-colored case that sits on the collar.
Tracktive's recent revision of its tracking hardware, which shaves a few grams and a fair amount of size off of the previous model, makes for a much more discrete tracker; it's still chunky enough to look a bit awkward on smaller dogs, certainly, but larger canines will barely notice that it's there.
As for what it can do, you've got full activity monitoring, with statistics like calorie burning fed into the app, perfect for those tricky diets; there's a geofence facility, so you can see in an instant if your dog has absconded from the garden; live location tracking, so you're able to work out exactly where they've gotten to if that does happen; and a location history function, which is potentially a little more useful in the cat version but nice to have here too.
The Tractive GPS Tracker for Dogs is IP67 waterproof-rated and appears pretty tough with it, and its activation button is cleverly positioned so as to make it paw-proof. All you really need to do is charge it once every two to five days, and keep up with the subscription plan. About that,: this isn't super-cheap to keep running even on its most basic plan, though again the cost per month is different depending on how long you sign up for. Just bear in mind that the one-off purchase price is only part of the puzzle.
This specific model isn't available in the US, but the Tractive GPS DOG LTE is the same product with the right wireless systems to suit the US.
3. PitPat: Best activity tracker for dogs
The canine equivalent of a Fitbit
GPS tracking: No | Activity tracking: Yes | Waterproofing: IP67 | Battery life: 1 year
Want to find your dog when it's run off? This isn't the product for you. The PitPat is something completely different: it's a dedicated activity tracker, the collar-hanging equivalent of a canine Fitbit, designed to track just how much exercise your dog has been getting, with an app that helps you track everything that goes along with it – including, if it's a concern, manual tracking of your dog's weight.
The unit itself is a very well-designed, tiny 16g module which attaches securely to your dog's collar with parachute-grade velcro, and at 16g it's light enough to be suitable for puppies as well as larger dogs. The whole thing is waterproof, so even if your hound is the kind that can't resist a muddy dip in their favorite spot, the PitPat should survive unscathed.
All of the PitPat's features are available to you without a subscription; the only additional payments are for app features that add a little motivation to keep your dog well-walked, or offer pertinent pup fitness advice if you want to get your dog to the ideal weight for its breed.
Perhaps the coolest feature is the battery life: the internals are so simple that it'll easily track your dog's movements for a whole year on a single CR2032 coin battery.
Best Pet Trackers for cats
1. Weenect Cats 2: Best overall pet tracker for cats
Offers no-distance limit and an abundance of tracking data
GPS tracking: Yes | Activity tracking: Yes | Waterproofing: IP67 | Battery life: 3 days
Smaller in all dimensions than the equivalent GPS tracker from Tractive, and 5g lighter, there's some merit to Weenect's claims that this is the smallest GPS tracker available for cats. It may be the smallest, but it's still relatively bulky in comparison to the tiny puck of the Tabcat.
Of course, being a GPS tracker means you get GPS tracker features; there's no distance limit (provided the SIM card inside can get a fix on a mobile tower), and there's plenty of data available to feed back to your phone, including a neat heat map function that tells you the areas your cat specifically likes to frequent, overlaid on a local map.
There's really nothing missing. You can ring and vibrate the tracker at will, whether helping to aurally locate your cat when you get within its GPS range or simply alerting your cat that it's time to come home for dinner; you can track multiple cats within the same app; you can pinpoint your cat's location on a map, follow a compass, or use an augmented reality radar function to find it in the foliage.
The real downsides here are the battery life – which Weenect pegs at 72 hours, and we'd charitably suggest may be a lot lower than that if you're watching your cat exploring next door's garden via the live tracking function – and the appearance, which doesn't quite have the class of some competing brands.
A final note: due to its reliance on cellular connectivity, this one's Europe-only, and Weenect doesn't currently have a US version available. You'll also need to pay a subscription fee, which is around the typical average for these kinds of devices.
2. Loc8tor Tabcat: Best location tracker for cats
GPS hasn’t quite killed this radio-powered star
GPS tracking: No | Activity tracking: No | Waterproofing: Splashproof | Battery life: 1 year
The technology in use here isn't GPS or Bluetooth, it's good old-fashioned radio. That gives the Tabcat a whole host of advantages over its more bulky competition, not least of which is a vastly increased range.
The actual cat portion of the tracker is a tiny 6g module that barely weighs more than any other collar tag, which is perfect for cats that aren't going to tolerate the likes of the chunky Tractive GPS tracker dangling from their necks. There's no subscription required, because it's a self-contained service that doesn't need to talk to any systems online. Its battery also lasts a whole lot longer than those of power-hungry GPS trackers, so you won't need to remove and juice up the tracker nearly as often. It might also, in certain circumstances, end up being more accurate than GPS.
But let's talk about that. The Loc8tor Tabcat doesn't give you a phone interface or any valuable activity data. It's all about finding where your cat is right now, which means putting on your shoes and going for a hunt. If you're in range of your cat, its RF remote shows a series of lights that help you manually pinpoint the direction and distance of up to four different trackers; for skittish and frequently absent cats, that could be just the thing you need.
The collar tag also lightly beeps when a connection is made, helping you to find them; Loc8tor suggests that this can sometimes encourage your cat to come home by itself. While this may be effective in urban areas, where cats' territory tends to be a little smaller, we'd suggest that this might not be the best option for rural cats with wider roaming ranges.
3. Tractive GPS Tracker for Cats: Best GPS tracker for cats
Find out exactly what your cat is up to when out and about
GPS tracking: Yes | Activity tracking: Yes | Waterproofing: IPX7 | Battery life: 2-5 days
We've looked at the Tractive GPS Tracker for Dogs above, and this cat version doesn't deviate far in terms of technology. In fact, as far as we can tell, its white shell packs precisely the same hardware as its dog counterpart, the same size and weight, and we can tell why Tractive recommends it for cats 4kg and up: the relative scale tends to be a little different here. The Tractive GPS Tracker for Cats is big, and while we've certainly heard stories of cats treating it with their usual nonchalance and completely ignoring it, we've also heard others of cats struggling to eat with it attached to the included collar. It’s not for those cats that never really left the kitten stage, we'd say.
Of course, being attached to a cat rather than a dog means that many of those neat Tractive features come in a lot more handy. As a society we tend to have a lot more trust in our cats to go and do their own thing; the live tracking will help you to see exactly where your outdoor cat is currently languishing. Activity monitoring over time is a great way to see the extent of their territory. You might also be able to suss out if they're getting dinner elsewhere, and use the light and sound functions to both spook your own cat a little and alert whoever's dishing up the illicit food that you're onto them.
It's big, relatively heavy and, like the dog version, the subscription fee might sting a little, but the Tractive GPS Tracker for Cats is a good option for keeping close tabs on your tabby.
Note that network restrictions mean this is a Europe-only product; in the US, there's no specific cat version, but you may be able to use the similar Tractive GPS DOG LTE on your cat if it's burly enough.
How to choose a pet tracker
The breed and species of your pet will be a big driver to choose a particular tracker over another; larger breeds can easily accommodate larger trackers – and they're often the breeds you'll want to use them on anyway – whereas smaller dogs or cats might look a little silly with a large tracking module around their necks.
A good pet-safe collar is a must, so your pet will need to be used to wearing a collar at all times if you want constant tracking. There's not much that can be done about this. People sometimes think a pet tracker can be injected or embedded, in the same manner as a traditional microchip ID. That's just not the case; they need complex electronics and batteries.
Bear in mind that attaching these to a safe collar – one that will break should your pet's neck get snagged, means the possibility of losing the tracker. Luckily GPS trackers do, by their nature, have tracking built in, so they're relatively easy to find again if they get dropped.
One final point: the pet tracker market is, shall we say, a little volatile. More than one tracker has come along and rather abruptly disappeared, meaning it's well worth considering the likely longevity of not only the tracking hardware but the software backing connected models up. If the manufacturer pulls the plug, which is always a risk, that nifty collar accessory could turn into nothing more than a plastic pendant. Tractive is a strong choice for us because it's been around for a while, for example.
You’ll also need to keep up with the subscription fees on connected trackers; they’re typically not super-high, but tracking a household full of pets could make GPS trackers rather expensive to run.
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