For anyone who has ever spent time frantically driving around their neighborhood looking for their beloved cat or dog, we have created a guide to help you find very best pet locators on the market. There are many small, easy to use devices you attach to a collar that can help you find your pet quickly if they get lost. These products are using the latest GPS, radio, cellphone, and app technology and can give you specific directions to find your pet. This technology is changing rapidly with new products coming on the market regularly, so there is no shortage of products to choose available.
We have sifted through professional and user reviews, investigated performance, ease of use, comfort and overall users experiences to come up with the definitive list of your best options when buying a locator.
Whistle 3 Pet Tracker
PROS: Has an activity tracker to make sure your furry friend is getting enough exercise and a temperature sensor to let you know if they are getting overheated.
CONS: The tag may be too bulky for smaller animals. You must pay a monthly fee to use the tracker.
The Whistle is the most popular of the GPS based trackers. This tracker is a little bit more elaborate than some of the other models, as it includes an activity tracker, health alerts and on-demand notifications. The Whistle is very good at alerting you if your animal leaves your house and then it is very good at tracking it, although it also does not generally track in real-time, other than in emergencies.
A subscription to the Whistle service is required for the tracker; it costs $9.95 for month-to-month. An internet connection is required after activation if you would like to receive email updates and alerts. Text messages can be sent to your mobile phone, but you need to have a carrier text plan for your phone.
What reviewers love:
The Whistle does have a number of cool features including the ability to add several people to your account so multiple people can receive texts or email alerts if Fido goes missing. Users also love the activity tracker feature that gives them insight into how much their pet is resting or being active.
Who should buy this:
Users who want an added activity monitor.
Type of Technology: GPS with cellular technology
Fees: Service subscription required starting at $6.95 Month
PROS: Small and lightweight, user-friendly, no monthly fee, and a long battery life of 7 months.
CONS: Some users find the range for the Loc8tor isn’t as far as the manufacturer’s claims of 400 ft.
Bottom Line: The Loc8tor uses radio frequency, so the handset gives you a directional arrow and audio clues to follow when your pet gets lost. This unit is excellent for small animals, some owners have used it on not only cats, and dogs, but also tortoises, ferrets, and free range chickens. The tags are very lightweight at only 5 grams, while the handset is also tiny about the size of a credit card. The tags come with a splash-proof case which is helpful, so it doesn’t get wet when the pet is drinking from a water dish. It has 2 modes: a locator mode when your pet has wandered off and an Alert mode to let you know if your pet has gone beyond a pre-set border. It has a maximum range of 400 ft. / 122m although you need to have a clear line of sight to get that kind of distance from the Loc8tor. These work in real-time as opposed to getting updated every few minutes like some of the GPS systems.
What reviewers love:
Users love the splash-proof cover, so the tag works well even if the cat or dog has spent time in the rain. When you press the locate button on the cat’s collar the device beeps, and some users have found that when it beeps the animal will sometimes come back on their own. For smaller animals, the fit and feel of these locating products is a big issue, but most users report that this product fits comfortably and their animals don’t seem to mind or notice the tag.
What could be improved:
The biggest problem with the Loc8ator is that the range isn’t that good, some users report that it is only about 40 feet when they use it on their property. The manufacturer says it has a range of 400 feet if you have a clear line of sight, although that most likely won’t be the case when you are looking for a lost animal. Most smaller pets don’t wander too far so for most cats it will be fine, but you have a pet that roams long distances this isn’t the best option.
Marco Polo Pet Monitoring/Tracking and Locating System
Good battery life
Does not use GPS monitoring, so you don’t have to pay for a service.
No SIM cards or contracts.
Good customer service.
Tags are light and hardly visible.
It covers about 100 to 150 yards in all terrain with some challenge.
Has the fastest out-of-bounds alarm of any of these types of systems.
CONS: Range could be better, more expensive than competitors.
Type of Technology: Mid Range Radio Frequency
Fees: No Monthly Fee
The Marco Polo uses radio technology that sends out a signal that is tracked by receivers with directional antennas. Like all of the other systems, it has two parts to it: the handheld receiver and a tag that attaches to the collar. The handset will show you the direction you need to go to find your pet. There is a chance that the signal may bounce off buildings or other obstructions, so the arrow may sometimes change directions. The Marco Polo system is reported to be easy to set up and easy to use. It has no monthly fees, no dependence on the cellular signal, and a battery that can last up to 3 months on one charge. You can use it on up to 3 pets, and if you are using it in monitor mode, it checks the proximity of the collar once every 40 seconds. The alarm is activated if the animal is outside the boundary that you have selected after 2 out of bounds checks (80 seconds). It is a speedy notification time, as some of the systems that use GPS can take up to 12 minutes to notify you if your pet has wandered off.
What reviewers love:
A lot of reviews remark on the long (rechargeable) battery life and have high praise for the feature that shows exactly how much battery is left. The Marco Polo is also reported to be very good at tracking in densely wooded areas, and most users find it reliably finds their pet when they have gone missing. A lot of the reviews mention the excellent customer service from the manufacturer, and they love the fact there is no monthly fee.
What could be improved?
Some users would like to see the durability of the receiver improved.
Who should get this:
Anyone who doesn’t want to pay monthly fees
Users who have unreliable cell service in their area
Also good for people whose animals may wander off into wooded areas.
PROS: The Tractive is waterproof, and gives the user accurate live GPS tracking. It also lets you turn on a light on the collar if your dog gets out and it is dark, this allows cars and the person who is looking for the animal see them better. The company has excellent customer service.
CONS: Short battery life, you need to be in an area with good cell phone reception for the Tractive to work correctly. You must pay a monthly service fee starting at $4.99.
Bottom Line: Tractive uses GPS and cellular technology, so you see exactly where your cat or dog is in real-time. You can use a browser or a mobile app to check where your pet has gone. You can get alerts if your cat or dog leaves the safe zone that you have set up. It works with an integrated SIM chip, so you don’t need a sim card or contract with a carrier, but you set up a service plan with Tractive. The Tractive can be used in more than 80 countries and supports many devices (check their website for more info). If you don’t have a smartphone, you can use the Tractive through a web browser. The battery life is only 2 to 5 days depending on network coverage and usage.
What reviewers love:
Customers have reported an accurate, quick response time compared to some competitors, as it updates in real-time. The app notifications are also reportedly easy to get accurate information and easy to use, especially when the user is stressed out at trying to find a lost animal. Reviewers also mention the ability to set the geofence and be notified when your pet leaves the zone as a top feature on the Tractive.
What could be improved:
The major complaint with the Tractive is the short battery life, even on power saving mode. Some users also find the supporting documentation could be improved.
Who should buy this:
If you want an exact location of your pet, rather than using a directional system the Tractive is a good option.
It is also a good option for customers who only need a locator for trips or when you are in an area that is unfamiliar to your pet, as you can stop and start the monthly subscription.
It is also great for live tracking at night since you can turn on a light and sound on the collar to make finding your pet even easier.
PROS: Will give you an accurate real-time exact location of your dog, it’s great for large, fast dogs who may take off and chase animals while hiking or those that generally love to run off and investigate their surroundings.
CONS: Not cheap, and can be bulky and heavy for the dog to wear. Garmin’s manuals and support need to be improved.
Bottom Line: This is a heavy-duty traditional GPS unit made for hunting or sport dogs. Garmin has been one of the leaders in the GPS dog tracking market for many years. You can use this device with up to 10 dogs at up to 9 miles depending on terrain. The system transmits information by line-of-sight, so it reaches farthest in flat, open territory. This tracking bundle will show you exactly where your dog has gotten to you if you are hiking or biking (or hunting) and you will be able to track them quickly and accurately even over very long distances.
What reviewers love:
It tracks quickly and accurately there are no dead zones, you don’t have to worry about websites being down or tags getting lost which are problems that you can encounter with some of the other systems. It is super durable and built to last for years with heavy use. Customers love that it provides peace of mind knowing where the dogs are at all times and in what direction they are going.
What could be improved:
There are complaints about the user manual being difficult to understand, and if you purchase the additional Birdseye maps, it takes some time to figure out how to get them loaded, as the instructions are not clear. A lot of users also mention that the handheld receiver uses a lot of batteries, so you will want to invest in some rechargeable batteries.
Who should buy this: This product is for serious dog tracking, in particular for dogs that can move quickly and get far distances in short amounts of time in rugged terrain.
Type of Technology: Traditional GPS
Fees: You may need to purchase additional GPS BirdsEye Satellite Imagery Subscription for around $30 to get the most of system.
Locators will help you find your pet quickly and easily if they go missing, but there are many differences in the types of available monitors, so you have to determine the best collar for your situation. There are a few questions you need to ask yourself:
How are you going to be using the tracker?
Is it for emergencies or general tracking?
Where does your pet spend most of its time?
How comfortable are you with using different types of technology?
How good is the cell coverage in your area?
GPS or Radio Frequency? Which is the best choice?
Trackers use one of two basic types of technology: Radio frequency or GPS. The most important decision you need to make when selecting a locator is which type you want to use, as there are fairly significant differences between the two.
Good for heavily wooded areas
No monthly fees
Devices that use long-range RF are suitable for hunting dogs, although the product may be substantial due to power requirements
Products that use short-range RF are ideal for small dogs as they are much lighter and don’t need large batteries to operate. Although the range of operation may only be a few hundred feet on the short-range locators.
RF systems aren’t able to give you an exact location of where your pet has gone; they can only provide directional information so they will lead you to your animal if by following a particular direction.
GPS trackers use local positioning satellites to find location. The information transmits from a collar that the animal is wearing to a receiver that the owner will use to track the collar.
Traditional GPS use a hand-held system that transmits information about your pet’s location from the collar to the receiver.
The more modern trackers use GPS as well as cellular technology to help determine location, so they are great for areas where GPS may not work. Your cell phone functions as the receiver for the information about your pet’s whereabouts.
Some of the GPS units can be too heavy for smaller animals to wear on their collars
You may need to sign up for a monthly plan to use the products that rely on cell phone networks.
May not work well in heavily wooded areas.
They can give you an exact location of where your pet is.
What to Look for in a Locator
As well as deciding on whether to get a radio frequency or a GPS based system, there is a wide range of different types of devices available. Here are some of the features and things that you should think about before choosing a locator:
Range – One of the essential elements to check on any locator you are thinking about purchasing is the range of the device. If you are buying for a smaller dog, you most likely won’t need the kind of coverage that you will want for a larger, faster dog. Smaller animals don’t tend to wander as far. Think about your location and any possible scenarios that might occur and determine the range of coverage that you will need.
Size and Weight of the Tag – Another significant consideration is the size of the transmitting tag and your pets’ ability to wear it comfortably. Traditional GPS collars tend to be on the heavy side and work well for larger dogs, while the majority of RF trackers are relatively lightweight.
Battery – Does the unit have either a replaceable or rechargeable battery? Avoid buying a system that you have to repurchase when the power runs out. You also want to pay attention to the battery life, as the life for different products varies quite a bit.
Durability – One of the most common complaints about some of the most popular systems on the market is that they aren’t durable enough, particularly for very active dogs. Look for products that will be able to handle your cat or dogs’ lifestyle, including features like being waterproof and ensuring the manufacturer’s warranty covers replacing malfunctioning tags and receivers.
Ease of Use – Some trackers are much easier to set up and use than others, some require installing apps and syncing devices, etc. while others are a single button push to start searching for your pet. Having a user-friendly system can be very useful if you are facing a very stressful situation of looking for a lost animal.
Number of Pets – A number of the locators allow you to keep track of more than one dog or cat with different safety zones for each.
The Bottom Line
Something like 2,500 dogs and 3,200 cats goes missing every week in the U.S, causing a lot of stress and panic for many families. If you would like the peace of mind knowing that you will be able to track down your pet if they go missing a good quality locator is well worth the investment. There is no shortage of products to choose from, but you need to do a little bit of research to ensure that you get the right product that will work for your pet and your family. There are lots of great new systems coming on the market, and the technology is moving fast, although there are still some kinks to work out on some of these types of devices.
Whatever system you end up getting, make sure you get lots of practice using your system before your beloved dog or cat decides to wander off.