Why My Cat Needs a GPSOctober 2, 2013
by Andrea Berry, Chase Farm Veterinary Hospital
My cat needs a GPS tracker.
Yup, just like a long haul trucker, a mountain climber in uncertain territory , or even – gasp – Great Aunt Esther – my cat is sometimes difficult to locate. She likes to “wander”. Sometimes she makes poor choices and gets lost, or stuck. The last time it was for 7 full days and when she finally showed up at the back door, croaking because she’d lost her usual Siamese yowl, dehydrated and hungry I swore that that was “The Last Time”. No, not the last time to let her out – which I realize would seem to be the obvious solution. But this is a cat who absolutely Demands to be outdoors and will accept nothing less . No, I resolved that this would be the last time that I would let her out without me knowing Exactly where she is at all times. Whaaat? True, I dream big.
My thought was, “if we can track each others Facebook location and Instagram upload locales and stuff like that on our smart phones then why not my cat?” So I started researching it and sure enough the technology, and the need, exist and there are products designed specifically to keep an eye on our pets (and truckers, hikers, kids and the elderly etc.). Based on online reviews and specs I narrowed down the field of GPS tracking products specifically designed for pets and wrote to the companies with the intent of trying out these products for myself and letting other pet lovers in on the information. I was fortunate to receive two GPS trackers to test out: the TAGG The Pet Tracker and the POCKETFINDER location device. Thanks to the amazing representatives of these companies I’ve had an incredible experience learning about my cat’s movements and how to locate them. For the rest of this blog post I will be focusing on my experience with the TAGG Pet Tracker because that is the device that I ultimately found to be the best for my situation.
So who needs one of these things?
As I said, I started investigating these devices because my cat disappeared. As I wasn’t going to keep her inside I decided to find out where she was going.
These are great products for anyone with a cat who roams away from home, or a dog who hikes, hunts or is off leash on a large property, or even a pet you take on vacation. TAGG Pet Tracker is also a smart choice if your pet needs to lose weight. TAGG monitors your pet’s movements and activity levels and provides you with visual data showing how active your pet has been. That’s a great tool if Fido needs to lose a few pounds to stay healthy!
CFVH now sells TAGG Pet Trackers! We charge $90 (which includes 3 months of free service plus special help from me anytime)!
The TAGG pet tracker: shaped like a large, flat bangle bracelet. The main circuitry of the device is located in the central lozenge-looking section with 2 curved “wings” (containing the antennae) on either side. The unit comes with a special adaptor clasp so that it easily clips onto any collar. The unit easily clips and un-clips on and off of the collar clasp and the base unit. I worried that this device would be too large for my small, 9lb Cora, but because of its curved shape, thin frame, and flat aspect it actually works well on her collar. The battery lasts for days (I tried to get it to run down but it didn’t. I do take it off at night when she comes in and dock it to charge just like I do my cell phone but I think that for normal usage in my situation I could go for at least 5-6 days without charging it.
The device is super easy to set up, use and maintain and have an absolute No Brainer plug, charge and go technology. If you can read a map you can find your pet. For me, this is WORTH it! The TAGG device sells for $99 retail ($90 at CFVH) with a monthly use fee of around $8 per month.
WHAT YOU CAN SEE
TAGG uses the latest satellite/cell technology so you get really SPECIFIC location points and amazing mapping visuals. The maps are high detail satellite images, so specific you can even see lawn furniture in detail!
HELP: I experienced great customer service through TAGG – I had questions, I called, I e-mailed and I was helped by really friendly people who knew their products and seemed to actually care about how they were working for me and my cats.
TESTING THE PRODUCT ON MY CATS
The main kitty friend that I needed this whole thing for is Cora. She’s my stunning blue-eyed, 14 year old, 3-legged Siamese. Cora enjoys cuddling, socializing, and licking Cheezits. She’s also the main hunter in the family, always bringing home live snakes, chipmunks, birds and such with which to entertain the others (note – Cora catches them, brings them in and lets them go. My job is to recapture this wildlife as it/they run amok in my house and set them free again. The animals (other cats, the dogs, the boy) all follow me about in my pursuit, eager to help or just laughing amongst themselves, I’m not sure which. Cora accepts praise from the others for the interesting morning/afternoon she has provided for her family. I call my Mother to recount my exhausting day).
So Cora clearly loves to explore but she has developed arthritis in her old age and has been slowing down. Because she’s been missing a back leg for so long her body has had to compensate and place alot of pressure on her front legs which are weakening. I worry lately mostly about her getting stuck someplace, falling, not being able to get back home. She seems to have a particular love for exploring – and apparently becoming trapped in – home remodel zones and construction sites. I also have a 4 year old called Baby James who is a giant grey tiger – long haired, sleek, macho. A jungle kitty trapped in South Dartmouth who likes to cruise a wide swath of his countryside territory.
HOW TAGG WORKS IN GENERAL
Via the TAGG website on my computer I easily set up an adjustable home “zone” around my property and adjusted my preferences for how often I wanted my unit to essentially “touch-base” with the system thus keeping a digital eye on my kitty. If Cora moved beyond the limit of her zone I received both a text message alert and an e-mail (based on my preferences) letting me know that she was “on the go”. I could then log on to the website via my computer, tablet, or phone and locate on a Very Specific Google map the exact location of my cat. I could also at this point set the device to “Track” my cat. In this mode, it would take a location snapshot every 3 minutes and map these points so that I could see her direction of movement. All of this information is immediately available to me logged on via my technology but also stored on my device’s account so that I can go back and review patterns. Genius! At one point my Son and I tested out the TAGG device on Baby James. We received an alert that he had breached our home zone (our yard) so we initiated a Track session to see where he was headed. We saw that he was prowling at the farm across the street. Wanting to see just how specific a location it would provide we decided to go find him. Using my smart phone and the TAGG app – it shows your phone location in relation to the device location on the map – we tracked Baby James to a covered woodpile located in the midst of a bunch of sheds behind an empty house. It was That Specific!
THE BOTTOM LINE
I LOVE LOVE LOVE these GPS tracking devices. I’ve been testing them for over a year now. I’ve found that Baby James circles our village all around the perimeter of the wooded areas as much as almost a mile around. He also enjoys hiding in woodpiles, under tractors and visits the neighborhood chickens on a daily basis. Cora generally stays around home, but she does have a curiosity about the renovations going on 3 houses down and likes to visit the village mill pond and the neighbor’s shrubbery on a regular basis. Now when the cats aren’t at the door by evening I look online and find out where they are. If too far away from home I start tracking them. If they’re out too late and refuse to come back when I call for them I pinpoint their locale and go get them. Recently my family went camping for a week and we had a pet sitter. While camping in New Hampshire, I was able to be alerted – via my phone – to the fact that Cora was having a “hissy fit” because of our departure and had taken off down the road and then into the woods after dark. Communicating with the pet sitter I was able to track my cat and make sure that she returned home safely. What a Relief! (and Thank You Denise for being such a good sport with all of this “newfangled” stuff :-).
MORE INFO ABOUT GPS DEVICES FOR PETS
HOW DO GPS DEVICES WORK? These devices are designed to utilize both satellite and cell phone technology to access locations. Each device contains a chip housed within a type of casing material that can be attached to the pet’s collar. Each device has a “home base” unit that it docks on to recharge and when not in use. The idea is that when the device is away from its home docking station (e.g. on your pet) it continually “checks in” with the home station. When it gets far enough away from it’s dock a signal is transmitted to notify the device to start tracking location. This is where the satellites and cell towers come in. Once the device signals its exit from home base, the satellites (which continually roam through our skies) send signals identifying the device’s location. Because these products also work within our cellular networks the cell towers will also be sending and receiving transmissions for exact location. The long and the short of it is that when your pet wears one of these devices and roams away from the established home territory their movements and location are being recorded, transmitted, and saved. All of this happens within seconds, and all of the data is formatted in a simple-to-understand way within easy and immediate reach on a computer, tablet or smart phone. COOL!
HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT FROM A MICRO CHIP?
What’s the difference between a Micro-Chip and a GPS tracker? This is what most people have asked me when I talk about my research. The basic answer is that a Micro-Chip acts like a permanent name tag and contact tag for your pet. It can never fall off or be removed. But it does not Track where your pet is and it can only be helpful if your pet is brought to a facility and gets scanned for the chip. The GPS tracker is non-permanent, but does allow you to actually pinpoint a location for your pet within a certain timeframe (e.g. – its battery life). Each is a valuable tool and used in conjunction I would consider them Invaluable!
I will keep using a GPS tracker on my cats. But they are also Micro-Chipped. The reality is that the tracker could fall off or be removed from my pet. Sure I’ll be able to track the device itself down, but what if my pet isn’t with it? Having my pets be able to be identified if they are found without their collars, tags, tracker, etc. is still super important and that’s where a Micro-Chip comes in. A micro-chip is a tiny, rice grain-sized data chip that is easily implanted under a pet’s skin (usually around their shoulder). The chip is coded with owner-registered contact information that always remains with the chip and can never be removed from the pet. All Veterinarians, Animal Hospitals and Humane Society organizations across the country possess scanning devices that can detect a micro-chip on an otherwise unidentifiable pet. Ultimately, both the GPS tracker and the Micro-Chip work as a perfect team of tools that help me and my cats to stay together.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THESE PRODUCTS
visit TAGG at PETTRACKER.COM
visit HOME AGAIN MICROCHIP at HOMAGAIN.COMPosted in General