Best Pet Tracking Devices: GPS Trackers for Dogs and Cats
We spent 15 hours testing eight pet tracking devices, which involved two cats, one dog, a two-mile hike and a gallon of water. Like us, you love your pets and would be devastated if they ever got lost, so we took our testing seriously. We conducted indoor tests on two unwilling cats and went hiking with our new unofficial employee, Chikaya the black Labrador. Thanks to her help, we decided the Whistle 3 is the best overall pet tracker for its accuracy, lightweight design and easy-to-use app.
The Whistle 3 is durable, lightweight and easy to use with an app that tracks your pet’s every move.
The Tractive pet tracker provides an affordable and accurate way to find your pet.
The Pod 3 is a small and durable cylindrical pet tracker that accurately pinpoints the location of your pet.
|Product||Price||Overall Rating||Range & Accuracy||Design||Operation||Unique Specifications||Tracking||Range||Durability||Tracker type||Weight (oz.)||Waterproof||Paid monthly subscription||Handheld remote tracking||SIM card||Geofencing||Activity & Health Tracking|
|Whistle 3||View Deal||5/5||9||10||10||10||A-||Unlimited||A||GPS||1||✓||✓||-||-||✓||✓|
|Pod 3||View Deal||4.5/5||8||8.8||10||10||B||Unlimited||A||GPS||1.4||✓||✓||-||-||✓||✓|
|Trax Play||View Deal||3.5/5||9||4.3||10||5||A-||Unlimited||A||GPS||1.5||-||✓||-||-||✓||-|
|Marco Polo||View Deal||3/5||2.5||9.5||10||5||F||.75 miles||A||Radio||0.8||✓||-||✓||-||✓||-|
|Tabcat||View Deal||3/5||4.5||6.8||10||C||100 feet||B||Radio||0.3||-||-||✓||-||-||-|
The Whistle 3 is super durable, accurate and easy to set up and use. It also has health monitoring capabilities, making it almost like a smart watch for your furry best friend.
Setup for this GPS tracker is super easy, and you can expect to get about seven days of battery life from one battery charge depending on cell phone or Wi-Fi coverage. First, you download the free Whistle 3 app and create a profile for your pet. We really liked the personalization options that let you enter in not only your pet’s name, but their breed, weight and even a photo. Along with tracking the location of your dog, this app also lets you set physical activity goals and then tracks them to see if Fido is running around in the yard or being a couch potato.
In our tests, the tag was very accurate. While it doesn’t track the movement of your pet by the second, it updates every few moments so you can see what direction your pet is going. We noticed the updates lagged more in town surrounded by multi-story brick and metal buildings than it did out on hiking trails, but every time the location updated it was always extremely close to where the tag was. Our tests show you should be able to figure out where your pet is within about 100 feet – even less if your pet is sitting still.
The tag itself can attach snuggly to any collar with its rubber strap, and it only weighs 1 ounce. The dog we tested it out on didn’t even notice she was wearing it. It’s also waterproof (we dunked it to make sure) and durable. It stayed on while we hiked – and our test dog ran among the trees and bushes. It also has a geofence feature so you can set up places your pet spends time and receive an alert on your phone should they decide to leave that place and go on an adventure without permission.
Even though you have to pay for a monthly subscription, the Tractive pet tracker is still a very affordable and accurate device for keeping an eye on the whereabouts of your wandering pet.
The Tractive is a GPS tracker that works through both an app on your phone and a website. GPS trackers can follow your pet anywhere, but they only work as well as your cell phone coverage or Wi-Fi on the receiving end. That being said, this was the most accurate tracker we tested both in the city and out on a hiking trail in the mountains.
With this tracker you simply install the free app, attach the tag to your dog’s collar and turn it on. The plastic backing that affixes this tracker might not fit on every collar, and the edges stick out a bit, meaning there’s a chance they could catch on something. Still, that never happened in our durability tests. We also tested the waterproofing, and the device worked fine after we submerged it in water.
This app’s live tracking function, when activated, shows exactly where the tag is on a map and then draws a red line as your pet continues to run around. Both out on rural hiking trails and in a city surrounded by brick buildings, this feature was incredibly accurate. When we took this tag out on a hike, our part-time temporary furry employee, Chikaya, decided to run back and forth along the same stretch of trail several times. The app drew a red zig-zagged line on the map, showing us every single turn she took.
On top of being accurate, this tracker also has geofencing capabilities that alert you every time your pet crosses any boundaries you set up in the app. At 1.4 ounces this tracker is a little heavy, but nothing a small or medium sized dog couldn’t handle.
Best for Small Pets
This GPS pet tracker works though a free app on your smartphone. One month of free service is included, but you do eventually have to sign up for a monthly subscription for continued use.
Two batteries are included, and after you charge them on the included charging dock, you can start tracking.
The tag weighs 1.4 ounces, on the heavier side, but it didn’t bother the animals we tried it on. The cylindrical design attaches to a collar with a rubber strap, and if you get it snuggly affixed there’s no way it’s coming off. It passed our durability tests with flying colors, including the waterproof test where we dunked it underwater several times for about 1 minute in total.
This tracker was accurate both in town and out on hiking trails, though we did notice a slight lag as the app continued to update the location of the tag. It can also monitor you pet’s activity, and in the future the company plans to update the app to keep track of their adventures for comparison against other pets using the Pod 3. You can also set up virtual fences and the app will notify you when your pet crosses them. We had trouble getting this feature to work out away from the city, but in town it let us know right away when the tag moved outside its predetermined safe zone.
Best for Cats
The Tabcat is ideal for cats because it’s small, lightweight and works well in a house.
This tracker comes with a small remote you sync to the receiving tag, which attaches to Fluffy’s collar with a splashproof silicone case. Once the tag is synced, it beeps when you press the button on the remote, making it easy to find where the cat is hiding. In our tests this tracker worked well within a range of about 100 feet, but occasionally beeped as far away as 200 feet, so we don’t recommend this for outdoor cats who like to explore. We tested this device on two cats who didn’t seem to mind the beeping. With a two-year warranty, this is a great tracker for indoor cats.
Why Trust Us
We have plenty of animal lovers on our staff who realize a pet is more than just a cat or a dog; they’re family. When we evaluated pet trackers, we realized choosing the right device could mean the difference between being reunited with your best friend or potentially losing them forever, so we took this job very seriously. Whether your cat is a couch potato or tries to escape every time you open the door, a pet tracker can give you peace of mind. A tracker can even be useful on a highly trained hunting and hiking dog if they wander too far. Whatever your needs regarding size or style, we looked for pet trackers that are reliable and accurate.
How We Tested
Keeping your pet safe is an important task, so we spent 15 hours testing and evaluating eight pet tracking devices both in the city and out in a less populated mountainous area.
First, we recruited one of our testers to pretend to be a dog for an afternoon. They took the pet trackers and drove around a populated city area while another person sat in our labs, monitoring the tags to see where they went. For the radio frequency tracker’s city test, we left it surrounded by large brick buildings and drove away from it circling the block, taking down data points of its readout and getting farther and farther away until we lost reception.
Then we strapped the tags to a well-behaved black Labrador named Chikaya. We took her on a hike in a mountainous area, noting how accurately each device tracked her location as she ran amok through the trees and bushes, which was also a great durability test. Finally, we dunked all of the waterproof tracking tags in water several times for about one minute total and spritzed the water-resistant ones with a spray bottle.
We did have one outlying radio tracker that we tested mostly indoors because of its short range. We took turns hiding the tags around our labs and then tried to find them using the tracker’s beeping. We also took them outside and tested the range. Finally, we put the tags on two cats to see how they reacted to the beeping, and of course they got lots of snuggles and treats afterward.
How Much Are Pet Trackers?
You can’t put a price on peace of mind when it comes to your furry best friend, but the trackers we tested cost an average of $139 for the device alone. The most accurate trackers require a monthly subscription on top of that, which can vary from $4 per month to about $10 per month. Some services require you buy an entire year but give you a discount for purchasing a longer service contract.
Types of Trackers
There are several types of pet trackers to choose from depending on your needs. Some use a GPS system that relies on either your cell phone service or Wi-Fi to send tracking information to an app on your phone. These types of trackers are nice because they can track missing pets literally anywhere as long as the tag is on and your cell phone is receiving service or hooked up to Wi-Fi.
Other trackers work by sending radio waves back and forth between the tag and the receiver. These trackers typically have a range of a few miles and can be ideal for places where cell phone service is spotty. While they’re less common, some pet trackers require you purchase SIM cards separately from a cell phone service provider. You must then install the card yourself, so make sure to read the fine print and realize you might have to spend even more money if a SIM card is required.
Installing a SIM Card
If your pet tracker requires a SIM card, installing it correctly is important. Slide out the SIM card tray and lay the card in place correctly, following the shape of the tray. It should be obvious which way the card needs to go. Now comes the important part: make sure to position the device on its side so you can slide the tray back inside horizontally. If you do this vertically, there’s a chance the card will slip off and fall into the device. It’s nearly impossible to get the card out if this happens, and if you end up taking it apart to do, so the tracker’s integrity will be compromised.
Battery life for pet trackers varies by what type of tracker it is and what mode it’s in. For instance, keeping a tracker in live track mode is going to use more battery up than simply keeping it in monitor mode and setting up a geofence so that you get a notification if your pet crosses a predetermined boundary. Some trackers include an extra set of batteries you can switch out for continual use. Battery charging times also vary. Whichever unit you buy, make sure you know how long the battery lasts. A tracker won’t do any good if it’s dead.
Adventurous dogs who go hunting, hiking and exploring in rugged outdoor areas need a tracker that can withstand some abuse. Note whether a tracker is waterproof or just water-resistant, and select one made of sturdier plastics and rubber. If you’re the loving owner of a demure kitty or pipsqueak of a puppy, then durability isn’t as important. Instead, you’ll need to look closely at the size and weight of the tracker to make sure it’s not too unwieldy for your pet to handle.