Everyone who owns a cat knows the feeling of desperation and anxiety when their beloved fury friend is not coming home for a day or even just a couple of hours. It’s especially weird in the morning when they should be lining up for food. Since in our house live 5 cats (3 with our family, 2 with my grandmother), it’s easy to lose track of who is at home and who has been disappearing for some time. So, “Where is Teddy? Have you seen Minerva?” are standard questions everyday.
Caption: Teddy wearing his tracker. Picture from Natascha Haunschmid
When our youngest, Teddy, discovered he was a male, he immediately disappeared for some days looking for a lady cat. After only a day I was devastated, I was imagining bad things that could have happened to Teddy. We went looking for him everywhere — in the woods (whereto we saw him heading sometimes) and on the streets — expecting the worst. The search was not successful but finally after a few days he came back — like nothing had happened.
Tractive GPS Tracker
Knowing how much I loved my cats and cared about them, my boyfriend gave me the best birthday present I could imagine — the Tractive GPS Pet Tracker. The device has the right size and a nice clip to be worn with a harness. For a cat I think it is to heavy to be carried on a collar.
The first great thing about the tracker is that I can make sure that my cat does not disappear. Besides that I have made a few cool observations. E.g., one of our cats, Morli, usually comes around 5 AM to get her breakfast. But on some days she comes a lot later and we were wondering what that was about (cats are usually creatures of habit at least with regards to food times). Putting the tracker on her revealed that she spent most of her day not somewhere in our house/garden but in our neighbours horse stables. When she didn’t manage to get out before they locked the doors in the evening, she had to wait until the door was opened again in the morning, thus, she was late for breakfast.
Since I do not live at home with my cats anymore (they stayed at my parents house) I don’t know everything that’s going on at home. But tracking Teddy’s movement makes it easy to predict at least one thing: Visits of my grandparents. How is that? My grandparents own a garden close to our house (they live in the city) that they visit in their free time. They also always have goodies for our cats with them every time they visit. Since Teddy loves nothing more than food, he can be found in my grandparents garden when they are there. Because he is also pretty lazy, he does not walk there if they are not visiting. Looking at my Tractive GPS I can easily tell whether my grandparents are in their garden or not.
The mobile app is available for iOS and Android and it works also when a few people log in with the same account, so my family and I can check what our cats are doing at the same time. A useful feature is also the safe zone (basically a circle around our house with a user defined radius) and the app gives an alarm when the cat leaves it. So you don’t have to check your phone every 5 minutes because you get an alarm when the cat walks away from the house. Usually the tracker sends a signal every few minutes, but if you want to unleash your full nosiness you can switch to live tracking mode – which sends a signal every few seconds.
Alternative use case
When planning our road trip to Sweden last year, we thought of another use case for the tracker. Since the SIM card is working in many other countries besides Austria without additional fees, the tracker works in other countries as well. The tracking interval (a few minutes) is also well suited to track a road trip, since you don’t change the direction very often when driving with a car. Of course we had to charge the tracker every 2-3 days (it worked longer when we did not forget to turn it off at night) and it does not record the position when it is charging (which of course does not make sense when only using it as a pet tracker). We wanted to be able to track the route as accurately as possible, so we always charged the battery when driving long straight lines and used the tracker when taking more interesting routes.
Since collecting data and visualizing it is one of my hobbies my favorite feature is that data can be downloaded from the website in an xml format for gps data (gpx and kml). I downloaded the tracking data for the last year (therefore you need a premium account) and displayed the tracks for 4 of our cats. It’s pretty cool to see that each cat has their own preferred areas where they go every day. After some days you also notice patterns, e.g. Morli always goes where the horses are and Teddy likes to go into the woods at around 10 AM almost every day.
Caption: The map was created from the data I tracked during the last year. Each color represents the tracks of one cat: Teddy (pink), Minerva (green), Morli (blue), Maya (red).
I also used the data that we tracked during our vacation to visualise our route.
Caption: This map was created with the data we tracked during our vacation.
I recently published my collected data on my blog http://blog.haunschmid.name/data-collected-with-my-tractive-gps-pet-tracker/.