Even the most chill indoor cats crave their outdoor time. So it’s very likely they’ll make an escape attempt or two. (Especially with the constant doorbell ringing and foot traffic during the holiday season.) So in times like these, it’s best to make sure your feline has a microchip cat ID to help a stranger identify them.

But you might be wondering:

In a nutshell: while a microchip cat ID can help someone identify your cat, it doesn’t help you actively track them down. Nowadays, you have way more useful tracking options like GPS trackers, which can help you follow your cat’s movements in real-time. So a combination of a microchip cat ID and a dedicated cat GPS tracker is the smart choice.

In this post, we’re going to cover why it’s not possible to keep track of your cat by relying solely on a microchip. We’re also going to clarify the difference between microchips, GPS and Bluetooth trackers, and explains what your cat really needs to be safe. Let’s dive right in.

What are microchips for cats?

A microchip for cats is an identification tool. It’s an electronic chip of the size of a grain of rice, implanted under your cat’s skin.

  • Each microchip contains an unique ID number for identifying the owner of the cat, in case your feline friend gets lost.
  • The chip is injected carefully between the shoulder blades of your cat. (It’s a painless procedure that lasts only a few seconds.)
A cat getting a checkup at the vet

Once your local vet is able to implant the chip, here’s how it works:

  • Your cat goes missing. (Maybe because they’re in heat, sick, or have an intruder on their territory.)
  • A helpful stranger finds your cat wherever they’re hiding.
  • They take your cat to a vet or a shelter.
  • The vet scans your cat’s microchip to identify you.
  • They then contact you to inform you they’ve found your lost cat.

Make sure to keep your contact details up to date on the database. Otherwise, your local vet or shelter won’t be able to identify you as the owner of your lost cat.

Can microchip cat IDs help you track down your cat in real-time?

⚠️ No. Microchips can’t help you track your cat in real-time. They can only help someone identify your cat. They don’t help you take an active role in tracking down your missing cat, in case they get lost.

In general, microchips for cats are a more reliable form of identification than collar tags, which can fall off or become illegible. But with a microchip, you rely on a stranger to find, retrieve and bring your lost cat to a vet or shelter, then contact you.

cat microchip

Which, when you think about it, is actually no guarantee you’ll be reunited with them.

  • Pet kidnapping is actually on the rise, with over 2 million pets stolen each year in the US alone.1
  • At least 15% of cat parents lose their cats within 5 years – and some are never found.2
  • Your cat might be more likely to be kidnapped if they’re not spayed or neutered, since they might be sold illegally to a breeder.3

One study even found that over half of missing cats actually had some kind of identification (like a microchip or an ID tag.)4 Meaning just a microchip alone doesn’t actually prevent your cat from getting lost.

So while a microchip cat ID is a handy device to identify your cat if they go missing somewhere “safe”, it’s always good to combine it with a dedicated cat GPS tracker. Which can help you track down your cat’s movements in real-time – and over an unlimited range.

Know everywhere your cat goes

See where they are in real-time, no matter how far they go. Get alerts if they roam too far home. Find out where they’ve been and discover their favorite spots. Let others track with you.

Discover Cat GPS Trackers

Cattery owner and trainer, Clair Chesterman

“Tractive is my #1 recommendation when it comes to cat trackers. It’s specifically designed for tracking cats so you are sure that it is safe for your cats to use.”

– Clair Chesterman, Owner of CFA and CCA-registered cattery and fostering company, FluffyMeowPaws5

Should you microchip your cat?

In many countries, cat microchips are regulated and required by law. So make sure to check whether your country (or state) is one of them. Because if a non-identifiable cat is found lost on the streets, they could even be euthanized. Especially if they’ve been found at a shelter and you haven’t claimed them after a standard holding period. (Which might be between 3-5 business days.)

⚠️ Most countries in the European Union (EU) require a microchip cat ID in case you’re travelling with your cat.6 Besides this, you’re also legally required to microchip your cat if you’re traveling to Australia or the United Kingdom (including England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Isle of Man.)

As of 2021, Hawaii is the first US state to mandate microchip cat IDs and for pets in general. Here are some other states that may require microchips as part of their local laws7:

  • California
  • District of Columbia (Washington DC)
  • Florida West
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Texas

Even if your state isn’t one of them, we’d always recommend microchipping your cat as a basic safety precaution. And if you’re relocating with your cat, keep in mind that a microchip is only useful when you keep the contact information for the ID registration up to date.

  • Most cats tend to go missing between 1-7 years (or when they’re considered “adults”). So it’s always a good idea to microchip them for ID purposes once they’re old enough.
  • Similarly, outdoor cats are at highest risk for pet theft. So consider microchipping them for extra safety. (Along with a GPS tracker to help you track their every move.)

Track Your Cat With Tractive GPS

What are the pros of microchips for cats?

A cat microchip or feline ID chip essentially has only one main use. And that is to identify your cat in case they are lost, found and brought into a vet or animal shelter by a third party. For this reason, you need to rely on other people to help you find your lost cat, when you use a microchip only.

Some of the other benefits of using the microchip on your cat might include:

  • Proof of identity and ownership, to avoid potential disputes.
  • Keep other cats out of your house using a chip-enabled cat flap. You might find this occurring more often if you’re caring for feral and stray cats outdoors in winter.
  • Take your cat abroad – microchips are required for the PETS pet passport scheme.
  • Ensure a proper diet by using feeding stations which scan microchip details.
A cat sitting on a bicycle with their parent overlooking a mountain range

Does a cat microchip use GPS?

No; cat microchips don’t use the Global Positioning System (GPS) or any other navigation / localization technology.

⚠️ Due to the absence of GPS technology in microchips, you cannot actively track and locate your lost cat with a microchip.

Moreover, microchips are too small to contain GPS technology. The microchips used in cats and dogs are the same; read more about this topic in detail in the articles below to keep all of your furry friends safe:

Dog and cat encounter oudoors

What are the cons of the microchip cat ID?

While it’s definitely sensible to microchip your cat, this is only minimally helpful. Firstly, microchips don’t help you take an active role in finding your cat. They can help locate the cat’s owner if someone finds the animal, but a microchip won’t help you find your lost cat in the first place.

Microchips for cats have the following limitations:

  • They are of no help while you are actively searching for your cat.
  • You are dependent on other people to use the microchip.
  • They have no GPS integrated, so you can’t track your cat in real-time
  • You won’t be able to locate your cat if your contact information isn’t up to date
  • Your local shelter might not have a chip reader available

So while helpful to an extent, a microchip cat ID still isn’t enough to actually find your cat. In case of a lost cat, it always makes sense to attach a pet tracking device to their collar to follow their every step. Like this handsome little guy with his comfy Tractive CAT Mini:

A cat wearing a Tractive GPS tracker outdoors

And the good news is:

💡 For real-time tracking of your cat for peace of mind, you can use a GPS cat tracker.

What are GPS tracking devices for cats?

Unlike microchips, GPS trackers for cats offer you real-time GPS location information about your cat directly in your smartphone. And not only can you keep track of your cat’s whereabouts for safety, you can have fun finding out what your mischievous house cat gets up to on their daily adventures!

Here are some of the main benefits of the Tractive GPS Cat Tracker:

Built for comfort

A cat wearing a Tractive GPS tracker

Your Tractive GPS is a small, lightweight device. You can attach it comfortably on your cat’s collar or harness.

Besides, it also comes accompanied with a weight-adjustable safety collar that attaches securely to your cat’s neck. (So no dangling – which can create both a choking hazard or get your cat stuck in a weird place.) Its exchangeable battery lasts between 2 and 5 days on one charge.

Real-time tracking wherever your cat wanders off to

Tractive offers real-time tracking with location updates. So with just a glance at your phone, you can immediately tell if your cat is about to sneak off somewhere dangerous, smelly, or potentially infectious.

woman holding a gray cat wearing a GPS cat tracker outside

Besides, Tractive works across an unlimited GPS tracking range. So you can find your cat over any distance. Besides GPS, it also connects to mobile networks around the world with its built-in SIM card. Which lets you track your cat in real-time across 175 countries worldwide. (Perfect for your next vacation.)

“Your Tractive device’s GPS module receives signals from several GPS satellites. This helps it better and more accurately calculate your pet’s position. These satellites then forward their location to the Tractive servers with the help of the network module. (Which also includes a SIM card.) Once the Tractive servers receive this information, you can quickly and easily check your pet’s location when you open the Tractive app.”

– Ivelin Nenkov, Embedded Systems Engineer at Tractive since 2016

Take an active role in finding your cat & keeping them safe

With Tractive, your cat’s safety is in your own hands. For example, you can:

1) Set up a “safe zone” for your cat. Tractive’s virtual fence immediately alerts you if your cat sneaks past it. This is a smart, humane (and affordable) alternative to setting up a physical fence or e-fence around your house.

Your cat can always sneak past a physical fence. (Plus it can cost anywhere between $4000-12,000 dollars just for setup – and maintenance costs on top of that.) And vets around the world discourage using e-fences that rely on static shocks to train pets to stay within limits.

one eyed cat wearing harness sitting outside in forest

2) Track your cat’s favorite wandering spots. Tractive’s Heat Map and Location History help you get a picture of where your cat likes to wander off to most. So you can retrace your steps and find them quicker and easier during a search.

Tractive’s Location History feature recently helped an LA community reunite a family of sick kittens with Mama cat. She’d dropped them off into different spots for safekeeping – and with some help from her Tractive GPS, the San Diego Feral Cat Coalition was able to find them quickly and safely.

See what Consumer Reports says about Tractive

Track Your Cat With Tractive GPS

Microchip cat implant vs GPS tracker: Which is best for my cat?

So now you know the main features and uses of cat microchips and GPS tracking devices for felines. So which one should you go for? Well, the answer is: both! Because when it comes to the safety of your kitty, nothing is too much.

Here’s a quick distinction between microchip cat IDs and a dedicated cat GPS tracker, like Tractive’s:

 DetailsMicrochip cat IDsTractive GPS Tracker
PurposeIdentifying your lost catTracking down your lost cat
Size12 x 2 mm55 x 28 x 17 mm
Weight0,025 g25 g
ImplantableSymbol für Vorteile in Pro-und-Kontra-ListeSymbol für Nachteile in Pro-und-Kontra-Liste
WaterproofSymbol für Vorteile in Pro-und-Kontra-ListeSymbol für Vorteile in Pro-und-Kontra-Liste
Battery lifeNo battery includedUp to 7 days
Upfront cost ~85 €49,99 €
Ongoing costsNoneMonthly subscription plans
Location trackingSymbol für Nachteile in Pro-und-Kontra-ListeSymbol für Vorteile in Pro-und-Kontra-Liste
Are you going to have to rely on strangers?YesNo
Real-time location updatesSymbol für Nachteile in Pro-und-Kontra-ListeSymbol für Vorteile in Pro-und-Kontra-Liste
Legal requirementRequired in most countries & US statesNo
Area of operationWorldwideWorldwide in over 150 countries
Runaway alertSymbol für Nachteile in Pro-und-Kontra-ListeSymbol für Vorteile in Pro-und-Kontra-Liste
Activity trackingSymbol für Nachteile in Pro-und-Kontra-ListeSymbol für Vorteile in Pro-und-Kontra-Liste
Sleep trackingSymbol für Nachteile in Pro-und-Kontra-ListeSymbol für Vorteile in Pro-und-Kontra-Liste
Health alertsSymbol für Nachteile in Pro-und-Kontra-ListeSymbol für Vorteile in Pro-und-Kontra-Liste
Light & Sound trackingSymbol für Nachteile in Pro-und-Kontra-ListeSymbol für Vorteile in Pro-und-Kontra-Liste

Remember: Having your cat microchipped might be a mandatory regulation in your country, but unfortunately, this won’t be enough in case kitty runs away.

But along with a microchip, having a GPS cat tracking collar attached to your feline’s neck will definitely help you to find your cat, in case she gets lost. And in real-time! So keep your kitty safe with both a microchip, and a GPS tracker.

Can a GPS tracker help me find my lost cat?

Yes, absolutely! Tractive has been producing the world’s most trusted GPS trackers for cats and dogs for years and in this time, many pet parents have shared with us their stories of their worst nightmare: losing their beloved feline baby!

However, with the help of their GPS cat tracker, they were able to actively search for and be reunited with their fur-baby in no time. Check out the story below from one grateful cat tracker user:

Cattery owner and trainer, Clair Chesterman

“Tractive is the #1 cat GPS tracker in the industry. And it’s the highest quality cat tracker you can find. I was able to set the safe zone as my house area and once my cat gets outside I get an alert right away. In fact, it probably saved my cat’s life that time she chased a bird and got lost. She was scared and I was able to find her with the help of the GPS tracker. Tractive’s chip frequently calculates your cat’s location and is updated on the map every 2-3 seconds. Furthermore, the LED will help you guard your furry friend at night.”

– Clair Chesterman, Owner of CFA and CCA-registered cattery and fostering company, FluffyMeowPaws

Track Your Cat With Tractive GPS

What about Bluetooth trackers for cats?

Last but not least, let’s have a closer look at tracking devices for cats which function via Bluetooth. How do they actually work? Bluetooth trackers function very well for locating objects in your immediate surroundings, for example, your keys or bag inside your home. You might’ve heard of item tracking devices like Tile, Samsung SmartTag, or even the Apple AirTag for cats.

⚠️ When it comes to locating the exact position of your pet, Bluetooth trackers are not the best choice. Their operational range is limited to approximately 20 meters. Should your cat be further away, a Bluetooth tracking device will be useless in finding your kitty. Here’s a quick comparison between the tracking ranges of GPS vs Bluetooth trackers:

GPS vs Bluetooth tracker range comparison infographic

Besides, most Bluetooth trackers are designed to track non-moving items like keys, wallets, phones, and backpacks. Not living, moving animals like cats who run away (and stay away) for different reasons.

In times like these, it’s always better to invest in a dedicated cat GPS tracker. Which, in the case of Tractive, has even saved the lives of cats around the world.

Here’s the story of Michel, Anja, and their adventurous outdoors cat Nala who went missing one evening. With the help of Tractive’s LIVE mode and real-time tracking, they quickly located her in an abandoned house nearby:

A cat wearing a Tractive GPS tracker outdoors

“We went into LIVE Mode and…ran towards the location Tractive GPS had pinpointed. We came to an empty house that was still under construction.”

 At that point, we had already given up hope and thought that we were never going to be able to find her. So, out of desperation, I shouted out her name.

“And she responded! Nala started screaming as soon as she heard our voices...our little furball managed to pull it together and we finally took her home. After a little comfort food and some cuddling, her world had been restored to normal.

“We are both so very thankful that this day – after a few hiccups – had such a happy ending. The fact that Tractive GPS even worked inside that empty house completely saved us and really turned this thing around. I love Tractive for keeping our cats safe.

Track Your Cat With Tractive GPS

Microchip cat ID + GPS tracker = a safe, happy cat

Wrapping up: what’s the main difference between a microchip cat ID implant and a cat GPS tracker? It’s how much of an active role you can take in finding your cat, in case they run away or get lost.

  • Microchips are small, electronic devices implanted into your cat’s skin. They help a vet or shelter identify your cat in case they find them wandering around. In some countries, you might be legally required to microchip your cat – or they may be euthanized in the long run if found without ID.
  • A cat GPS tracker (like Tractive) attaches to your cat’s collar. It can help you track your cat’s movements in real-time. So you can prevent them from wandering past a safe zone or even catch on to a kidnapping event.

When it comes to actively finding your lost cat, a microchip doesn’t help all that much. Instead, you’ll have to hope a kind stranger finds your cat and chooses to drop them over to a local vet or shelter instead. Which, in a world where pet kidnapping is on the rise, isn’t a 100% guarantee.

💡But with a GPS tracker, you can track your cat in real-time over an unlimited range. So once you’ve microchipped your cat, consider investing in your very own Tractive CAT Mini today – and never worry about losing your cat ever again.

Curious how the microchip cat ID implantation process looks like? Here’s a 2-minute video that covers the process, super quick:

And if you’ve found this article useful, share it with a friend who loves their furry friends as much as you do! (Perfect for the next time you’re planning air travel with your pet.)