Bluetooth trackers, GPS trackers…Bluetooth GPS trackers? Whether it’s for your keys, car, dog, or cat, you’ll need to know which tracking device best suits your needs. Because when it comes to our furry friends, your choice of tracker can either help you find them safe and sound…or never see them again.

But when it comes to picking the right one, which one do you even go for?

In a nutshell: yes, Bluetooth GPS trackers like Tractive have been saving the lives of dogs and cats around the world with their unlimited range, real-time tracking, and tons of pet parent-friendly features. So in this post, we’re going to cover the main differences between GPS and Bluetooth trackers – and what sets Tractive apart. Let’s get started.

What are Bluetooth trackers & how do they work?

Also known as item finders, Bluetooth trackers are small devices that use Bluetooth to connect to your phone. This lets you locate them when they’re within Bluetooth range. Bluetooth trackers are perfect for people who need a bit of help keeping track of their keys, wallet, or other important personal items.

Note: personal items. Not dogs. Not cats. Bluetooth trackers are generally a poor choice for tracking living, moving animals because of their range limitations and lack of pet-friendly features.

Bluetooth tracker range & capabilities

Pure Bluetooth trackers only work when the lost object is close to your phone, usually up to 30 – 40 meters. In other words, if your dog runs off or your cat hides away and leaves Bluetooth range, it’s not very likely you’ll be able to find them with a Bluetooth tracker. Most Bluetooth trackers do not use GPS at all, although some may falsely claim they do.

Bluetooth tracker key finder
Bluetooth Key Finder (Credit: Amazon)

Popular Bluetooth trackers include: Tile, Samsung SmartTag, and the Apple AirTag. Importantly, none of these trackers were specifically built for pets. So if you’ve picked one of these, you’re missing out on a ton of features built to ensure your peace of mind as a pet parent.

Read more about Apple AirTag for dogs and cats.

green check markBluetooth Tracker: Pros

  • Long battery life (months to years)
  • Can usually be attached to any surface or collar
  • Very exact localization, but only within limited range
  • Lower costs (starting at $25 for a Bluetooth tracker compared to $49 for a GPS tracker)
  • Generally small and lightweight, although size varies

red xBluetooth Tracker: Cons

  • Very limited range (10 – 60 meters)
  • Made for tracking items, not pets
  • Requires Bluetooth on your phone
  • Limited features for pet parents
  • If your pet is out of Bluetooth range, the tracker will try to use someone else’s phone nearby to get a location. So you’re limited to a network of available devices nearby.
  • Could be swallowed by a pet

⚠️ Because think about it – a dog who’s off chasing prey or a cat who’s out patrolling their outdoor territory might cover several miles in just a few minutes. Which makes your Bluetooth tracker useless past a certain range. And if you’re out hiking with your pet, you’re unlikely to find any fellow Android or Apple users nearby whose devices can help you find them.

Read more: “Find My Device” Trackers: Not Ideal For Pets

In times like these, you’re best off with a dedicated pet GPS tracker. And even better, one that uses both GPS and mobile connectivity – so you’ve got an entire sky full of satellites helping you find your lost pet.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Ivelin-150x150.png

Much like the AirTag, your Tractive GPS tracker can use a short range radio to help determine your pet’s location. But unlike the AirTag, Tractive also uses mobile connectivity and GPS. So even if your tracker is nowhere near another mobile device, it’ll still be able to send data to the Tractive servers. So you can quickly and easily see your pet’s location in the app.

– Ivelin Nenkov, Embedded Systems Engineer at Tractive since 2016

What are GPS trackers & how do they work?

GPS trackers are, like the name implies, tracking devices that use GPS technology. That’s short for Global Positioning System, which can tell you where an object is on Earth1. GPS was developed by the US military and made available for civilian use in 1996.

The Library of Congress explains:

GPS is the only system that can show you your exact position on Earth at anytime, in any weather, no matter where you are.

The system is made up of three parts:

  • Space satellites which orbit the Earth
  • Ground stations which make sure the satellites continue working,
  • And receivers – like your Tractive GPS attached to your pet’s collar

Receivers are any device that can receive and process a GPS signal, including GPS tracking devices. A GPS tracker calculates its distance between at least four GPS satellites at any given time to determine current location.

And the best part? Getting location by GPS is very fast. Just notice how quickly your position on Google Maps, for example, or on your car’s navigation system.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Ivelin-150x150.png

“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

GPS trackers without SIM cards do exist. But they can’t help you track your dog or cat in real-time. Nor are they specifically built for pets.

On the other hand, with Tractive’s built-in SIM card, you can pick up on your pet’s location with just a glance at your phone.

green check markGPS Tracker: Pros

  • Worldwide coverage with GPS technology
  • Unlimited range, which lets you see where your cat or dog is, no matter how far
  • Allows for real-time location tracking
  • GPS trackers can also help use location data to show how active your buddy has been, which helps you keep them in shape
  • Precise localization
  • No base station required

red xGPS Tracker: Cons

  • Sometimes GPS interference might occur (for example indoors)
  • Dependent on mobile signal, therefore a subscription is required

Locating your pet with the Tractive GPS

Let’s say your dog just ran off into the woods, chasing a woodland animal – but with a GPS dog tracker attached to their collar. Your GPS tracker has unlimited range, so no matter how far away your dog roams, you can find them using a mobile or web app. You don’t have to rely on help from others, and can be back to cuddling your furry friend in no time.

Or, say, your cat steps out of a “safe zone” that you’ve set up via the Tractive app on your device. (Like your backyard.) Your Tractive device immediately picks up that your cat is venturing outside of safety – and sends you an immediate notification. So you can intervene quickly and prevent them from roaming into a dangerous area.

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, FluffyMeowPaws2

Always know where your pets are

Follow every step in real-time with unlimited range. Get alerts if they wander too far. Keep them happy & healthy with Wellness Monitoring. And let others – like walkers or sitters – keep an eye on your pet too.

Discover GPS & Health Trackers For Pets

GPS vs Bluetooth tracker range: A quick comparison

GPS vs Bluetooth tracker range comparison infographic

What happens if I use a Bluetooth pet tracker and my dog or cat leaves the Bluetooth range?

When your pet is in Bluetooth range, you’ll be able to track them. Once they’re out of this zone, though, you stop being able to track your dog with a Bluetooth tracker.

⚠️ Outside of Bluetooth range, you won’t be able to track your cat or dog.

Let’s look at this scenario to see how locating a dog with a Bluetooth tracker might look.

Say your dog just ran away, and they’re outside Bluetooth range. A Bluetooth tracker will only be helpful if:

  1. it connects to someone’s phone nearby…
  2. who has the same app as you…
  3. and has location & Bluetooth turned on on their phone.

Only when these 3 conditions are met will a Bluetooth tracker be able to give you a location. Otherwise, you won’t be able to locate your Bluetooth tracker and your dog.

In short, Bluetooth trackers are not ideal for tracking your pet.

💡 Bottom line: With a GPS tracker – unlike with a Bluetooth tracker – you can locate your dog or cat no matter how far they roam.

The Perfect Combination: Bluetooth GPS Trackers

Good news: To get the best of both worlds, you can get a Bluetooth GPS tracker for their cat or dog. That’s right – you don’t have to choose. Trusted by pet parents worldwide, Tractive GPS combines GPS and Bluetooth-style tracking to bring you the most accurate location information available.

💡Using Tractive’s Radar Mode, you can use Bluetooth in addition to GPS to find your dog, cat or other pet. The tracking device also uses Wifi – three ways to locate your furry friend always, peace of mind for you.

Find Mode feature illustration with cat - Tractive bluetooth gps tracker

Here’s what one cat parent has to say about their experience using the Tractive GPS cat tracker:

Tractive GPS cat tracker and app

“We have been using Tractive for two of our cats, Dobby and Simba, and it’s been a life saver. Literally – last June, we drove across Greece to catch a ferry to Italy, when Simba somehow jumped out of the van and ended up in the middle of nowhere!

We found out only one hour later when we were about to catch the ferry and panicked because he could be anywhere and he might be hurt … long story short, I would have NEVER found him hadn’t he had his Tractive collar on his neck!

It cost me 500 € in ferries, new pet passports, and overnight stay 😂 but at least I could find him and he was totally fine. And that’s just because of his Tractive collar!”

Discover Tractive GPS

Tile Bluetooth Tracker vs Tractive GPS Tracker Comparison

To help you determine if a GPS tracker or Bluetooth tracker is right for you, we’ve compared two of the best-selling trackers in their field: the Tile Bluetooth Tracker and Tractive GPS for dogs and cats.

tile bluetooth tracker
Tile Bluetooth Tracker
tractive gps tracker white
Tractive GPS
PurposeTrack keys, bags and other stuffAlways know where your furry friend is
Subscription PlanNot necessary, but a Premium subscription is required to unlock all featuresUnlimited range + coverage costs all covered from as little as $4.99 / month
Range200 feetunlimited
BatteryUp to 1 year battery life, replaceableUp to 7 days battery life, rechargable
Water DurabilityWater-resistant100% Waterproof (IPX7-standard)
Dimensions35mm x 35mm x 6.2mm17.5mm x 71.4mm x 28mm
Location History
Last Known Coordinates
Tracker Sharing
LIVE Tracking
Worldwide Coverage
Virtual Fence / Safe Zone
Activity tracking
Sleep tracking
Health alerts
Wifi / Home Power Saving Zone
Shock Resistant & Adventure-proof

Light & Sound
Sound only

Discover GPS & Health Trackers For Pets

Invest in a Bluetooth GPS tracker & keep your pet safe for good

Bluetooth trackers are generally designed to be ‘thing finders’ – they’re best for finding personal items such as your keys or wallet.

  • Despite perks like small size and long battery life, their range is way too limited for a living, moving animal.
  • More importantly, Bluetooth trackers do not use GPS – so if your dog or cat leaves Bluetooth range, you can’t rely on a Bluetooth tracker to help find your pet.

GPS trackers, on the other hand, are often made specifically for pets. They often come with built-in Bluetooth-style technology and WiFi to bring you the most accurate location possible. Additional features of Tractive GPS dog trackers include:

black and white dog wearing Tractive GPS tracker
Source: Nuki

The bottom line: when it comes to always being able to check on the exact location of your pet, Bluetooth trackers are only partially effective, due to their limited range.

💡In other words, a combo Bluetooth GPS tracker is the best option for your furry friend.

Get my Tractive GPS Tracker

Want to see how Tractive works but strapped for time? Here’s a video that covers it in just 2 minutes:

Find this article helpful? Share it with a tech-savvy pet parent you know and love. Or check out these related articles: