Whether it’s on Google, Samsung, iPhones, or even Microsoft – you’ve likely heard of a “Find my device” based network. It’s a network of devices that helps you anonymously track down a missing phone or item based on other device users passing by it. (And alerting you to its location.)

Makes you wonder… Could these work for finding a lost dog or missing cat? I.e., when you say, attach an AirTag or Samsung SmartTag to their collar – and then find them via Apple’s Find My network or SmartThings Find. (Or even the upcoming Google AirTag alternative’s Finder Network for Android devices.)

Well, here’s our take as experts when it comes to finding lost and missing pets. A “Find my device”-type network is a better option for tracking items like your missing phone, wallet, backpack, or keys. Not pets.

Because when it comes to finding a living, constantly moving animal, relying on a network of devices comes with more perils than perks. That’s why a dedicated pet GPS tracker is the smart, sane, straightforward solution for pet parents around the world.

Curious why? Let’s dive right in.

How does a “Find My Device” network help you find missing items?

A Find My Device-type network helps you connect to a network of similar devices around you to find a missing item or device. So, for example:

A woman checking her iPhone screen

So it’s not just, say, an iPhone that you can find via Apple’s Find My network. Rather, an AirTag – aka, a compatible item tracker – can also connect to it via its Bluetooth capabilities.

Which means, once you switch on Lost Mode for your AirTag, it triggers a “missing item” alert to the wider network of Apple devices.

Now other Apple devices around the world can pick up on this AirTag’s signal and help you locate your item via the Find My network. But how might this look in practice?

How do these networks…well, work?

Here’s an example where, say, you’ve forgotten your backpack at your office canteen – but remembered to attach a Samsung SmartTag to it.

  • Step one: switch on Lost Mode. With the Galaxy SmartTag 2, you can even enter your contact details via text. (In case someone’s found your lost item.)
  • Now if someone else using a Samsung device passes by, their device can pick up on the SmartTag’s signal.
A man holding a Samsung phone
  • Which in turn sends a last known location notification to your phone. 
  • Now you can go pick up your backpack (and tracker) based on this last known location.
  • From the related app, you can tap on your paired item to trigger a beep or a tone to locate your item audibly.

This makes these trackers a great option for locating a missing pair of keys or a purse on a busy morning.

But for an escape artist dog or cat who’s likely to run off a few miles by the time you realize they’re missing? Not quite.

A cat walking on a ledge by a pier

And this has to do with how these network-compatible item trackers are built in the first place. So here’s a quick explanation behind trackers like AirTags and Tile tags – and how they’re not 100% designed with pets in mind.

What do item trackers using a Find My Device network have in common?

Tile tags, AirTags, Samsung SmartTags, even the upcoming Google AirTag alternative – what do they have in common? (Besides a Find My Device network, of course.) Well, for starters, they’re all Bluetooth trackers – built for tracking objects and personal items.

Which means they’re usually… 

Limited in range 

Making these a great choice for personal objects that tend not to move too much by themselves. Aka, keys, backpacks, wallets, and the like. Here’s a breakdown of these Bluetooth devices and their maximum range.

ProductRange
Tile250-400 feet/76-121 meters
Apple AirTag32-98 feet/10-30 meters
Samsung SmartTagUp to ~400 feet/120 meters
The upcoming Google AirTag alternativeUp to 700 feet/200 meters

Now if your pet doesn’t tend to stray past the neighborhood block, one of these might just work for them. (Might.) But just for reference:

  • Even small dogs, senior dogs, or even disabled dogs tend to wander up to 1-2 miles (1.6-3.2 km) away from home.
  • A dog who’s run away because they were spooked by fireworks or has a skittish, shy temperament might run away anywhere between 5-10 miles (8-16 km) away from home.1
A small white dog running outdoors
  • Depending on whether you’ve got an indoor or outdoor cat, they might wander anywhere between less than a mile (40 meters) to up to 2 miles (3.2 km) away from home.

💡 Which is where a GPS tracker with unlimited range can be a lifesaver.

Here’s a quick distinction between GPS and Bluetooth trackers just in terms of range:

GPS vs Bluetooth tracker range comparison infographic

But wait – doesn’t a Find My Device network make a pet’s tracking range virtually unlimited? That’s to say, someone with an Apple or Android device might just pass your wandering dog or cat…at some point, right?

Well, yes, that’s a possibility. And in some cases (like if your pet runs off in a crowded city), it might just help. It’s also a possibility that this “someone” might just be a pet thief – or worse.

So here’s why being limited to such a network might not be best for pets either.

Limited to a network of devices

Now if your dog or cat runs off into a crowded city street, you might have some relief knowing that the network of devices around you might just ping your phone with their tracker’s location. Because if, say, you’ve attached a Tile tag to their collar, a passing Tile user’s tracker will pick up on their last known location – and notify you.

But that’s to say, if your pet hasn’t already been:

  • Injured by a passing vehicle, pet, or person
  • Dognapped, or picked up a pet thief
  • Poisoned from eating something they shouldn’t have
  • Picked up by a local animal shelter (which might hold them for 2-7 days until someone comes to pick them up)
A cat sitting alone on a city pavement surrounded by people

Besides, most of these trackers tend to work only with device-compatible networks. That’s to say:

  • AirTags will only connect to Apple’s Find My network. 
  • Samsung SmartTags likewise only with Samsung devices and SmartThings Find. 
  • Tile tags have some flexibility – being able to connect to both Apple and Android networks. (But you’ll only get notified if another Tile user passes by…or you’ve taken the extra, cumbersome steps to pair it with the Google Find My Device app instead.)
  • The upcoming Google tracker tag is unlikely to pair with Apple networks, relying only on Android devices instead.

And now imagine you’ve lost your dog while out on a hike or a run – or your cat wanders off into the woods or wilderness in a remote area.

I.e., areas where you’re less likely to run into a fellow smartphone user. (Let alone with the exact kind of device network your Bluetooth tracker needs.) Makes a Find My Device type network pretty useless in these cases.

A man carrying a cat out on a hike on his shoulders

💡On the other hand, a dedicated pet GPS tracker uses satellites around the world to track your pet’s real-time position. Your Tractive device, for example, doesn’t rely on any network of devices to update you where they’re off wandering. (Rather on GPS, wifi, and mobile connectivity to ensure maximum safety for your pets.)

One small perk these Bluetooth trackers still have? Using their networks to put out a call for your lost item. This can help fellow device users keep an eye out for a pair of keys or wallet that might resemble yours – and get it to a nearby Lost and Found.

And which, ironically enough, is actually a big disadvantage when it comes to locating a missing dog or cat. Because when you broadcast your search to a wide group of people, there’s always the risk a pet thief might intercept them instead. (Especially if they’re a purebred, a rare breed, or haven’t been spayed or neutered.)

Lightweight & “dangly”

Another common feature of these Bluetooth trackers is actually what makes them such popular item finders. I.e., they tend to be lightweight and easy to attach to a bag strap, keychain, or bike handle. Which makes them a solid option for non-moving objects which tend not to jump fences, hide when sick, chase off after woodland animals, or simply run off because they’re bored.

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

A “dangly” tracker, however, might just end up choking your pet instead – since they’re small enough to be swallowed by even medium-sized dogs. (And even cats.) AirTags,for example, have a well-documented swallow hazard. And since these are built with chemicals, it might irreparably damage your pet’s internal organs if swallowed by accident. (Or make a smaller dog or cat get stuck if they’ve crawled into a tight space.)

This is why a breakaway or safety collar is always a good idea for attaching a pet tracker. Or safety clips to help secure it against your pet’s throat. Tractive’s CAT MINI even comes accompanied with a special Rogz safety collar – while the Tractive DOG XL Adventure Edition includes fiberglass-reinforced bite-proof casing for even the most adventurous dogs.

Tractive pet monitoring GPS tracker

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.

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Why a pet GPS tracker = max security for your wandering pets

Whether you’re in the city, suburbs, way up in the mountains, or surrounded by woods – a GPS tracker means an entire sky full of satellites helping keep your buddy safe.

A dog out on a hike with a woman in a forest

And besides, dedicated pet GPS trackers are…well, actually built for pets. So they come with a ton of pet-friendly features built for your peace of mind – and your buddy’s wellbeing.

For example, besides its unlimited range, the Tractive GPS is built to…

Track your pet without relying on other devices

Tractive devices connect to mobile networks across 175 countries with their built-in SIM cards. So with just a glance at your phone, you can track where your pets are off wandering – no matter where they are. (Or you are.)

Which means there’s no need for you to rely on any other Android or Apple users to be around you to update your pet’s position. So you can hike, run, and swim in nature with your dog or cat – 100% stress-free.

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

💡Worried your outdoorsy pet might just ruin a tracker while out on a swim? No need to worry. Your Tractive device is 100% waterproof and built for all the rough and tumble outdoor adventures dogs and cats get up to.

Follow your pet’s movements in real-time

Probably the biggest perk over Bluetooth trackers, your Tractive device enables you to follow your pet’s every steplive and in real-time. Which, in an emergency, can be all you need to intervene and help your pet get to safety.

Like Kathy the Beagle, who was kidnapped by pet thieves in the middle of her hunting dog training.

How did her dad pick up on her being dognapped? From tracking her position with Tractive’s LIVE Mode.

He noticed her speed suddenly picking up and moving way off course, when he realized she’d been stolen. After calling the police and a two hour car chase, she was back in his arms – safe and sound.

⚠️ Bluetooth trackers, on the other hand, don’t include any real-time tracking capabilities.

  • At the most, some might include some ultra wideband (UWB) technology functions for real-time tracking at a range of 3-164 feet (1-50 meters), tops.
  • Which might not be enough to track down a dog or cat who’s been lured into a car and is being driven off at full speed.

💡Besides GPS functionalities, Tractive devices also include Bluetooth and Augmented Reality (AR) features to help you track your dog or cat at shorter distances. (Like if they’re indoors or in areas with poor cell coverage.) Just to get you the best of both worlds.

Foil any escape attempts

It can be tedious keeping an eye on your dog or cat every passing minute. Which is where Tractive’s Virtual Fence comes in handy. (I.e., both helping teach your pet their boundaries and letting you get some downtime.)

How does it work? Simple.

  • Once you’ve set up your tracker, you can create a “safe zone” for your dog or cat. (Like your backyard.) 
  • Now the minute your pet tries to sneak past it, your Tractive device instantly alerts you.
  • So you can intervene and pick them up before they escape.
Infographic Tractive GPS VIrtual fence

Which makes it a smarter, more humane (and affordable) alternative to invisible fences or e-collars that rely on static shocks to train your pet their boundaries. (And which vets and animal rights organizations discourage in the first place.) Just a safe, stress-free process that doesn’t compromise on your pet’s love and trust in you.

Track Your Pets With Tractive

Track your pet’s movements even in areas with poor network

Your Tractive device works a bit like a smartphone – it does need cell coverage to work best. But even if you lose connection for a bit, its Location History function continues to log your pet’s movements. Which gets updated on your app the minute your wandering pet ends up back within GPS range.

Ivelin Nenkov, Embedded Systems Engineer at Tractive

“If you want to pinpoint your pet’s location or store their Location History, you don’t actually need a cellular connection. So once you’ve equipped your Tractive GPS, there’s no need to worry if your device loses coverage for a little while. Your tracker stores your pet’s positions securely. So you’ll be able to see where they’ve been even if you’re offline.”

– Ivelin Nenkov, Embedded Systems Engineer at Tractive since 2016

Tractive’s Location History has even saved the lives of dogs and cats around the world. Like Imogen, a high-energy Borzoi (pictured below). Who crashed through the ice into a nearby lake – and was only rescued from freezing and drowning because her mom picked up on her tracker’s Location History updates. 

Imogen the Borzoi resting with her Tractive GPS tracker
  • Or a family of sick kittens rescued by the San Diego Feral Cat Coalition. With a Tractive device attached to Mama cat’s collar, they tracked down where she’d dropped each of her kittens from her Location History and Heat Map. Helping get each of the babies home where they were washed, fed, and adopted into forever homes.
  • Even Search and Rescue (SAR) teams around the world rely on Tractive’s Location History for their water rescues. Ontario-based SAR expert William Bolton follows his dog’s Tractive device and Location History to track down missing people in their community. (And bring them home safe and sound.)

💡Much like Bluetooth trackers, your Tractive GPS also helps you track your dog or cat visually (with an LED light for dark areas) or audibly (with a high-pitched melody for bright areas.) Find out more about your tracker’s Light & Sound features.

Take an active role in your pet’s health

Besides location tracking, your Tractive device also helps you stay on top of your pet’s health and wellbeing. Its built-in motion detector picks up on your pet’s movements throughout the day. Helping you monitor how active they are – and also how well they’re sleeping.

An outdoor cat exploring a garden with Tractive's Activity monitoring features in the foreground

With regular Activity Tracking, you can ensure your pet is getting enough exercise. Which, as vets recommend, is a great way to catch on to health issues early on.1 Because one of the first signs your dog or cat might not be feeling well is a drop in their daily activity. (Or if they seem more lethargic than usual.)

So if you’ve been tracking their active minutes and notice a dip or a spike, you can get them to a vet early on. (And avoid an expensive, avoidable medical emergency down the line.)

Besides, your tracker has you covered even if you haven’t been checking your pet’s active minutes every day:

Sebastian Raab, Product Manager at Tractive

“It can be easy to miss out on changes in your dog’s or cat’s regular activity – or just if they’re on the move more or less than usual. So we’ve set up Activity Degradation alerts for when your pet’s active minutes drop significantly. They can help you intervene in a situation where your pet might be struggling with an infection or even just pain.”

– Sebastian Raab, Product Manager at Tractive & occasional pet-sitter

Bluetooth item trackers vs Pet GPS trackers: A quick breakdown

Just to give you a picture of what you might be missing out with Bluetooth trackers, here’s a quick overview. We’ve compared the Tile tracker – and the Tractive GPS, so you can take a call which one works best for you.

tile bluetooth tracker
Tile Bluetooth Tracker
tractive gps tracker white
Tractive GPS
PurposeTracking items: keys, bags, etc.Tracking runaway dogs & cats
Price$24.99 on average$49.99 + subscription fees
Subscription PlanNot necessary, but you need a Premium subscription to unlock all featuresUnlimited range + coverage costs all covered from as little as $4.99 / month
Range400 feet/121 metersUnlimited
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
GPS
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
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

Discover GPS & Health Tracking For Pets

Why a Find My Device network = more perils than perks for pets

In general, relying on a network of devices is a better option for non-moving, easy to miss objects like your phone, wallet, or keys.

⚠️ For a living, moving pet, they’re not a great choice. These kind of trackers end up being:

  • Limited in range. Which might be anywhere from 32-650 feet (or 10-200 meters). Not far-reaching enough for the average dog or cat who might wander up to a mile (or more than 1.5 km) away if especially motivated.
  • Limited only to compatible networks. AirTags link only to Apple’s Find My network, SmartTags only to SmartThings Find, and the like. In an emergency, like if you’ve lost your dog in the woods, this means you now have to wait for a fellow Android or Apple user to wander into range of your missing pet to pick up on their last known location.
  • Lightweight and “dangly”, which might create a swallow hazard for most medium-sized pets. Or get a smaller pet stuck somewhere weird.

A network of connected devices also doesn’t keep your missing dog or cat safe from a pet thief. And besides, they weren’t designed with pets in mind. Both Apple and Tile have officially stated their trackers are built specifically for items – not pets.

But with a GPS tracker that lets you track your pet in real-time and over an unlimited range, you take on a more active role in your pet’s safety and wellbeing.

Which, like these happy Tractive pet parents have found, can make all the difference:

Tractive Trustpilot review
Tractive Trustpilot review

Track Your Pets With Tractive

Want to see Tractive’s DOG XL Adventure edition in action? Here’s a short, sweet video to get you pumped for your next outdoor adventure!

And if you’ve found this post helpful, share it with a fellow tech-savvy dog or cat parent – and let’s help build a safer world for our furry friends together.