Airtag Collars: The Key to Keeping Your Curious Cat Safe

Updated October 17, 2021

If you’re a cat owner, you know how adventurous our feline friends can be. Despite all our efforts to keep them indoors, they often find a way to slip out through an open door or window. This can lead to countless hours spent searching, worrying, and hoping for their safe return.

As a responsible cat owner, I am always on the lookout for innovative solutions to keep my furry companion safe. Recently, I came across an intriguing tech gadget called the AirTag. However, I soon realized that there are various cat tracking options available, each with its own pros and cons.

The World of Cat Trackers

Let’s take a closer look at the cat trackers available in Australia and explore their features and limitations. It’s essential to note that microchips, although vital for identification purposes, do not have tracking capabilities.

GPS Cat Trackers

GPS cat trackers are devices that utilize satellites to pinpoint your cat’s location with remarkable precision. The data is then transmitted to your phone via a sim card and mobile phone connection. However, it’s crucial to ensure that the tracker you choose is compatible with your country’s network coverage.

Pros:

  • Real-time information
  • Works anywhere with mobile reception

Cons:

  • Requires an ongoing subscription for mobile telephony
  • Relatively expensive
  • Heavier than other options
  • Requires frequent recharging

Bluetooth Trackers (e.g., Tile & BlaqWolf)

Bluetooth trackers rely on a downloadable app and the Bluetooth signal on your smartphone to locate your pet. These trackers can be located in two ways:

  1. When within Bluetooth range, using the app on your phone
  2. When someone else with the same app comes within range
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Pros:

  • Lightweight and can be attached to collars easily
  • More affordable
  • Long battery life

Cons:

  • Limited range, although generally more extensive than AirTag
  • Relies on other users of the same system to be near your cat when they are out of your Bluetooth range

Apple AirTag

Apple’s AirTag also operates on Bluetooth technology. It shares similar pros and cons with Tile and other Bluetooth trackers. However, it boasts one distinct advantage – a vast user base. When marked as ‘lost,’ AirTags are picked up by iPhones within range using the Find My feature, and a signal is sent back to your phone. Additionally, AirTags can be used with non-Apple phones, and their contact information can be revealed by tapping them on an iPhone.

Here are my personal experiences with AirTag:

  • Bluetooth range is relatively short, with approximately 10 meters indoors and 20 meters outdoors.
  • The weight is slightly heavier than Tile, but my cat seems to tolerate it well.
  • When I left it on a park walking track, I received location updates every 10 minutes, depending on the number of passersby.
  • Notifications can sometimes be outdated by the time you receive them, as your cat may have already moved.
  • AirTag is unable to function when your cat is in motion; they need to be stationary to be located.
  • It pairs exclusively with one Apple ID, allowing other devices to use the Find My feature when logged in as you.
  • Uses a CR2032 button battery, which is toxic if swallowed (mainly a concern for dogs).
  • The shiny side tends to get dirty (or perhaps my cat is just mischievous).
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Update: 2 Months Later…

My cat managed to escape once, and the AirTag sent me a notification through a neighbor’s phone. However, until I marked him as ‘lost,’ the notifications were only accessible through the Find My app. Fortunately, he returned home unscathed after an hour, making the AirTag’s confirmation of his escape a partial success.

An Apple update introduced a random beep feature for AirTags separated from an iPhone. This prevents potential misuse for stalking purposes but results in unexpected beeping from your cat’s collar. While I can’t determine how bothersome this is for them, it’s crucial to inform anyone caring for your cat, especially cattery owners.

In late 2021, Apple is set to release an Android app that allows non-iPhone users to detect AirTags.

AirTag Cat Collar Attachment

For my cat, I purchased the ‘Belkin Secure Holder with Keyring for AirTag’ for $20. Although the supplied keyring was too large, I replaced it with a smaller one, ensuring the AirTag hung comfortably around my cat’s neck without excessive swinging. While the holder can be written on, the writing tends to rub off. Instead, I plan to lightly engrave my phone number and address on the plastic. However, I will wait until the warranty expires to engrave the AirTag itself since Apple only allows four characters or emojis for free engraving.

I have come across specialized cat collars with AirTag inserts available online, but I cannot vouch for their security or comfort.

Is the AirTag Worth Buying for Cats?

Despite not being specifically designed for tracking cats and having inherent flaws, the AirTag is an affordable and well-tolerated option. Its most significant advantage lies in its detectability by the large number of iPhone users in your area. However, if your cat regularly ventures outdoors and you desire accurate location information, a GPS tracker would be a more suitable choice. Nevertheless, as a backup system for indoor cats, I consider the AirTag a worthwhile investment.

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Now, I’d love to hear your thoughts! If you have experience with any cat trackers, please share your views in the comments below. Your insights are invaluable.

Disclaimer: As a non-tech expert, I acknowledge the possibility of making basic errors in this information. Therefore, please do not solely rely on this article. Perhaps I should stick to my day job instead…

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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a veterinarian in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here.

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