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In this guide
Do you have trouble keeping tabs on the furriest members of your household? A GPS pet tracker is one way to ease your mind when they’re out of sight. The best pet tracker is small and lightweight, with a secure collar fastening and long battery life. It also has a good tracking range, with geofencing alerts for when your pet decides it’s a good time to play Marco Polo.
How we picked
To hunt down the best GPS tracker for cats and dogs, we started by checking CHOICE, Australia’s biggest consumer advocacy group. CHOICE has only reviewed the TrackR Bravo, so we added this device to our list and headed over to ProductReview.com.au. Most were very poorly reviewed, so we cast our nets wider.
After having a nosy at picks by international guides, we started tracking down Australian equivalents with a little window shopping. Amazon.com.au had the widest selection of pet trackers, and we used some of their reviews to help guide our picks. After crossing off devices that don’t work outside of the USA, we settled on our top choices. That’s how we ended up with our guide to the best GPS pet trackers in Australia.
Do I need a pet tracker for my pet?
While a pet tracker is next to useless on a goldfish, it’s a good idea for cats and dogs who like to wander. Because pet trackers have vastly different tracking ranges, some are better suited to finding cats or small dogs around the house or neighborhood, while others are more ideal for serious bush treks. Trackers can help you keep an eye on your cat or dog while you’re at work. They may also be useful for travelling with pets.
How does a pet tracker work?
There are a number of different tracking technologies used by different devices. Some of the most common are GPS, RF, bluetooth and LTE. Let’s break them down.
GPS is one of the more popular systems used in wide-range pet trackers. GPS stands for Global Positioning System, and it’s a service operated by the United States Space Force. While it’s free for anyone with a GPS receiver, this system needs a clear line of sight to 4+ satellites to determine location.
Using radio waves, GPS calculates the location of the receiver based on the time it takes to receive signals from different satellites. Because they often work without internet connection, these kinds of trackers are best for hiking or bush expeditions.
RF-based tracking refers to radio frequency-based tracking systems. Devices using these systems rely on electromagnetic radio waves to transmit data between tracking tags and receivers. Bluetooth systems also use radio waves to send and receive information. Pet trackers that use these systems are best for keeping tabs on your cat or dog within a few hundred metres.
LTE, or Long Term Evolution, is European technology also used by some pet tracking devices. Somewhere between 3G and 4G, it’s a wireless network based on internet protocol, or IP standards. LTE-based gadgets usually rely on cellular networks, which means they’re best suited to tracking around the neighborhood or inside the home.
How is a pet tracker different from a microchip?
While both technologies are designed to keep your pet safe, pet trackers and microchips serve different purposes.
A pet tracker is usually much larger than a microchip, housing wireless technology that allows you to actively track your pet from a receiver device like a mobile phone. Pet trackers rely on different network technologies to transmit live information about your pet’s whereabouts. If the batteries run out on transmitting or receiving devices, you won’t be able to see the live location of your pet.
A microchip is much smaller than a pet tracker, usually about the size of a grain of rice. It’s inserted under your pet’s skin. These chips aren’t big enough to house GPS tracking, and don’t rely on bulky batteries. Microchips are used to store information about your pet, including your contact details. Vets, councils and animal shelters can scan them to get in touch with you if your cat or dog is found.
Microchips don’t actively pinpoint your pet’s location on a receiver, but pet trackers aren’t as useful when their batteries die, or when your pet strays out of range. Microchipping is currently mandatory for dogs in Tasmania, and for both cats and dogs in ACT, NSW, QLD, WA and VIC. This means pet trackers are a way to keep an active pinpoint on your animals when you’re out and about, while microchips are an essential backup to help reunite you with your pets if they’re found without you.
Do pet trackers work offline?
Whether or not your pet tracker works offline depends on the kind of technology it uses. GPS trackers with a separate receiver, like the Dogtra Pathfinder Trx, generally work without cell phone data, as they rely on satellites to transmit information to the receiver rather than mobile networks or the internet. That said, you’ll still need charged batteries and pre-downloaded maps to pinpoint your pet.
Pet trackers that rely on technologies other than GPS are more likely to require an active internet connection, but this can vary depending on the network system your pet tracker uses. If you’re heading off-grid, GPS pet trackers with separate receivers offer reliable long-range tracking. But if you’re just monitoring your dog around a local area, LTE, Bluetooth, and RF-based systems should do the trick.