Lifehack: Where's my cat?

Publication date: 2020-04-23
Last update: 2020-04-23
Author: Victor Celer

 

Our pets, especially cats and kittens, like running away and hiding around. Sometimes, after searching indoor one has to trouble the neighbors asking permission to look for the runaway inside their houses. Even the most domestic cat can go missing all of a sudden.

After searching around for a long while one can realize that the pet was well concealed in its house all the time.

Hiding cat

 

GPS Trackers

There are many GPS trackers and collars available. Most of them are moderately large and heavy. Therefore, they are suitable for pets with large body size. Cats can be too small to wear such a device.

Another concern is that a GPS tracker can be rather expensive, usually in the range from 50 to 100 USD. A pet wearing an expensive device can attract thieves.

The battery charge can last for several days or weeks.

Since GPS trackers are not well suitable for small pets, we'll focus on Bluetooth technology instead.

 

Bluetooth Beacons

A Bluetooth beacon can be light and compact enough for small pets: coin-size beacons are available. The typical cost is less than 50 USD. The battery can last for months.

The main limitations are accuracy and range. The typical beacon range is around 100 - 300m. Therefore, if our four legged friend runs far away it might appear out of range. The accuracy of a Bluetooth positioning system is far less than GPS. Typically it's just enough to tell if the pet is inside the house or outside. If there are several neighbor houses the beacon can help to identify which house the pet is hiding in without having to inspect them one by one.

Beacon

 

Beacon Tracking App

Typically the beacon manufacturers provide a smartphone app, which can be used to reconfigure the beacon device and estimate the distance between the handset and the beacon. Usually the beacons are preconfigured and ready to be used. However, by reconfiguring the beacon to disable unnecessary features and reduce the advertising periodicity can significantly increase the battery life. If this sounds too technical feel free to skip or postpone the reconfiguration.

Android We feature our own beacon tracking app for Android: Beacon Radar. The Lite version is totally free and doesn't contain ads. It is compatible with most beacons from virtually all known manufacturers. It doesn't use mobile data and the battery usage is minimal.

 

Select the Right Beacon

The lack of precision and relatively short range of the Bluetooth beacons is compensated by higher autonomy (i.e. low battery usage), compactness, lighter weight and lower cost. However, don't rush to buy the first beacon available. Consider some advices:

  • It's recommended to select a waterproof model to avoid damage if the beacon is exposed to humidity. For example, this can be the case while the pet is drinking.
  • Shock resistance is also recommended. Otherwise the beacon can break easily.
  • Rechargeable batteries, if available, are preferred. In any case it's important to clarify what kind of battery is in use and how to replace or recharge it. Sometimes the whole beacon is disposable, which is not environment-friendly.
  • Take some time to read the specifications.