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AirTag Katzenhalsband

Should I be using an AirTag* as a cat tracker?

Let's face it. We can only ever truly relax when our cat is at home with us. As soon as they walk out the door we´re uneasy. Every owner of an outdoor cat knows what it feels like when the cat is staying out past their usual time. Is something wrong with them? Where are they? Are they all right? These are the thoughts we all know too well. After all, cats encounter many potential hazards on their daily walks; cars, open basement doors, other animals or even people can be a threat to our pets. It makes sense that cat trackers have grown popular over the last years.

Cat trackers as a solution for outdoor cats?

Da die Haltung mancher Katzen ausschließlich in der Wohnung nicht möglich und auch nicht gewünscht ist, suchen wir Katzenbesitzer nach technischen Lösungen, um die Freigängerkatze auch draußen im Blick zu behalten. In den letzten Jahren haben viele Hersteller versucht Lösungen in Form von sogenannten Katzentrackern zu bieten. Informiert man sich als Besitzer, findet man im Netz schnell viele Angebote – und diese Angebote bestehen fast vollständig aus GPS-Trackern. Vor allem die Positionsbestimmung spielt hier eine große Rolle, aber auch das Nachvollziehen der Wanderungen der Katzen (sog. Heatmap) ist für viele Besitzer reizvoll. Dazu kommt, dass GPS ein erprobtes Modell ist, das viele von uns auch in anderen Lebensbereichen nutzen. Das klingt doch erst einmal alles sehr gut – oder? 

Katze AirTag

Pros and cons of GPS trackers for cats

Well-known providers are, for example, the "GPS Tracker from Tractive" or the "Curve from Vodaphone". GPS is a safe and well-established technology - you can't go wrong with that, right? Since the market is very competitive, the offers are supposedly cheap. BUT: for the consumer, crucial disadvantages quickly became apparent. GPS trackers only work with a SIM card which requires you to have a monthly subscription, as the service requires not only an active satellite connection for tracking but also a cellular connection to transmit the GPS data to the cat owner. As a result, many users of GPS trackers end up having to pay monthly or annual fees, regardless of whether the tracker is actively needed or not. As a pet owner you have to keep in mind that the purchase of a GPS cat tracker is associated with follow-up costs of 50 to 120 euros per year - depending on your terms and conditions.

For us an even bigger disadvantage is the weight and size of the trackers. GPS trackers are too large and heavy to be used on a cat collar. For medium and large dogs this is not a problem of course, but for the majority of cats, a GPS tracker would be too uncomfortable. Quite a few of our cats from LuyBalu team members rejected these devices and tried to take them off. Ideally, trackers should be able to be worn by cats all day or at least most of the time - just think of all the house cats that can leave their homes whenever they want. For owners of those cats, it´s not always possible to check that the heavy tracker is still where it´s supposed to be - on the cat. And last but not least - GPS trackers consume a lot of energy, which is why the battery needs to be charged every few days. With a second battery on hand, you can make sure that the tracker is always charged but this is not really practical for cat owners either. In conclusion - GPS trackers are not practical for cats and their owners in their daily life and on top of that they´re expensive, too. So is there an alternative?

LucyBalu AirTag
AirTag Halsband

The AirTag as an alternative for tracking cats?

Im April 2021 startete Apple den Verkauf eines neuen Produkts - des AirTag. Dieses auf den ersten Blick unscheinbare Produkt bietet eine "Single Use Case" Lösung. "Verlieren kannst du jetzt vergessen." AirTag ist ein Produkt zum Auffinden verloren gegangener Objekte. Praktisch über Nacht wurde das kleine Kunststoffteilchen zum neuen IT- Piece, um Dinge wie den Schlüssel, das Portemonnaie oder den Rucksack im Blick zu behalten oder eben wiederzufinden. Die Übermittlung der Position des AirTags läuft anders als beim GPS Tracker über Bluetooth. Deswegen benötigt der AirTag keinen Mobilfunkvertrag und auch kein monatliches Abo. Über die "Wo ist?" App können Apple-User nun neben dem eigenen iPhone auch ihre AirTag Objekte auf einer Karte anzeigen lassen. 

A huge advantage of the AirTag is that it´s lightweight and minimalistic. So simple, so small, so light. The AirTag is, of course, not the first Bluetooth tracker on the market. The company Tile, for example, has already brought smart Bluetooth trackers to the market years ago. All Bluetooth trackers have one major problem in common, though: their low range with a maximum of 30 meters. This means that you have to be close to the Bluetooth tracker with your device in order to find the object. To increase the chance of finding it, other companies have developed anonymous networks that you can join via an app (the Tile network, for example). How does Apple solve that range problem? The AirTag can be tracked worldwide despite its low wireless range. But how? The solution is the huge amount of Bluetooth devices on the network that already exists. After all, Apple's network includes hundreds of millions of iPhones, iPads, Macs and other Apple devices. That's sort of the magic ingredient in the AirTag's recipe that no other vendor in the world can duplicate. This gives AirTag an almost unbeatable advantage over conventional Bluetooth trackers. In addition, the AirTag can also be precisely located within a range of a few centimeters using the latest ultra-wideband technology, if the distance from your device to the AirTag is less than 10 meters.

The AirTag is a great product, but can it be used to track and find cats? We think so. Surveys show that many pet owners are already using - or at least want to use - the AirTag to track their pets. That makes a lot of sense, after all, there's no better Bluetooth tracker in the world for locating "objects". For dogs, attaching an AirTag to their existing collars is easy. For cats, this is now also possible in a safe and cat-friendly way with our Nemo cat collar. We´re sure the AirTag will also be optimized further for the use of "finding pets" by Apple in the coming years.

We want to be open and honest. The AirTag also has its disadvantages: For example, if it gets lost in places with hardly any Apple devices users the whole technology is useless. In other words, a cat with an AirTag in a rural area, with few mobile devices in the vicinity, will remain invisible on the map despite their tracker. After all, the AirTag does not allow for active tracking of the cat. However, for finding a lost cat, even knowing its last position can be a great advantage - and it´s definitely better than having no information at all. The development of the product is far from complete, which is why certain functions can and will still change. Some functions are really not that useful, especially when tracking pets. One example: It has been observed by AirTag users, that the AirTag sometimes plays a sound when it is separated from the person who registered it for a long period of time. This is supposed to prevent people from being able to use the AirTag to spy on people. Cats might get a scare hearing that sudden sound, unexpectedly. Therefore we recommend getting the cat used to the AirTag slowly by the sound to them in a safe space.

The cat trackers in comparison: AirTag vs. GPS Tracker

After extensive analysis of the different tracking methods for our cats, we agreed as a team. To be clear, neither AirTag nor GPS cat trackers are perfect. Nevertheless, overall we are clearly in favor of AirTag when it comes to tracking cats. Both tracker variants have their raison d'être. The point is to find the variant that is best suited for your own living situation. When is an AirTag useful as a cat tracker? And in which situations is a GPS cat tracker more suitable? Each device has its advantages and disadvantages. And both products have limitations and can only provide assistance in finding a missing cat.

LucyBalu would like to support you in your decision, which is why we compared the AirTag and a GPS Tracker for you. We used the market-leading GPS tracker for cats from the company Tractive in our comparison with the AirTag (last update: 22.07.2021).

Table header 0AirTagGPS Katzentracker
Size3,2 x 3,2 x 0,8 cm7,4 x 2,8 x 1,5 cm
Weight11 g28 g
Battery life> 1 year< 5 days
Subscription costs0 € -  nicht erforderlich50 - 120 €  pro Jahr
TechnologyBluetooth & Apple NetworkBluetooth & GPS
TrackingPassive (last available position)Active (live position through GPS signal)
Voraussetzungen für 
Apple device has to be close to AirTagGPS signal is required (mostly not available in buildings)
iPhone with preinstalled "Find my" appSeparate app on IOS or Android

For whom do we recommend a GPS device as a cat tracker?

Especially in rural and less densely populated areas, with good GPS signals and a comparatively low number of Apple device users, tracking via GPS is probably more reliable. In addition, if it is important to you to see where your cat moves around in its territory and what distances the cat travels, only GPS trackers will provide you with details like that. With GPS trackers the cat's position can also be shared with other family members and friends. With the AirTag, this is not readily available. Other features like activity monitoring or a "virtual fence" (i.e. a virtual fence that enables a warning signal whenever the cat crosses a certain boundary), we consider being more of a gimmick since those functions are often not usable for cat owners.

Katze AirTag

For whom do we recommend the AirTag as a cat tracker?

Our recommendation here is clear: Cats living in busier areas, are much better off with an AirTag. The AirTag is a cost-efficient cat tracker without hidden follow-up costs, it is splash-proof, waterproof and dust-proof. It has exactly one function: making finding things easier. And that's exactly what matters when a cat is lost. If you don't want or need extra gimmicks like heat maps, motion profiles or virtual fences, the AirTag provides you with the functional support you need when looking for your pet. You don't have to worry about the battery life either as it lasts a whole year. Additionally, the AirTag is so light and compact that it can be worn comfortably on a cat collar (note: we do not recommend the cat collar for AirTags for cats under 3kg). In urban living areas, a GPS signal will often not work reliably. The AirTag does, however, work perfectly even in urban areas. Many people move around every day with mobile devices such iPhones, iWatches or iPads that could interfere with a normal GPS tracker. A cat that's walking around with an AirTag can still be tracked without problems in an urban environment like that. If needed, cats could even be found if they were accidentally locked in a cellar if they're wearing the AirTag. A GPS tracker will most probably have problems doing that.

Our verdict: The AirTag is a great solution for tracking your cat

No matter which technology we use though, our cats can still get lost despite all of it. That's why we recommend for you to go to a vet and get your animal chipped and registered, just in case, so they can always find their way back to their owners. It doesn't matter if you end up choosing a GPS tracker or the AirTag - veterinarians, animal shelters and also the police will always check if the pet is chipped or not at first, not if they have a tracker or not. Tasso e.V. or also Findefix will help you find your pet using their chip and prove their success with that daily. After all you'd better be safe than sorry, so a combination of a tracker and their registered chip is what's best.

FYI - you can find our cat collar NEMO here:

*AirTag is a trademark owned by Apple Inc. Mention is made here for reference purposes only and does not indicate any sponsorship or endorsement from the brand owner.

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