We used to have a rule about pets in our home: they had to be non-shedding, quiet and requiring very little exercise. In other words, we had goldfish.
But just over a year ago we threw that rule out the window and adopted a rescue kitten from the DSPCA. She does parkour-style trips around the house at about 4am most days, the now overworked robo-vac doesn’t know what’s hit it, and there are more toys and beds for a cat around the house than there are for people.
Any rules we had imposed – no cat in the bedroom, no cat on the bed, definitely not sleeping there at night – have pretty much gone out the window, too.
Until fairly recently, Luna was a house cat, not willing to poke her nose outside the window in case a puff of wind got her. But times change. The timid kitten and nervous house cat has grown into a full-on adventurer, who thinks nothing of scaling the trellis to get to the top of the six foot wall bordering the garden.
She also has a long-standing beef with a local cat that lives nearby and would like to pursue the same with an urban fox that occasionally wanders across the back wall, if only she was allowed out at the right moment.
She is still mostly a homebody, but after one occasion when I had to tempt her down off the garden shed with a can of cat food and a bag of Dreamies, an edict was laid down. Although she is chipped and has an address tag on her collar, the cat was housebound until we got a GPS tracker that could locate her if she got stranded.
As GPS relies on satellites, this process works a lot better when your cat is outdoors. Indoors, you are likely to get a lot of false readings
Enter the Weenect XS tracker, which claims to be the smallest on the market. Strap this GPS collar on to your cat and you can let them roam with peace of mind that you might actually be able to find them should they go AWOL for any length of time, via a mobile app.
The tracker itself, which comes in black or white, costs €50. But its uses a mixture of GPS, 2G and 4G technology, so you will need a subscription to the service to get the mobile network activated and access real-time positioning. The packages for that come in monthly (€10), yearly (€70) or three-year subscriptions (€150). We stumped up for the year, a process that took only a few minutes.
Once the tracker is activated, you should be able to see it on the map. As GPS relies on satellites, this process works a lot better when your cat is outdoors. Indoors, you are likely to get a lot of false readings.
The GPS updates regularly, but if you activate Superlive mode, it kicks things up a notch. For between one minute and 30 minutes at a time, your cat’s location is updated almost in real-time. There are consequences for battery life, of course, so it is best used sparingly, such as when you are trying to locate your cat immediately.
There are limitations to GPS technology. Even in Superlive mode, outdoors with no obstructions overhead, the tracker sometimes gives us a location that is a little off: a field across the road when our cat is in the back garden; a garden a few houses away when she is hiding behind our shed. The history feature on the app, which shows where your cat has been, is an eye opener, considering she never actually leaves our garden during the period I am reviewing.
There are other times – clear skies, clear weather – when the GPS is much more accurate. Once, when the cat hid in the garden for a longer period of time, it was easy to find her.
Being able to “ring” the cat means we can locate her hiding places indoors, although not all cats will like this particular function
GPS is also not reliable indoors. But Weenect has you covered. There is a flashing light on the collar – useful for locating the cat outdoors at night – a ringing function, which will help guide you to the cat if she likes to hide in bushes or long grass- and a vibration function that can help with recall if you train your cat to associate it with feeding time. All these features can be triggered through the app, so even if your cat has left the house and Bluetooth range of your phone, you can call them home.
Battery life is a few days if you are using the standard GPS mode, but it charges quickly. You will get warnings through the app when the battery level dips low enough to need to charge, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Put it into power-saving mode when at home by setting up a wifi zone, and you can also locate the cat indoors. When the tracker recognises it is in close to your wifi network, it will go into power-saving mode, only kicking into full GPS again when your cat leaves the designated area.
If you want peace of mind, the Weenect tracker is a good option. Being able to “ring” the cat means we can locate her hiding places indoors, although not all cats will like this particular function. Try it out a few times first, at short rings before subjecting your cat to the full effect.
The tracker itself is curved, so it fits loosely to the cat’s neck, and it isn’t too heavy either,
GPS isn’t as accurate as you might think. Even with Superlive mode enabled, the cat looked to have travelled several houses down the street when she was really just around the side of my house.
Battery life, as you would expect from a small device, is not the longest. Use power-saving zones and charge the tracker in the 15-plus hours a day your cat spends sleeping to make sure that you get the most out of the device.
You can spend extra for premium services – €3 a month for access to live customer care, rather than wait 24 hours for an email back, another subscription that covers the tracker if it goes missing or breaks – but the first month of that is included free and you can cancel it at any time.
Not always pinpoint accurate, but it gave us peace of mind. That alone is worth the price. Getting it on your cat will be its own challenge.