How your cat tracking device works depends on what type of tracker it is. Most GPS trackers will use global satellites to work out a precise location, they may also rely on cellular data too if there is limited satellite coverage in the area.
More basic cat trackers often make use of radio frequency signalling, these trackers are generally cheaper but no less accurate than their GPS rivals.
How do GPS Trackers Work?
GPS stands for Global Positioning System, it is a global network made up of 31 radio navigation satellites and their ground-stations. These satellites orbit the earth at about 12,000 miles above ground level. They travel twice around the world every day, this equates to an average speed of 7,000 miles per hour!
GPS trackers make use of this network by utilising microwave signals which are transmitted directly to GPS devices to provide real-time information on location, speed, direction and time, of all this data can be tracked on your GPS device.
However in order to be able to provide this data your GPS device must be locked onto signal from at least three satellites as this allows your signal to be triangulated and thereby provide accurate location data. This is done by your device accurately calculating it’s distance from each of the three satellites (by measuring the time it takes to receive a signal). Receiving signal from three satellites allows a GPS device to give your latitude and longitude however if your are receiving signal from four or more devices you can also get your precise altitude.
How do Cellular Data Trackers Work?
Cellular Data Trackers (or Mobile Phone Tracking) works by triangulating your telephones signal, although most phones these days will have built in GPS units when GPS is unavailable they will fall back on mobile signal triangulation.
Signal triangulation works by measuring the distance between your phone and the nearest base station which it is communicating with. In areas where there are more base stations location accuracy will be much better than areas where base stations are few and far between. However accuracy achieved with mobile tracking will be significantly less accurate than it is with GPS, realistically mobile tracking will usually manage to pin point your location to somewhere within 50m of your actual location.
As it is fairly rough it is best not to use a mobile only cat tracker as 50m is a lot of distance to search when you are looking for a lost cat, fortunately not many trackers use this method (though most trackers will fall back on it if GPS signal is poor).
Read more about how mobile phone tracking works here.
How do Radio Frequency Cat Trackers Work?
Radio Frequency Tracking is formal known as Radio Frequency IDentification (or RFID). The RFID itself is made up of a small chip and antenna which emit a unique signal which can be tracked by a frequency scanning device.
Radio Frequency Trackers require three parts, they need a receiver which can decode the signal this will also include the second part which is the scanning antenna which is used to find and pick up the signal. Finally you will need a Transponder (this is the tagged RFID) which your cat would carry on it’s collar as part of the tracking device, this part emits the signal which your transponder picks up to locate your cat.
RFID tags have a lot in common with security tags that are used in shops to prevent theft. However the difference with the type of tag you will find in a Radio Frequency Tracker is that the tags used are active tags. Meaning that unlike security tags they have their own power source allowing them to be much further away and still receive signal from the trans-receiver, typically these tags can last up to 10 years, so if you can’t be bothered regularly changing or charging batteries that a RF tracker is definitely the tracker for you! If you’re interested in getting a Radio Frequency tracker for your cat we recommend the Tabcat Tracker.