One of our most common questions we get asked is will my pet be able to use your tracker. Pet owners (rightfully so) are concerned about hanging something around their pets neck and making them feel uncomfortable or worse hurting them.
Let’s start with an ideal world. In this world the tech would be very, very tiny. Possibly even embedded like the identity chips. Unfortunately this isn’t possible for a number of reasons.
- A GPS device needs a battery and batteries are essentially chemistry. The compounds cannot be made smaller without affecting the capacity of the battery.
- Batteries need to be recharged. Even fancy renewables can’t work effectively.
- A GPS needs an antennae -> the bigger the better
- Cell connectivity needs an antennae -> the bigger the better
Now, in a practical world we would have a really big battery (because who likes to charge every day) and a huge very powerful antennae for both cell connectivity and GPS. In-fact these types of devices do exist -> car tracking companies use them all the time. They are powered with a huge car battery and kept charged while your car is running. The antennae is not limited in space because your car has plenty available. In this case while you are driving, your car tracker can broadcast a location as often as it can without any inconvenience.
Obviously a pet can’t carry around a big battery or a device as large as a car tracker? So how big is too big but also how small is too small?
Dogs and Cats muscular system are much stronger than a human. Their muscles and skeleton is built to be much more rugged because they needed to survive in the wild. Unlike humans who survived in social groups and learnt to use tools pets must rely on their bodies to keep them alive. This is fundamentally important because even though your pet isn’t in the wild their bodies are still built to be very strong.
Dogs and Cats muscles can carry a tremendous load and since they don’t have arms and legs a considerable amount of that strength is situated in their shoulders and neck muscles. Domestic cats for example can carry ~50% of their body weight in their jaws while climbing a tree. In the wild this strength allows them to catch prey and move it to safety up a tree or drag it to a new safer location. If you consider this amount of weight -> a small cat who weighs just 3kg could carry a load in their jaw of around 1.5kg up a tree. I personally couldn’t carry half my body weight up the stairs with my teeth! Unless it’s shopping bags and I need to do one trip :).
Considering a small cat can carry such a large load what practically is the limit for a pet tracker? Well, weight isn’t ever an issue because at just a few grams (ours is just over 30 grams) even the tiniest cat can easily hold that weight. The limitations are the overall dimensions and only from a practical moving around perspective. Lightheartedly a helium balloon has a negative weight (it’s lighter than air) but has a massive footprint. It would be very unwieldy for even a large dog to have a helium balloon tied to their collar.
How do we know what the limitations are? We look at the size of the pets chest just below the neck/throat. If the tracker footprint is able to fit within this footprint then the tracker will be a suitable size and not restrict the pets movements or be uncomfortable (once they get used to it 🙂 ). Ours is ~5cm wide so well within the size limit of even a small cat.
What about too small? In an idea world we want a big battery and large antennae. The smaller the device footprint the smaller the battery or the antennae (or both) and this drastically reduces performance. A smaller battery will result in much more frequent charging and a smaller antennae will result in a poorer signal. And when it comes to finding a lost pet you want the best possible signal and the longest possible battery.
Check out this short clip of a tiny doggy carrying really big sticks :).
In conclusion, since pets are very, very strong weight isn’t a major issue. The length of the tracker is the most important factor – as long as it fit’s within the area of the chest under their neck they will be unobstructed while going about their day to day life.