How to Use Tiles to Track Your Escapee Cats (Or Dogs!)

In the fall of 2016, I lost my cat. It was one of the most devastating experiences of my adult life. So, when I adopted Shadow in the winter of that same year, I vowed that I would do a better job of keeping my cat safely indoors. It’s been almost two years since I made that promise, and my family and friends constantly tease me about how well I have kept it.

I have a security camera pointed at the floor of the front door and at Shadow’s favourite spots, with a motion sensor. I also have a cat trap handy, though I have never had to use it. And finally, I purchased an expensive pet tracker with an annual subscription fee of nearly $100 that does a sub-par job, at best, of keeping track of my cat.

Shadow the PR Cat 2.jpg
Can you spot the camera?

The one time Shadow got out while we had it, I had to find him on my own, and it took half a day! Ever since that day, I’ve been looking for a better—and cheaper—alternative. And, recently, I decided to try using Tile to help me keep my cat safe.

Before I continue, let me give a few disclaimers, Tile did not ask or pay me to write this. I’m just sharing what has worked for me. You may use that advice at your own risk and discretion. That said, let’s go!

What Is Tile?

Photo Credit: Tile

If you’ve never heard of it before, a Tile is a small, usually square device that you can attach to anything you usually lose. Whether you lose small things like your keys, or bigger things, like your car in a parking lot, Tile is a great way to help you find it. It’s also great for items thieves usually run off with, like your wallet, camera, or bike.

It is not, however, specifically made to track your pet. In fact, when registering your tile, “Pets” is conspicuously absent from the categories.

How Does It Work?

Simply install the app, register your Tile, and it will connect via Bluetooth. If you lose a tracked object nearby (up to 300 feet), open the app, click “Find”, and it will begin to ring the Tile. You may also view its location on a map.

If you lose something and have since left the area, or a thief has made off with it, when that Tile comes into contact with other devices on which the Tile app is installed, it will update its last-seen address, and you can view that on a map.

If you’re worried about keeping it charged, the battery somehow lasts for an entire year. I don’t know about you, but keeping a pet tracker charged is one of the most annoying parts of owning one.

How Much Does It Cost?

The company prices its Tiles at $20 to $35 and ranges in styles from Pro to Mate to Slim. However, I paid $16.69 for Shadow’s Tile Style on eBay, which is from the older Pro Series, the highest at the time it was made. For $21.95 on eBay, I also bought a Tile Sport, which is also from the old Pro series.

In short, if you shop around, you can probably get it cheaper, or benefit from discounts on bulk purchases. Even the full price, however, is way cheaper than the $59.99 I paid for Shadow’s tracker, which is a discounted sale price of the original $79.99.

Tile has no subscription fee, which is a zero dollar comparison to the $95.40 I paid for the annual subscription for Shadow’s device. You do, however, have to replace your Tile every year, but at $35 per year, I can hardly complain.

How to Use It For Tracking Fido + Mr. Whiskers

If you’re still reading this, then you are just as interested as I was in figuring out: how can I use this technology to track my pet, even though it wasn’t specifically made for this?

At first, I scoured the internet, looking for other people who had written blog posts about using the Tile to track their pets. I found only one guy who used it to track his dog. However, his dog never got out, so he never got to test it.

Tile has, however, shared stories of people who use their tech to track turtles and dogs. Hopefully, this encourages them to add more pet-friendly features. But, until then, here’s how you can use Tile technology to keep your pets safe for a low cost and no hassle.

1. Check the Community

Since Tiles aren’t very useful beyond a few hundred feet, you should check the Tile network before testing this out. When you install the app and create an account, your phone automatically becomes a Tile. You can then check to see how many other users are nearby. If you don’t have at least another few hundred users in your area, it’s probably not worth trying.

There is one workaround, however, and I will mention that later on, so keep reading.

2. Go Pro

When purchasing a Tile, go for the Pro series. As I mentioned, I have the Style and Sport, but these are no longer sold. Now available, is the Tile Pro. The Style and Sport work up to 200 feet, but the new Pro Series go up to 300 feet. However, the Style and Sport have better waterproof ratings, so if the option is available to you, choose the one that’s best for you and your pet. The more rugged and the longer the range, the better it is for pet tracking.

3. Install + Register

If you haven’t already, once you have your Tile in hand, install the app and register your Tile. However, don’t just stop there. Especially if you don’t have hundreds or thousands of people using the app in your area, do the following:

  • Install the app on any and all devices in your home that is compatible with it.
  • Encourage family and friends who are usually in or near your home and pets to install the app and create their own accounts.
  • Encourage your neighbours to install the app.

Remember, they don’t need Tiles to use the Tile app. And, if you’re looking for a selling point, remind them that they can use the app to track their phones if they lose it or if it’s stolen.

4. Share Pet Tiles

Another cool feature of the Tiles is that you can share them with other account holders. For instance, my family and some of the teammates at Alexis Chateau PR, also have access to Shadow’s Tile. This gives them access to his location.

If your pet gets out while the pet sitter is around, this can help them to find your pet without alerting you. You can also easily “unshare” the Tile when you want to.

5. Ring Your Pet

If you’re ever wondering where your pet is, or want to verify that they’re inside, click the “Find” button and ring your pet. You can then follow the sound. However, this feature is only available if you are within the Bluetooth range.

If you have already encouraged family, friends, and neighbours to install the app, then your pet won’t get very far before someone else’s Tile app picks him up and shoots you an address, anonymously.

6. Notify When Found

If your pet is completely out of range of you or anyone else you know, then use the app to request to be notified, while you continue your search. Then, not only will you get a passive update of his new location, but you will receive a notification to ensure you don’t miss it.

Is It Effective?

Previous Pet Tracker

A few months after I bought the expensive GPS tracker for Shadow, he got out. The tracker notified me that he was out, but could only tell me Shadow was on the property. Besides searching high and low, there was no other way to find my cat. After almost half a day had gone by, I found Shadow playing hide-and-seek in the woods about 30 feet from my front door. It turned out, he had been there all along.

Tile Style Tracker

On my birthday, a week or two after purchasing the Tile Style for Shadow, he got out. I picked up my phone to ring him in case he was inside, but the app told me he was out of range.

I was sure, then, that he was outside. I checked that spot in the woods he likes to hide in outside my door, but he wasn’t there, and the app still said he was out of range. I clicked “Notify When Found” and continued to look.

Half a minute or so later, I received a notification that Shadow was near a family member who lives on the other side of the property. As I walked around to her door, he came back into range. I rang his Tile and followed the sound to find him playing in her hedges.

The whole rescue mission took about five minutes or less.

If you have a pet who is prone to wandering far distances, or who spends the majority of their time outdoors, then you should definitely invest in one of the more expensive tracking options. However, if you have an indoor-only pet who occasionally ventures outside without your notice, and rarely roams far from the house, then Tile might be all you need.

Maybe one day I’ll try another expensive GPS tracker, loaded with features. But, for now, I am content with Tile. After all, it did for me what my expensive GPS tracker did not i.e. help me find my escapee and bring him home safely in five minutes or less.

If you’re wondering what I did with the expensive tracker, since it has another 4 months of service still remaining, it’s sitting in a drawer in the work desk, wasting away. I had originally planned to hide it in my car and use it as a car tracker, but it doesn’t keep charged long enough for me to be bothered with it. So, I have a Tile for that, too. 🤷‍♀️

Has your indoor-only pet ever gotten out? How did you find him? How long did it take? Have you ever used the Tile service before? Tell me all about it in the comments below!

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18 thoughts on “How to Use Tiles to Track Your Escapee Cats (Or Dogs!)

  1. One of my biggest fears is losing my cats, but it always seemed irrational to me since we keep them strictly indoors. I told Justin that when we get our house and move them into it, if he ever lets them out accidentally- he’s gonna have one hell of a time getting me to forgive him!

    1. I always felt like cats needed to have access to the outdoors…until my cat went missing. Shadow is strictly indoors, but every so often he sneaks out when the door is open–about once or twice per year.

      Funny enough, I mostly use the tracker to find him indoors. I don’t know if your cats like to play hide and seek, but Shadow sure does. Now he can’t win, because when I don’t know where he is, I ring his tile 😂

      My mom uses it, too. My apartment is a part of the main house, and there’s a connecting door. So sometimes she opens it so he can play. He likes to go in the garage and chase any critters that come in (we keep the garage doors closed, too). Then she’s ready to leave or go to bed and no one knows where he is. Now she just rings his tile! Poor Shadow has been outwitted!

      I really think Tile should consider putting in more pet friendly features, like letting us set a safe zone or something. It’s such a good product!

      1. I’m glad you’ve got something to keep ahold of him now! Mine don’t have front claws (and they’re fat babies) so they wouldn’t fair too well outside haha

      2. You declawed them? 😱 I don’t trim Shadow’s at all. I always worry that if I do he might not be able to defend himself if he needs to. He’s not very fat. Lean and fluffy 😂

      3. We have to when they were young because they were feral when we got them and they had problems with their paws (they’re polydactyl, meaning they have extra toes that look like thumbs)

      4. Oh yes, I remember you saying you had adopted ferals. You definitely can’t let them out. They can’t defend themselves and they’re probably not as agile without claws, too.

  2. I think that is a very good idea, as losing a pet is a very upsetting experience.  Beano disappeared  from our in-laws garden last year when they went out in their car and I was sick with worry for about 5-10 minutes as I feared he might have followed them down the road.  My husband and I were frantic calling his name and we were extremely relieved when we saw him in the next door neighbours’ front garden, right by the gate: he had squeezed under a bush!  We do not have a tracker for him, but we keep him on the lead when we walk him.  As for my in-laws house, we cannot take him there any more because since then, their huge dog attacked Beano and it was very vicious (I was hysterical and has a panic attack).  They will not get rid of their dog, so we can’t take ours there either.

    1. I cried for months when I lost Smokey. We think cayotes got her, making it all the more important to keep Shadow inside. I couldn’t go through that a second time. 😭

      I’m sorry to hear about Beano! I wonder if they know how they give us heart attacks when they disappear like that! You would have been able to ring him like I did with Shadow. Dogs are easier to spot though. Cats know all the hiding spots, so that ringer is a lifesaver when you can’t see them and they’re right under your nose!

      I don’t understand why people can’t take responsibility for bad dogs. 🙁

  3. I have an outdoor cat who likes a wander and have considered getting a tracker but part of me thinks it’s better not to know where he goes as it’d only make me worry more.

    Out of curiosity though, how do you attach it to your cat? Mine has a bit of a tendency to lose collars on a regular (weekly) basis.

    1. Outdoor cats are supposed to have breakaway collars so buying an expensive tracker is a tricky decision. You would need a fixed collar to keep it on, but it might choke him if he gets stuck hanging by it. And then if you put a tracker on a breakaway collar, you might lose the tracker. The batteries only last so long and the locations aren’t accurate. Mine was sometimes a whole block off.

      Because Shadow is an indoor only cat (and maybe also because he’s just well-behaved) he never loses collars. When they get old, we toss them out, but that’s about it.

    1. Shadow is indoor only and still manages to weasel his way out occasionally. This has been so handy. When I can’t find him, I just ring it. I know instantly if he’s indoors or not. He gets into mischief indoors too. Couldn’t find him all night on Thursday. He was locked in the closet 😂

      1. Oh, don’t they love closets! And then, ours haven’t even got the sense to complain. The only way to find ’em is to open all likely ones.

      2. Hahahaha! What do they do in there? Shadow would usually complain for the mere fact that he doesn’t like to be separated from me. I can’t close the bathroom door to take a shower without him wailing away.

        But that night he didn’t make a peep! I was wondering where he was, the little booger. He spent a full 8 hours in the closet!

    1. Haha, yes! I’ve seen packs of 4 for sale. Try the Tile website, Best Buy, eBay, and Amazon. I think I need another one for my purse. I’ve misplaced it twice in the past few days and both times it wasn’t far from me but I figured that out after endless searching!

      Oh, I didn’t include it in the post because it wasn’t relevant to tracking a cat. But, since when you install the app your phone becomes a Tile, you can ring it. So I can press the button on Shadow’s tile and it will ring my phone, even if it’s on silent, as long as it’s nearby. Not sure if you tend to lose that too 😄

      1. Well, problem solved, haha. Make sure you get Rude Ass and Sunshine to install it, or just do it for them. But let them make their own account. That way you’ll know exactly who your stuff is around. It will say, “Keys are near Sunshine” or “Mollie is near Rude Ass”. 😃

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