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 more than four years since I made that promise, and my family and friends constantly tease me about how well I have kept it.

In Atlanta, I had a security camera with a motion sensor pointed at the floor of the front door and at Shadow’s favourite spots. I also had a cat trap handy, though I never used 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 the GPS tracker, 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. One day, 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. However, I am an Amazon affiliate and have included links that may result in a commission from your purchase. That said, you may use my advice at your own risk and discretion. I’ve now taken my cat across the country, into Mexico, and we travel full-time. So, I swear by this method I use.

What Is 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 might try to run off with, like your wallet, camera, or bike.

It is not, however, specifically made to track your pet. In fact, when registering my first Tile, “Pets” was conspicuously absent from the categories. Recently, Tile has caught on and has now added pets to the list.

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 $40 and they range in style from Pro to Mate to Slim. 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 GSP 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 Tile To Track My Cat?

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 at a low cost and with 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 or the stick-on versions. 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. Style and Sport have better waterproof ratings. Weigh the pros and cons and choose the one that’s best for you and your pet. The more rugged and the longer the range, the better it is for tracking my feisty feline.

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’re 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, you will receive a notification as soon as his or her Tile connects with someone else’s Tile app.

Is It Effective?

So, how effective is the Tile App compared to other options on the market? Is it worth the lower price point or are GPS trackers better if you want to truly invest in your cat’s safety?

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.

The Bottom Line

If you have a pet who is prone to wandering far distances, or who spends the majority of its 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. I have been using it for four years now and it has never let me down.

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!

This article was originally published in 2016 but has been updated now that I have been using Tile to track my cat for several years. We travel together full-time across North America and still rely on Tile to keep kitty safe.

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

  1. I have a dog that used to run to the neighbors all the time. The neighbors were nice and almost didnt care, I however want my dog to stay home. He’s a medium sized Doberman Shephard. Recently our neighbor came over to say he’s been there regularly for the past year and that their a little fed up with him peeing on everything. I think he’s figured out our schedule and runs away knowing when we’ll be gone for a few hours. I go to work 5 days a week, how do I setup my tile app, so that I dont get notified when I leave but get notified when my pet leaves. I basically need geofencing. If this is not possible then how do I set it up so I get the least amount of false alarms when I go to work? I have subscribed to premium and have activated smart alerts.

    1. Hi Phil, I’m sorry to hear you have such a skilled escapee on your hands. I would recommend getting an actual GPS collar for your dog. Tile smart alerts lets you know when you leave something behind but, I’ve never used it for geofencing. I remember them testing that feature a few years ago, but I don’t know what became of it.

  2. Has anyone figured out a way to attach it to a collar without the Tile dangling? My cat escaped twice in our lives – both times traumatic for us and both times she was only two houses down. She never wore a collar as an indoor cat, but I just got her a Tile and collar. She’s little, so when she jumps or plays, it kind of swings up in her face. I’d love to kee it flush against her somehow.

    1. Hi Sofia, I’m sorry to hear your cat is a mastermind at escaping! I would recommend getting a much smaller Tile. I use the sticky one now for Shadow and I stick that to the back of his name tag that has my phone number etc on it. It’s 3M tape and has never come loose, even though he likes to dip it in water.

  3. 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.

  4. 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. 🙁

  5. 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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