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.
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?
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!