They say that cats have nine lives, but the life they lead may be more complex than you think. Cats are fickle creatures and will disappear quite frequently while their owners hope that they will return, often not knowing where they go.
Pet tracking devices may be the answer to this. Much like a fitness device that a person might wear, a pet tracking device attaches to the collar of the cat, allowing the owner to monitor their movements throughout the day via an app.
The device made an appearance on popular RTÉ show Cat Hospital in 2019, when a woman living in Cork city used the device to track her cat’s movement and found that it covered miles of territory far beyond the city outskirts each day.
According to Rachel Callanan at the Cat Hospital in Glanmire, Co. Cork, tracking devices are useful if your cat disappears frequently but certain factors need to be considered before buying.
“They’d be heavy and thicker than normal collars, which can put pressure around the cat’s neck. You need to make sure that it’s suitable for your cat. If they jumped from high areas, like from a tree or high wall, the weight of device might cause it to fall off and they’re too expensive to be replacing.”
For cat owners in other parts of the world, using a device to monitor their cats’ movements is described as “a godsend.” Thom Fahrbach, a cat owner in Portland, Oregon, decided to start tracking his cats after seeing two coyotes walking through the streets of his quiet town one night.
“I live in a coyote-populated neighbourhood. Our cats would be out in the evening - one would come home and the other would periodically stay out all night. We were so worried.” Urban foxes who roam the streets primarily at night pose a similar threat in Irish neighbourhoods. Young cats are especially vulnerable to being caught by them if left to roam outside.
“Our cats were only a year old when I saw coyotes slinking about between people’s cars parked along the street, we knew they might not be savvy enough to outwit them.”
The estimated number of cats owned by Irish households has steadily grown throughout the years. Currently there are roughly 325,000 pet cats in the country – an increase of 15% in the past ten years, so there's certainly a market here for the devices.
A collar with tracking device will cost € 60 - €100, depending on what results customers want to see. All devices require a subscription to an app, which is where the cost will increase. Currently, veterinary practices around Ireland do not offer tracking devices for pets but they are readily available to buy online.
According to Mari O’Sullivan at Blackwater Veterinary Practice in North Cork, breeding is the main reason that cats might disappear for hours at a time.
“When a female cat or dog comes into season, the male picks up the scent from many mile away - nothing will stop them for leaving their home and finding them, so it accounts for a lot of gallivanting.” Breeding season generally occurs twice a year around the spring and summer, but if your cat has been neutered, their disappearance is more mysterious.
If your cat goes missing for hours at a time, it may be worth knowing where they go if you have a valid concern for their safety and worth it for peace of mind at the very least.