A new breed of gadgets helps pet owners track their wayward pals.

By Katie Kemple


It's simple and painless — and best for indoor dogs that often go collarless. Your vet injects a tiny computer chip (the size of a grain of rice) under the animal's skin between the shoulder blades. Along with your contact info, the chip's number is added to a database accessible to animal hospitals, shelters, and humane societies. Since the chip can't get lost or damaged, it lasts for a pet's lifetime. Ask your vet for info or go to homeagainid.com.

Pros: An affordable, permanent way to identify your pet.Cons: The procedure must be performed by a vet. Plus, the animal, once found, has to be picked up by a vet or shelter with an ID scanner.Cost: $25 to $40


Radio transmitter collars are great for energetic and outdoor dogs that love to roam. They come in several sizes with a corresponding receiver. Point the receiver in any direction; it will beep if your pet is nearby. (Think of the childhood game Marco, Polo.) Most devices can send and receive signals within 1 to 4 miles, depending on terrain and physical obstacles. Try Pettrax or Innotek collars, available at your local pet store.

Pros: Noninvasive; most radios include an accuracy guarantee and extended warranty.Cons: Pet must be wearing the collar to be located.Cost: from $130

Global Positioning System (GPS)

Log on to globalpetfinder.com to build virtual fences where your pet can wander. Your customized boundaries are automatically downloaded to the tracking device, so if your pet goes outside the designated area, you will be alerted via cell phone, PDA, or computer. You can also dial the word "found" from your phone to get your animal's current location.

Pros: GPS allows for 24/7 monitoring and can alert you if your pet is in dangerously hot or cold temperatures.Cons: Not all Internet service providers offer coverage (call yours to check). Requires a 2-way wireless device like a cell phone, PDA, or Internet, as well as a 1-year minimum subscription.Cost: $290 gets you Global PetFinder service, a snap guard that attaches the device to your pet's collar, batteries, and a charger. There's also a one-time activation fee of $34.99; monthly plans from $18.

Here Kitty, Kitty

Cats are much less likely than dogs to be tagged — and only 3 percent of wayward felines are reunited with their owners, according to the Humane Society. To keep yours safe:

  • Build or purchase an outdoor enclosure to prevent active cats from wandering off.
  • If you move, keep your outdoor cat inside for at least four weeks, so he doesn't get disoriented. Supervise him outside for five minutes a day, gradually increasing the time until he becomes familiar with his new surroundings.
  • Transport your cat in a closed carrier; she is less likely to try to escape. Never leave your cat unattended in a car.
  • All cats — even indoor ones — should wear a collar with your name and phone number.

On the Run

Best ways to prevent pets from hightailing it out of here:

  1. Sudden noises: Scaredy-cats (and dogs) will run for cover when they hear thunder or fireworks, so keep them inside or on a leash during storms or on the Fourth of July.
  2. Heat is on: Get pets neutered or spayed to prevent them from looking for love.
  3. Missing you: Pets can feel disoriented without their owners, making them more likely to wander off. Make sure your animal feels comfortable around your pet sitter.

Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the April 1 2008 issue of Family Circle magazine.