The fear that their pet will go missing haunts every owner. Around 60 cats or dogs go missing in the UK every hour, according to research by Sainsbury's Bank, and sadly many missing pets are never reunited with their owners.
Electronic chipping is growing more popular, although this doesn't enable you to do much other than report your pet missing and wait for it to be found.
If you want to be able to pinpoint exactly where your cat or dog is, and avoid a frantic search of local streets, then you might want to get yourself a pet tracker.
There are lots of trackers on the market now, which employ different technologies and offer a variety of different features. Choosing the right device for you will depend on your needs, but also on your pet – let's face it, cats aren't going to like wearing something that's too heavy or uncomfortable.
You'll also want to think about things like battery life and recharging, range, subscription fees, how to track your pet, and the importance of features like geo-fencing, which can alert you when your pet strays beyond predefined boundaries.
To help you in your quest we've gathered together some of the best pet-tracking devices currently on the market, with subscription details where applicable and available in some countries, so that you can work out exactly how much it'll cost to keep an eye on your furry friend.
This lightweight tag attaches to your cat's collar, and comes with a dedicated handset that enables you to track your cat by bleeping and flashing more frequently the closer you are to them.
The Tabcat tag employs RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), which pinpoints your cat's position to within 2.5cm, even through walls; however the range is limited to 122 metres.
You get two tags for a one-off fee, and you can press a button on the handset to prompt the tag to emit a beep, potentially enabling you to train your cat to come home (good luck with that).
The tags take CR2032 lithium batteries, which should last around a year.
Price: £69.99 (about $100, AU$145)
Once you've attached the Pod 2 tracker to your pet's collar, you can use the free Android or iOS app to find them on a map.
You can also set up safe zones, so you'll be alerted if your pet goes beyond your defined boundaries. The Pod 2 also tracks your pet's activity level, and you can sync it via Bluetooth when they return home to see exactly what they've been up to all day.
The Pod 2 uses GPS, Wi-Fi, and 2G mobile networks (SIM and one year of service included) to track your cat or dog. It's waterproof and it's fairly small – although we suspect some cats aren't going to like wearing it if they already hate their collar.
You get two batteries to rotate, which charge via USB, but while standby battery life is four to six days, that falls to between one and a half and three days for the safe zone mode, and just six to eight hours if you're tracking their every move.
Price: £139 / $199 / AU$249 (£35 / $49 / AU$49 per year after the first year)
Here's a tracking collar that's designed just for cats. It uses GPS for tracking your cat outdoors and Wi-Fi for when it's at home, although it weighs 70g and is a bit chunkier than your average collar. To check where your cat is, you log into the Pawtrack website to see your feline friend on Google Maps.
You can also see a record of your cat's travels for the last 30 days, and set up boundaries so you'll be alerted if your cat wanders out of a specific area. Tracking isn't real-time, though, as the position is taken every ten minutes and uploaded via a 2G mobile network.
The collar is charged via micro USB cable, and has a battery life of up to three days with power-saving features enabled.
Price: £125 / $160 / AU$250 (£9.99 / $12.50 / AU$25 per month after first year)
This tracker is suitable for large cats or dogs, and employs GPS with a mobile network backup to pinpoint your pet's location. You can track your pet on your mobile using the free Android, iOS, or Windows Phone apps, or log in to the Kippy website.
It's also possible to set up virtual boundaries and receive alerts when your pet strays beyond them. The tracker clips onto your pet's collar, and is waterproof and shockproof.
The makers claim the battery can last up to 20 days with geofencing on before you need to recharge, partly because it detects when your pet is inactive and switches off tracking until they move again.
There's also a fast tracking mode that returns the location every few seconds, for the more frantic moments when you've lost little Catman.
Price: £119 (£30 per year after the first year) (opens in new tab)
It may have been designed to help you find lost keys, but the coin-sized TrackR Bravo could help you find your missing cat or dog, as long as they're nearby.
The aluminium tag will attach easily to any collar, and can be engraved with your pet's name and your contact details. It uses Bluetooth 4.0 to connect to your smartphone via the free Android or iOS app.
The app shows how far away you are, and you can use it to make the TrackR ring. The range is only around 30 metres (100 feet), but if another user of TrackR should come within that distance of your lost pet, you'll be sent an update of the position, meaning you've potentially got a whole network of searchers.
You can check possible coverage in your area at the TrackR website.
Loc8tor Pet GPS for Dogs
Here's a GPS tracker for dogs that will show your dog's position on a map, accurate to within five metres. It uses GPS to find the position, and a mobile network to upload it to Loc8tor's servers.
You can log in to your control panel through the website on any device and see exactly where your dog is on a map. You can also configure the frequency of tracking, from every 10 seconds up to every hour depending on how 'roamy' they are.
It can send alerts when your dog strays beyond a predefined area, or when the 'Panic Button' is activated, with average battery life of 4 to 10 days.
Some limitations though: because it uses GPS it won't work indoors, the device isn't waterproof, and the service plan is also one of the most expensive on show here.
Price: £199.96 (about $285, AU$410); £99.98 (about $143, AU$205) per year after first year
You can check the position of your dog or cat in real time with Tractive, via a collar-mounted GPS tracker and a map that you can view in your browser or the free Android or iOS apps.
It offers live tracking that's updated every second, a safe zone to set alerts if your pet goes beyond your defined area, and a 24-hour history so that you can see where they've been.
The tracker unit's battery life is between two and five days, and it takes two hours to recharge. It's completely waterproof, and there's also a light on it which you can use to help find your pet if they're fond of hiding under the bed.
It weighs 35g, so it's recommended for pets that weigh 4.5kg and up. You need a service plan and coverage to us Tractive, as your pet's positions are relayed via a mobile network.
There are separate devices on offer from PawTrax for cats and dogs, although the costs are the same. The Halo collar for cats weighs just over 20g and is fairly slim, while the bigger S Plus for dogs is more robust, and waterproof.
Both use a pay-as-you-go mobile phone SIM card to track your pet – you send a text to the collar, and get a text back with a Google Map link to the pet's location.
There's also an optional web platform for £25 per year, which enables you to set up a geo-fence and track your pet on a map in your browser.
You can also choose to use your own SIM card and plan, but using the PAYG option only when you need it is probably more cost-effective. Battery life ranges from 24 hours to two weeks, depending on usage.
Price: £95 (6p per SMS)