Should you get a smart collar for your dog or cat?

Should you get a smart collar for your dog or cat?

I already have collars for my pets. Why do I need a smart one?

Yes, your basic collar holds your pet's tag and info on it in case they get lost, but sometimes that isn't enough. Your dog or cat is basically part of the family, so you should make sure that they're always safe.

A smart collar though has GPS tracking, so you'll always know when your pet is safe and sound at home, or if they're somewhere they shouldn't be.

For example, if you have a breed that likes to be an escape artist when you're not home, a GPS-enabled collar lets you see exactly where they are, and some even notify you when they leave designated "safe zones."

And if someone ends up getting a hold of your dog while it's out, some smart collars provide a unique ID for your pet that other humans can scan with their smartphone. Doing so brings up the pet's information, including owner contact info and medical records. With these, the person who found your pet can contact you and you'll be reunited with your beloved pet.

I guess that's pretty useful. But I've already microchipped my pet, isn't that like the same thing?

Not really. Even if you've already had your pet microchipped, the microchip doesn't track your pet's location in real-time with GPS.

Instead, if your pet got out and someone finds them, they'll probably take them to a shelter or veterinarian. Then they'll scan your pet for a microchip, which reveals their unique ID number (like a social security number for pets). They'll contact you, since your information will be embedded in the pet's ID, and you'll go get your pet from the facility.

Microchipping your pet works, but the flaw with them is the fact that someone needs to find them first, and then bring them to a place to get scanned. This can take a while. If that doesn't happen, you'll still have no idea where your pet is. That's why smart GPS collars and tags for your pet are worth the investment.

Alright, alright, they'll help me track my pet in real-time. But what about those health monitoring features?

Some smart collars for pets include health and activity tracking, so you can think of it as a Fitbit for your dog or cat.

Such devices are able to detect when your pet is actively moving, so you can see where your pet has gone and how much exercise they got for the day. You can even set goals based on your pet's breed.

So if I buy one of these smart collars or trackers, do I just pay for the equipment? Are there any hidden fees?

For the most part, yes, you would just buy the equipment. However, to get the most out of your smart collar or tracker, some of them require monthly service plans due to the always-on GPS provided by cellular carriers like AT&T. These service plans are usually around $10 a month, but you can save some dough by purchasing annual plans rather than going monthly.

Some collars and trackers require their accompanying service plan for the GPS to work, while others could go off of triangulating signal or going off of Wi-Fi if you don't subscribe. It really depends on the product that you're looking at since they're all different on that front.

Christine Chan

Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed. When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.