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Can You Use Apple AirTags With Cats and Dogs?

A black cat wearing an Apple AirTag.
Danny Chadwick / Review Geek

Apple AirTags are a great way to keep track of things that get away from you often. But can they work with your pets? Let’s find out.

Apple designed these trackers for use on objects like wallets, keys, and backpacks. And although they don’t endorse AirTags on your furry friends, they don’t forbid you from using them that way either. If you choose to use them on your animals, you’ll find them helpful in some situations, but you’ll also run up against some significant limitations.

Sync Your AirTag with Your iPhone

AirTag setup screen on an iPhone.

If this is your first experience with an AirTag, don’t worry; set up takes less than a minute. Hold the AirTag near your phone and pull out the battery tab. Once your iPhone’s Bluetooth detects the new AirTag, it launches the Find My app and easily guides you through the setup process.

Since Apple didn’t intend AirTags for animals, there’s no option in the setup process for a dog or cat. However, you can go to the Custom Name option and pick the right emoji icon for your pet.

The custom emoji option in the AirTag setup wizard.

Keep in mind that AirTags only work with devices running iOS 14.5 or newer. This should only be a problem if you have an iPhone more than seven years old. So, if you are still using an iPhone 6, or any iPhone older than that, you’ll have to upgrade your device to use AirTags. Additionally, to use the Precise Location tool, you need a phone with the U1 chip, only found on iPhone 11 and newer models. Plus, since you need the Find My app, Android devices aren’t compatible.

AirTag Your Pet

An aftermarket AirTag collar holder in the palm of a man's hand.
Danny Chadwick / Review Geek

Apple doesn’t sell pet collars or collar holsters for AirTags, and you’re unlikely to find them in brick-and-mortar stores. So, unless you’re ok with a keychain hanging from your pet’s neck, you’ll have to pick up a holder online. Luckily, there’s a lot to choose from, and they’re all discreet, inexpensive, and easy to slip onto your animal’s collar.

A Pet Collar

AirTag Pet Collar Holder

An easy way to attach an AirTag to your pet's collar.

Great for Around the House

The Find My app showing the location of a cat in the back yard of a home on a map of the neighborhood.

With everything set up, you’ll find that AirTags are great for finding your pets quickly when you’re looking for them at home. Launch the Find My app, and it will show your animal’s last known location. Select your pet’s tag, and tap Find Nearby to get an exact current location. You may have to walk around the house or yard for a minute or two, but once you’re within Bluetooth range, the app tells you exactly how far away the tag is and in what direction.

The Find My app showing precise directions to a moving cat.

If you still have trouble finding your pet, tap the Play Sound button and listen for the AirTag to give off a little chirp. It’s a great solution if you have an animal that likes to hide or wander into strange places. And it’s especially useful when it gets dark, and it’s time to bring in your pet for the night.

A great tracker

Apple AirTag

A good way to keep track of your stuff - not just pets.

Only Half Good for Finding Lost Pets

Unfortunately, once you or your pet leaves home, the Find My app loses almost all its usefulness. If your animal goes missing, the only thing the Find My app can do is confirm that they’re not on your property. It will show you the last place they were before they went out of range and how long it’s been. But since it’s not a proper GPS tracker, it can’t give you any more than that.

The Find My app on an iPhone searching for an AirTag signal.

You do have the ability to set up a Separation Alert to get notified if your animal goes out of Bluetooth range. However, Apple designed AirTags for objects that don’t move on their own; you’ll be alerted a lot. And it may annoy or startle your pets when the alert chime goes off when they wander too far away from your phone.

When you look for a wayward friend, you can have the Find My app open and scan while you search. And if you hit the Play Sound button, as soon as it comes back into range, the chime will sound. The soft chime sound is only somewhat helpful, but it’s better than nothing when you’re wandering the neighborhood at night looking for a black cat.

The Lost Mode screen in the Find My app on an iPhone.

If you determine that your pet is indeed lost, you can enable Lost Mode. Lost Most allows any compatible iPhone to detect the AirTag on your animal’s collar. It asks you to input your phone number, email address, and instructions for anyone who finds your pet. However, since animals are always on the move, it’s unlikely they’ll stay still long enough for a good Samaritan to track them down. But it’s better than nothing.

Better Pet Tracking Options

When you have an animal that wanders off frequently, a Bluetooth tracker like the AirTag just won’t cut it. You may want to consider the GeoZilla GPS Tracker or the Whistle Go Explore. They’re about the same size as an AirTag, but the apps can do a lot more than the Find My app. Not only can you get your animal’s precise location, but also a history of where it’s been, and even get notified the instant they leave the yard. They do have subscription fees, but they’re reasonable: usually less than $10 a month.

A sleek option

Geozilla GPS Location Tracker

A decent, affordable option for tracking pets via GPS

Made for pets

Whistle Ultimate Dog GPS Tracker

Another great option for tracking your pets if they leave home.

Danny Chadwick Danny Chadwick
Danny has been a technology journalist since 2008. He served as senior writer, as well as multimedia and home improvement editor at Top Ten Reviews until 2019. Since then, he has been a freelance contributor to Lifewire and ghostwriter for Fit Small Business. His work has also appeared on Laptop Mag, Tom’s Guide, and business.com. Read Full Bio »