How Apple’s AirTag is Saving my Marriage (and Sanity)

Having lost the cats too many times, the author resorts to Apple AirTags to keep check on their location

Summertime and the living is easy; unless you plan to travel by plane where flight delays, long airport security lines and baggage woes are part of the post-COVID vacation experience. The airlines blame the customer surge in air travel demand and the airports blame a lack of staffing for baggage handling and security pileups that plague most major European and North American airports.  Many tech-savvy travellers have been tracking their own “lost” bags with the use of lightweight, discreet Bluetooth trackers, from companies such as Apple and Tile. Some travellers can see that their bags never made it on the plane using peer-to-peer Bluetooth tracking that tags a bag’s location while others simply have the peace of mind that their bag is somewhere in the airport, even when it cannot be retrieved.

Billie sporting an Apple AirTag Bluetooth tracker

Apple sells its circular AirTags for about $29 and if you are at a baggage carousel with 5,000 black bags piled on top of each other, an AirTag will pinpoint the location via the “Find My” app. The AirTag can also play a noise for an audible assist. Most travellers waiting for their luggage, even in good times, will have that moment of anxiety while praying their bag has not been lost. A small tracker gives some peace of mind.

While I am avoiding any international travel this summer, that doesn’t mean that I am anxiety-free of things getting lost. Lately for me, what have been disappearing are the cats. A disappearing cat is one thing, but the real anxiety is witnessing the worry (panic) from my wife Cathy at the thought of never seeing her cats again. I have found a solution. I now AirTag the cats! Here’s what happened…

Blue back home after 49 hours missing in action

“Have you seen Billie?” “Where do you think Blue is hiding?” Billie and Blue are the Thomson family cats and recently I have been hearing both of those questions from my wife no less than a million times each day. For the first year of the cat’s lives, they spent their days looking out a window from the safety of inside. That was when we lived in downtown Oakville and justified imprisoning the cats knowing there was a high probability they would either be smushed by a car or worse, impounded by the diligent Oakville bi-law officers whose sole intention is to make your life miserable by ticketing pet owners for any and every conceivable infraction real or imagined.

Fast forward a year and we now live on the side of a mountain and are two-acres from a neighbour or road. After a whiteboard session weighing the pluses and minuses of the cats being allowed outdoors – the minuses included getting lost or eaten by coyotes – we agreed that it would only be cruel to keep the cats indoors when we now live in the wilderness and the positives clearly outweigh the risks.

The first few months were fine since the cats would not only return home for food but also to use their litter box (you can take the cat out of the city but not the city out of the cat!) They also didn’t like the cold.  Then last week the unimaginable happened: Blue the male cat did not come home at his scheduled curfew time of dusk.  

That’s the day I will always remember as the first moment I thought my wife might be crazy (she loves and I mean, LOVES cats) and also the day I started kicking myself to agreeing that we should have cats.

9:00PM “Where do you think Blue is hiding?”

9:01 PM I’m not sure Cath but he will come back.

11:00PM “Where do you think Blue is hiding?”

11:01 PM I’m not sure Cath but he will come back. Go to bed.

The cat didn’t come back, at least that night.  I woke up at my pre-allotted 6:00 am to find Cathy already out of bed (she is never up before me) and instead of her sitting with a coffee in hand, she was out calling “puss puss” in a strategic grid pattern similar to what you see on a TV drama when a child is missing. Feeling guilty, I joined the search party, scratching all limbs on raspberry bushes I didn’t even know we had while receiving a million mosquito bites but finding no cats.

Blue, the SOB, was really testing us and after eight hours of searching and searching every swatch of the property the cat was nowhere to be found.

9:00PM  (Day two) “Where do you think Blue is hiding?  I think he has been eaten, I hope he didn’t suffer, I am so so sad about this.

9:03 PM (Day two) I’m not sure Cath but he will come back. Let’s not lose hope….

If you are a cat person, or perhaps live with a cat person, you know what I am talking about.  If you are not a cat person, you will have concluded “what’s the big deal? It’s a cat” about three paragraphs ago.

For my wife this was a very big deal and the sadness of “losing Blue” was almost unbearable.  On night two Cathy went to bed with a double dose of sleeping pills and I slept on a patio lounge chair next to the screened in porch as Watch Captain for Blue’s fateful return.

The AirTag Bluetooth tracker tells us the cat is a couple meters away

Sure enough, at 12:35 am (technically day three), Blue waltzed on to the porch looking to come inside to use his litter box.  The cat came back.

Vowing to never go through three days of cat searching again, I bought a four pack of AirTags and two silicon collar mounts.  AirTags are supposed to be used on bags, keys and other easily misplaced items that don’t move on their own (like a cat does) and Apple does not endorse AirTags for animals.  But that’s OK.  Desperate measures require some imagination. 

All tagged up – a small victory in the ongoing chaos of trying to train a cat

With the cats tagged up, we opened the door to their wilderness playground, while Cathy, phone in hand, monitored their movement as they ventured under the deck, five feet from the door.  The AirTag cat tracking does have some limitations, like when the cats (who never listen or play by the rules) travel beyond the 100 foot Bluetooth range.  That’s when Cathy has to  wander the property until she catches a signal that they are close.  Such peace of mind for Cathy keeps her smiling, my sanity has been restored, and I am no longer daydreaming of pointing the car south never to return!  The cats of course do come back, eventually, but now I don’t have to stress about it.

If you see a sign that says “free kittens” keep driving!