Monty is now a 14 year old Burmese. In 2005 he went walk about for 2 weeks. This was a pretty grim time, so in between the endless walking around fields and forests calling out his name, I tried to work out how I didn’t have to go through this again. And then 10 days later, he just popped back into our lives. He didn’t seem to be particularly thin, but he seemed pretty happy to see us. To this day we still have not got a clue where he went.
This was a time which was just about pre Google Street View, and phones simply did not have GPS on them. However I did read somewhere that prices of GPS chips were coming down. And so me being me, I tried to design a cat tracker.
From the outset this was always going to be about tracking cats. I have nothing against dogs, I have 3, but usually dogs are sleeping, pestering you for food, or beside you on a walk. Generally you know where they are.
Cats on the other hand do stuff which we simply will never know about. They can be there when you go to bed, and then gone in the middle of the night, and back again the next morning. We wanted a tracker that didn’t just track in emergencies, but actually kept tracking when you were asleep, and recorded this information for you later.
We started in 2007 with a brick strapped around a cat’s neck. Well not quite, but it looked like one. From then on we tried to make the collar smaller, and more accurate. We were the first to bring in wifi to help locate and also for power management.
It was all going so well. In August we started work on our app. Monty always had his collar on when he went away for his 3 day treks, and we built up a really good picture of his domains and territories, and where we went on those long summer nights. And then in September I made the fatal mistake of taking his collar off to test the app further. It was at that point Monty decided to go AWOL again. On day 1 we weren’t that worried. Day 2, still not worried but keen to see him again. By day 3 the horrid feeling in the pit of your stomach started. We started looking for him, running over his old stomping grounds we had tracked from the months before. And then the ultimate humiliation, the owner of a cat tracking company having to put up Lost Cat posters across his village, whilst Monty’s redundant cat tracking collar sat by the bed.
It the midst of it all it all came back to me why we do this. I couldn’t believe I was back again where I was 12 years before.
Luckily we had a tip off that he had been seen some days before, so off we went into a local wood. After 2o minutes calling we heard his response, the same whine he makes at 3 in the morning when he was hungry. He was very thin, but still alive just about.
For the next 5 weeks he wasn’t his usual self. Finally we took him for an x-ray. His diaphragm had been practically ripped off, and most of his organs appeared to have shifted 4 inches up his body against his lungs. Thanks to some very skilful veterinary surgeons (which included manually operating his lungs whilst he was under anaesthetic) his diaphragm was stitched back, and his organs gradually returned to where they should be.
Sometime during his week away he had suffered a terrible trauma, most likely collision with car. He had climbed under a shed afterwards, but I have no idea how he would have ever got home.
So what lessons have I learned? Always keep the collar on, and keep changing the battery. In addition we are looking to add a collision alert facility to the collar, so if there is a significant impact, and the collar is still intact, the owner should receive a notification.