The importance of microchipping
In the UK all dogs over 8 weeks of age must be microchipped or their owners may face a fine. Similar laws are in place in other parts of the world, and in some countries cats are also included. Unfortunately, in the UK only a small proportion of cats are microchipped, yet cats with a microchip are 21 times more likely to be reunited with their owners than non-microchipped cats if they become lost. Here we look at why every cat should have a microchip.
Microchipping involves inserting a tiny implant under the cat’s skin (usually the scruff of the neck). This contains a unique number that is linked to a central database containing the owner’s address and telephone number. Should the cat become lost or separated from its owner, a microchip scanner can be used to identify the cat and find the owner. Veterinary clinics and homing centres routinely use these scanners to identify stray cats and reunite them with their owners.
Having a unique and permanent identification number is important when veterinarians are submitting test samples for possible inherited dieases. A microchip may also mean that, in the sad circumstance that a cat is run over, its owner can be informed and not left wondering where the cat is. Additionally, microchips may be important in legal cases when a cat’s ownership is questioned.
Why not use a collar and tag?
In the previous topic of Keeping Cats Safe, we highlighted the issues with, and potential dangers of, collars. Collars are removable or can become lost, and while they do help to visibly show that a cat is owned, they are not without risk (if using a collar, always ensure it has a ‘snap open’ mechanism). Microchipping is a safer option as it is permanent with minimal risk involved. To find out more about issues with collars or learn how to correctly fit a collar, click here.
Can inserting a microchip harm my cat?
International Cat Care is in agreement with the World Small Animal Veterinary Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association in affirming that microchipping of dogs and cats is safe and very rarely associated with any significant problems. The microchip is the size of a grain of rice and is implanted in a similar way to giving a vaccination, causing very minimal, temporary discomfort.
When should cats be microchipped?
Many owners have their cats microchipped at the same time as vaccination or when they are under anaesthetic for neutering. A cat can be microchipped as a kitten or an adult. Microchipping can be carried out by your vet or other trained animal care professionals.
Are your details up to date?
It can be very frustrating for those dealing with lost or stray cats to find that owners can’t be contacted because they have moved away and not informed the microchip company of their new contact details. Recent information suggested that 70% of dog information on a UK database was not accurate as it had not been updated. If your cat is microchipped, check now that the microchip company has the correct details for you.
There really is no reason not to have your cat microchipped.It can mean the difference between a lost cat coming home or not.
For more information on microchipping, read our microchipping position statement.
Microchipping posterDownload our new microchipping poster for your local vet clinic, rehoming centre or pet shop here.
We were contacted with several stories about microchipping and how it helped reunite lost cats with their owners.
Case 1: Tom
We lost a cat called Tom (sadly no longer with us), a rescue cat from the RSPCA. He was chipped by them luckily as one day he disappeared without any trace. We tried all the obvious things - posters, calling shelters etc - but no joy. Around 16 months later, we received a phone call from an RSPCA shelter 5 miles away asking if we had lost a cat! Apparently Tom had been picked up at a Co-op car park in a local suburb and had been handed in. We have no idea how he got there but we got him back thanks to the microchip.
Case 2: Geoffrey
My cat Geoffrey went missing, and we were only reunited because he was microchipped. He went out as normal one morning, and on returning from work that evening I was surprised, but not yet worried, to see that he wasn't waiting for me on the doorstep as he would usually be. He didn't return that night, or the next morning, which did worry me. Working in a veterinary practice, I know only too well how often cats can get themselves into trouble while outside and like many owners do, I feared the worse. I leafleted the area within about a mile radius, I put posters up and I phoned all the local veterinary practices. Days turned into weeks, but still no sign of him.
After a few months, I gave up hope of ever seeing Geoffrey again and got another cat (although I still missed him terribly). Eight months after I last saw Geoffrey, a miracle occurred! One Saturday morning, I was at home relaxing (I think I was still on my pyjamas!) when I received a phone call from work. It was one of our vet nurses calling to let me know that Geoffrey had turned up! He had been brought in as a stray by a kind lady that morning, and was immediately scanned for a microchip - which brought up my details much to the surprise of my colleagues at the clinic! The lady who brought him in as a stray said he'd been living with her family for about two weeks, so I have no idea where he'd been for the other seven and a half months!
A quick check over proved he was in good health (he'd even put on weight since I'd last seen him, so someone had been feeding him) and I took him back home to meet his new brother, Nermal - his replacement! Geoffrey instantly knew where he was, and made a beeline for the food bowl, before jumping on my knee for a cuddle. It didn't take Geoffrey and Nermal too long to form a bond, and eight years later we're all still happily living together! Geoffrey hasn't gone missing since (apart from a day stuck on a roof - silly boy) and whenever I talk to our clients about microchipping their pets, I tell them Geoffrey's story. Because without his microchip, Geoffrey would never have been identified as my cat and we wouldn't have been reunited. And I would never have found out what happened to him.
Case 3: Katy
I am a Veterinary Nurse working in a practice in Nottingham. A few years ago our cat, Katy went missing. At the time is was not unusual not to see her all day, she was an active outdoor cat, often in the fields at the back of the house, but when she was not home the following morning we started to worry. I printed some 'lost' posters and put them up around the local streets and shops, and phoned round the local vets. After a couple of weeks we feared the worst, thinking that she might of ventured across the fields to the busy A52. A few months later, while we were on holiday in Tenerife, I got a call from work... Katy had been found! She had been living with a family several miles away on the other side of the A52. It was only when they saw a poster about another missing cat that mentioned that the cat was microchipped that they thought to take Katy to the local vet to check whether she had a microchip. The vet was able to get my details from the database and had contacted the practice where I work. Luckily my parents were at my house looking after our dogs and so they were able to go and collect Katy immediately. I arrived home at the end of the week to a great family reunion. Ever since she was been back she has become a much more 'stay at home cat' loving time curled up on one of the children's beds!
It is very important to get your pet microchipped, although it took a while to get her home I don't think we would have got her back without it. I think she might have sneaked into a delivery van or similar, but we will never know for sure how she got that far from home. At the practice where I work we do get cats brought in with no owner. Without a microchip it can be very difficult to find their owner so it is really important that you keep you details up to date on the database. It is very disheartening to find a microchip number but to then find out we still can't find the owner because the contacts details are out of date!
Case 4: Lemmie
Lemmie was missing for 14 months. She went out one morning as usual and just didn't return. Over a year later we received a phone call from a veterinary practice 12 miles away and the other side of a river. She had been living with a couple for some weeks and they decided to get her checked over before deciding to take her in permanently. Thankfully the vets they chose routinely check new patients for a microchip, found Lemmie's and we were reunited! I'm a veterinary nurse and I use our story to illustrate to clients the importance of having their cat microchipped.
Case 5: Elsa
Our rescue cat Elsa is 7 years old and we have had her for 4 years, during which she has gone missing twice. On the first occasion it was for 11 days and the second time it was for 4 days. Both times we put up posters, informed the vets, postman, phone the local rescue centers, put round leaflets, and went out looking for her. We also put somthing in the garden that smelt of us both. Both times we found her one street along, when we were out calling her name, thankfully she is a vocal cat and responded to our voices my meowing. Elsa loves being outside, so keeping her as an indoor cat only would not be fair on her as she would not have a good quality of life. When we got her back after the second time she went missing we decided that after she was let out again, we would lock the catflap at night, so she gets the quality of life she deserves but is safe at night, as she went missing both times at night. If your cat ever goes missing, my top tips are: microchip your cat; put up posters and mention the cat is microchipped; go out calling their name mainly at dusk & dawn, but at different times too; and do not give up hope.