All you need to know
Microchipping your cat is the best thing you can do to increase your chances of finding them again if they are lost or stolen. But how do microchips work, when should you chip your cat, and what do you need to know about the paperwork? Read on for some top tips about microchipping cats.
What are microchips and how do they work?
A microchip is a tiny radio chip, roughly the size of a grain of rice, that is inserted under your cat’s skin between their shoulder blades. The chip has a unique code that can be read by a special scanner.
If your cat goes missing and is brought into a vet practice, the vet can scan their code and pass this on to the microchip company. The microchip company keeps a secure database in which each cat’s code is registered to the contact details of their owner. So, the vet will be able to use this information to get in touch with you and reunite you with your pet.
Losing a cat can be a heart-breaking experience and if your pet is microchipped there’s a much higher chance of a happy reunion for you and your feline friend.
What are the benefits of microchipping cats?
The main benefit is that you will be more likely to find your pet again if they are lost or stolen. Also, if your cat is brought into a vet practice injured, the vet can get in touch with you quicker and agree a treatment plan with you. In the sad situation where a cat is brought in deceased, vets can get in touch with the owner sooner so that they are not left worrying for a long time.
Sometimes, when cats stray away from home, they can become friendly with another household who may wish to adopt them to help them out. In this situation, the cat can be scanned for a microchip to help work out whether they are a stray in need of a home or a much-loved pet who has been lost.
Another advantage of microchipping that you can use a microchip-activated cat flap, which can be useful if you want to stop other cats getting into your house. Microchip-activated feeders can also be handy if you have several cats and they need to be on different diets, or if weight management is an issue for one of your cats.
How about using a collar and tag?
Collars with ID tags are another way to help people get in touch with you if your cat goes missing. However, collars can be removed or lost, whereas a microchip will always be present so it is a more reliable way of identifying your pet. Collars can be useful for various other reasons (reflective collars can help cats be seen on roads in the dark, for instance), but there are also some risks to bear in mind. For example, some kitties can get their front leg stuck in the collar while trying to remove it, and this can cause injury. To avoid these risks, it’s important that any collar should have a ‘quick release’ mechanism, meaning that it comes off if there is too much pressure on it. International Cat Care provides some useful tips on cat collars.
Do I need to microchip my cat?
Microchipping cats has been voluntary for some time, but in May 2021, DEFRA announced that microchipping will become compulsory for cats in the UK in the future. This is part of a new Action Plan for animal welfare.
The easiest way to get your pet microchipped is to arrange an appointment with your vet. Some rescue centres or dog groomers may also offer microchipping if they have staff who have been trained in the procedure.
When should I microchip my cat?
Cats can be microchipped at any age, though as new legal requirements come in, you will have to make sure that you comply with the relevant legislation. In general, when you are taking on a new cat or kitten, it is best that they are chipped before they go out for the first time.
Kittens are often microchipped at the time of their first or second vaccinations, or at the same time as neutering. Your vet will help you choose when to microchip your cat depending on their size, temperament and situation. The procedure is very quick, and though the needle is slightly larger than that used for a normal injection, most cats will experience no or minimal discomfort.
How to change cat microchip details
To help you find your cat again if they go missing, it’s essential that you make sure their chip is registered to your current contact details. If you move house or change your phone number, do remember to update this with the microchip company.
If you re-home your pet, just let the microchip company know, and they will probably provide you with a form or a code to give to the new owner. The new owner can then get in touch with the company and register the chip in their name.
Similarly, if you take on a cat who is already microchipped, you will have to contact the microchip company and make sure they update their system to include your contact details rather than the previous owner’s. Ideally you will have all the microchip paperwork from the previous owner, but if you are not sure which microchip company to contact or what your cat’s microchip number is, your vet will be able to help you out. If you are not sure whether your cat is microchipped, your vet can help you with this too.
Can you track a cat microchip?
Microchips only work for identification, so you cannot use your microchip to track your cat’s whereabouts. While it would be fascinating to know what our kitties get up to, we can’t find this out from a microchip!
Microchipping is an important thing to think about when you’re taking on a new feline friend, but there’s a whole lot more to consider as well. For more advice and tips, take a look at our guide on introducing a new cat to your home.