Why you need to microchip your cat

If you live in England, microchipping your cat will become mandatory from 10th June 2024. Here’s what you need to know ahead of time.

Seen as an essential part of responsible pet ownership and something that will soon become law, microchipping your cat provides the best way for missing pets to be reunited with their owners.

Here, Petplan veterinary expert Brian Faulkner explains all you need to know about cat microchipping.

Microchipping your cat will become law from 10th June 2024, so make sure you book an appointment as soon as possible to avoid a potential fine. Microchipping your cat gives them the best chance of being identified and returned to you if they’re lost or stolen.

Sadly, eight out of 10 stray cats handed to adoption centres in England aren't chipped, making it difficult for them to be reunited with their owners.

A microchip is a small electronic device, roughly the size of a grain of rice, that’s implanted under your pet’s skin near the neck. It will last for the whole of your cat’s life.

It contains a unique ID number that can be read by a scanner. This links to a database where the owner’s contact details are logged. If a pet’s found, a vet can scan its chip to identify them and ensure they’re returned home swiftly – as long as the owner’s details are up to date.

Implanting the chip under your pet’s skin doesn’t require an anaesthetic and is as quick and simple as having an injection.

The new legislation says that all kittens need to be microchipped before they’re 20 weeks old – an ideal time is when your kitten has its primary vaccinations.

Your vet (or the place where your cat was chipped) will log your details with an approved database at the time of implantation. There are approximately 20 databases in the UK that register the different brands of microchip. The registration details will be passed to the owner, who’s responsible for ensuring the contact information is correct.

The best way to think about a microchip registration is to liken it to the number plate on a vehicle – it’s simply a unique ID number that can be used to identify the registered owner. However, just like with cars, it will be a legal requirement to keep the owner’s details up to date, including when owners move house or if a cat is rehomed.

Indeed, failure to update owner contact details is a major reason why cats who have been microchipped aren’t reunited with their owners. According to the UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Christine Middlemiss: “Microchipping is by far the most effective and quickest way of identifying lost pets. As we’ve seen with dog microchipping, [cats] who are microchipped are more than twice as likely to be reunited with their owner.”

It’s easy to get the procedure done – your vet will have trained staff who can insert microchips. Similarly, some charities such as the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home, Blue Cross and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home will also microchip your cat for you.

It usually costs around £20 to £30. If you adopt a cat from Cats Protection or other rehoming charities, the fee for microchipping is included in your adoption fee for the pet, as is a health check, worming and vaccinations.

Cats like to wander, which means they have a greater chance of getting lost. This also increases their risk of injury from incidents such as traffic accidents.

Injured pets are often brought into vets’ surgeries by people who have found them – and if cats don’t have a microchip, there’s no way of identifying them. If vets are unable to contact the owners, they’re often left in a difficult position: while they can alleviate a pet’s pain if they’re injured, they haven’t been given the owner’s permission to perform more advanced treatments such as surgical operations. It’s distressing for the pet – and for the vet.

Yes, the law requires that all pet cats are microchipped. This also helps if your cat escapes, for example, if you’re moving house or if a guest lets your pet out by mistake.

Sadly, some cats can sometimes go temporarily missing. Find out what to do if this happens here.

You can also learn more about the new law on microchipping your cat from Cats Protection.

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