Seen as an essential part of responsible pet ownership and used across the UK since 1989, microchipping provides the best way for missing pets to be reunited with their owners.
What is a microchip and how does it work?
A microchip is a small electronic device – roughly the size of a grain of rice – that’s implanted under a pet’s skin near the neck.
I like to think of it as a bit like a car number plate that can’t be lost or tampered with. It contains a unique ID number that can be read by a scanner and links to a database where an owner’s contact details are logged. This means that should a missing pet be found, a vet can scan its collar to identify them and ensure they return home quickly.
Is microchipping mandatory for pet cats?
Whilst it isn't currently compulsory to microchip your pet cat, the Government announced on 13th March 2023 that they will be making it compulsory and owners will have until 10 June 2024 to microchip their pet cat; but I'd urge all pet cat owners to get them chipped as soon as possible. Microchipping your pet cat gives them the best chance of being identified and returned to you should they get lost or are stolen.
Sadly, eight out of 10 cats handed to adoption centres in England aren't chipped, making it very difficult for them to be reunited with their owners.
How can a microchip help – what are the benefits?
We all know that cats like to wander and this means they have a greater chance of getting lost or separated, which also increases their risk of injury from incidents such as traffic accidents.
Throughout my career, injured pets have been brought into my surgery by people who have found them. But because they don’t have a microchip we have no way of identifying them. As we’re unable to contact the owners, we’re often left in an incredibly difficult position: while we can alleviate a pet’s pain, we haven’t been given authority to perform more advanced treatments such surgical operations. It’s really distressing for the pet – and for us.
Petlog is the UK’s largest lost-and-found database for microchipped pets and they found that more than 100,000 cats go missing each year, which means that more than a quarter of all cat owners will experience the awful fear of a lost pet. Unfortunately, only 45% of cats are safely reunited with their owners, compared with 75% of dogs, which are microchipped by law.
When you consider that microchipped cats are a whopping 2,000 times more likely to be reunited with their families, you can really see the value of this little device.
Does a microchip mean my cat can be constantly tracked?
No. I sometimes meet owners who think that microchips work as a kind of tracker, allowing them to see where their pet is at all times, but that’s not the case. A microchip can only be read by a scanner – it doesn’t emit a signal and there’s no way for anyone else to discover your cat’s location through it.
Will it hurt my kitten?
Implanting the chip under your pet’s skin doesn’t even require an anaesthetic and is just as quick and simple as a vaccination. I always say that it’s a bit like a human having an ear pierced. Keep in mind that if it did negatively affect your pet’s health in any way, the law that makes microchipping compulsory for dogs would never have been passed.
When should I microchip my kitten?
I usually recommend that cats get microchipped from the age of 10-12 weeks.
Where can I get it done and what are the costs?
It’s easy to get the procedure done – your vet will have trained staff who can insert microchips and it usually costs around £20. You can also visit any of the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home branches where you’ll be able to get your cat chipped in return for a donation. Given the current Covid-19 restrictions, make sure you call ahead to check availability and individual circumstances.
What happens after microchipping?
I always say that the most important thing to remember is to keep your details –including your current address and phone numbers – updated on your microchip’s database at all times. This will mean that you can be reunited quickly with your pet if it ever goes missing.
An owner’s story: ‘Double-check your details yearly’
Sharon Stammers’ cat, Cookie, went missing for three weeks. She and her family put up posters around their local London neighbourhood but, when that yielded no results, they began to lose hope.
“That was when the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home got in contact to say that Cookie had been found,” says Sharon. “And we were actually amazingly lucky – although Cookie was microchipped when she was a kitten, our contact details weren’t up to date. We’d just made the assumption that our information would be there and didn’t give it much thought.
“Thankfully, Battersea managed to track down the vet practice that implanted the microchip, who looked on their own records and eventually traced Cookie back to us.
“I’d urge all cat owners to get their pet microchipped, and to then check that the right details are registered to the chip at least once a year. We were just incredibly fortunate to get Cookie back – not everyone might be as lucky.”