Microchipping for cats
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Microchipping for cats

Cats
Health & Safety

Microchipping in dogs is a legal requirement, with puppies needing to be chipped and registered before 8 weeks of age. There is currently no law that cats need to be microchipped, but this will be introduced soon. Let’s explore microchipping in cats (and what to expect from the new law) in more detail!

What are the current statistics around microchipping?

There are thought to be 10.8 million cats living in the UK at the moment, with approximately a quarter unchipped. That means that there are around 2.8 million cats with no form of permanent identification! Given that microchipping is a relatively simple and inexpensive procedure it seems surprising that there are still so many cats unchipped, especially as this is the best way of reuniting people with their animals if they go missing.

What will the new law be?

The government is set to introduce new rules that all cats must be microchipped by 20 weeks of age or owners could face a £500 fine. This microchip must be registered with the current owner’s details, which are held on the database of one of the UK microchip companies. 

If you are found to be non-compliant with the law you will be given 21 days to rectify things before being fined. It’s thought these new rules could come into force in England in 2023.

What is a microchip?

A microchip is a permanent implant that is placed in the loose skin between your cat’s shoulders. It is about the size of a large grain of rice and most owners are unable to feel it (except in very thin-skinned or underweight animals). The microchip is a radio-frequency identification transponder that doesn’t contain any batteries and should therefore last for the lifetime of the cat. It contains a unique number that can be read by a scanner via low wave radio frequency.

 

Microchips are not GPS tracker devices. They don’t provide live information as to your pet’s whereabouts. But they do mean if your cat is found and scanned that your information can be accessed quickly, allowing you to be reunited.

 

What are the benefits of microchipping?

As well as it soon becoming a legal requirement, there are some clear benefits to getting your cat microchipped –

  • It is a permanent form of identification. Collars with details on can easily be removed, broken or lost.
  • If your cat goes missing but is later found and scanned, you can be contacted and reunited straight away. 
  • Similarly, if your cat is injured (e.g. in a road traffic accident) contact can be made and permission for treatment can be gained quickly
  • If your pet is stolen or goes missing, you can contact your microchip company to put an alert on the database 
  • If you want to travel abroad with your cat he will need to be microchipped to have the relevant vaccinations and paperwork. 

It is thought that the compulsory microchipping of cats will lead to improvements in animal welfare, with more lost pets being reunited with their owners as well as the promotion of more responsible cat ownership. Sadly 8 out of 10 cats presented to the Cat’s protection rehoming centres are not microchipped with owners never knowing what has happened to their pet.

Conclusion

While there is no law regarding compulsory microchipping in cats at present, the government will be introducing this soon. This is an important step in animal welfare and should hopefully mean lost or injured pets can be reunited with their owners more quickly. If you have any further questions regarding microchipping in cats, then contact your vet for advice.

FAQs

What happens if you don't microchip your cat?
Currently, it is your choice whether you microchip your cat or not, but in the future, it will be a legal requirement. This means you could be fined if you don’t comply. Regardless of this if your cat is not microchipped then you significantly reduce your chances of being reunited if your pet goes missing or is involved in an accident.

Will microchipping hurt my cat?
Microchips are implanted via a large needle into the loose skin near the shoulders. This is a quick procedure and should cause your pet minimal discomfort. However, some cat owners choose to have their pet chipped whilst they are under anaesthetic for neutering, in which case they will feel nothing.

What's the difference between a cat microchip and a cat GPS tracker?
A cat’s microchip is read by a scanner and gives a unique number which is registered with the owner’s details on a database. A GPS tracker allows for real-time tracking, giving live updates on your pet’s whereabouts via satellite or mobile phone signals. Unfortunately, the technology isn’t there yet for GPS microchips, but you can get tracker collars and tags.

 

By Rebecca MacMillan BVetMed BSAVA PGCertSAM MRCVS

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