Until quite recently, caring cat owners made sure their cats were vaccinated and neutered, and if they were concerned about the cat getting lost, they simply gave it a collar with an identification disc. Then microchipping came along, and we were all urged to get our cats microchipped. But what is microchipping? In what way is it preferable to a cat wearing a collar and identification disc? And should you have your cat microchipped?
A microchip is a tiny chip about the size of a grain of rice, which is embedded in the skin of the cat’s neck using a special tool. This can be done by your vet and is usually painless for the cat, and some rescue organisations now have people qualified to do it. The cat will not be aware of the microchip once it has been inserted. Each chip has a unique number which is stored on a national database; there are two of these databases in the UK. The chip has the cat’s name, address, and other information on it, and it can be ‘read’ by anyone who has a microchip reader. These days that includes vets, rescue centres, and other organisations associated with cats.
Cats can lose collars and/or identification discs. There have also been cases of cats getting their collars snagged on branches, or getting a leg caught in a collar. These incidents can happen even if the cat is wearing a so-called quick release collar, and serious injuries have resulted to some cats. None of these things can happen with a microchip. The chip is always there, and if the cat is lost, all the person finding it has to do its get it read by someone who has a microchip reader – usually any vet or rescue organisation.
However, there have been cases of lost cats being found by well-meaning members of the public, who give the cat a home rather than check for a microchip. Of course, this would be less likely to happen if the cat had an identification disc on its collar. So more education is needed, to let everyone know that if they find a cat, they should take it to a vet to see if it has a microchip. Luckily this is becoming more generally known, and hopefully this will not be a problem in the future.
If you intend to let your cat out, it is definitely sensible to get it microchipped. Cat which go out can easily wander, get into a vehicle and end up far from home, or get lost in other ways. Microchipping ensures that you will have a much better chance of finding your cat again if this happens.
However, you should even consider microchipping if you plan to have an indoor cat. Cats can occasionally escape, and cats which are used to being indoors may have trouble finding their way home again.
Microchipping means that if your cat strays or gets lost, you are far more likely to find it than you would be otherwise. Rescue centres are full of ‘stray’ cats, who actually look well cared for and probably have a home…if only anyone could find out where it is. With a microchipped cat there is not that problem as the cat can be identified and the owner contacted. Cats have been reunited with their owners after trips of hundreds of miles – probably no-one knows what happened to them, and the cats aren’t telling.
A friend of mine found her cat because of its microchip, after he had been missing for a year. He had disappeared after a house move. Here is her story...
“We did all we could – laminated notices at the new location and the old, contacted police, Cats Protection, RSPCA, even an announcement on local radio. The weeks turned into months and we kept hoping. But months passed with no sign of the cat. As the anniversary of his loss loomed, I contemplated getting rid of his bed, carrier and food bowls which, by this time were in the garage. I felt it was probably time to face up to the very sad fact that he just wasn’t coming back. Then, two weeks before the anniversary of his loss, I got a phone call out of the blue. A voice said, “Mrs X? **** vets here – we have your cat”. Disturbed in the middle of reading emails I nearly replied, “I don’t have a cat”...but then I realised who they were talking about! It transpired that he had turned up at a factory about three miles from where we live. A man who worked there had started feeding him, and given he is a very friendly cat he had decided to adopt him. He had taken him home and got him checked at his local vets. Luckily for me the vet read his chip and found our details.”
This should prove to any cat owner how important it is to get your cat microchipped. But a word of warning: it is a good idea to ask your vet to check the chip when the cat has its annual vaccinations, as there have been rare incidents of chips 'getting lost'. And if you move house, make sure you remember to contact the microchip company and change your address details. You will be able to find the microchip company's details on the paperwork you receive when your cat is microchipped, so make sure you don't lose it – although your vet should be able to help out if you do. These days address details can usually be changed online, so it is not complicated.
So I definitely urge you to make use of this wonderful new technology. It is not expensive, and it could make the difference between a lost cat which is found, and one which you sadly never see again. It is now the law that all dogs have to be microchipped, and it would perhaps be a good idea if this were the case for cats too. But don't wait until that happens. If your cat isn't microchipped, make an appointment to have it done now!