In 2016 a new law was introduced making it a legal requirement for dog owners to have their dogs or puppies microchipped by 8 weeks of age. Microchipping in cats is still optional - however, it is highly recommended. So should you microchip your cat or not? In the following article, we hope to give you all the information to make the best decision for you and your cat with regards to microchipping.
A microchip is a small device the size of a grain of rice that is placed under the skin, between the shoulder blades in cats and dogs, or even rabbits, ferrets and other pets. Putting the microchip in is a quick procedure that is usually virtually painless, if done by a qualified individual such as one of our veterinary surgeons or nurses. When inserted by qualified individuals microchips carry very few risks of injury or infection. Once it is in, your cat will not be able to feel the microchip. Cats can usually be microchipped by 5 weeks old, although in very small individuals our vets may advise you wait until a bit later. There is no age limit on microchipping and it can be done at any age. There is a small fee for purchase and administration of a microchip, but once in, most microchips will last for your pet’s whole life.
Each microchip contains a unique 15-digit number. Once assigned to a pet, the number is stored in a secure database along with the contact details for the animal's registered owners. Some pet owners like to have collars with their contact details on as well as or instead of a microchip. However, collars can be lost while your cat is out and about, whereas a microchip will remain in place. The important thing to bear in mind is that if your contact details change, you obtain a new pet that already has a microchip, or if your pet goes to a new home, then it is essential to make sure their microchip details are kept up to date. You can update microchip information by getting in contact with the database company and if you need any advice on this then our vets will be happy to help.
The main function of a microchip is to enable missing pets to be easily and quickly returned to their rightful owners. Cats are naturally inquisitive creatures and very often like to visit other people’s homes, explore new places and roam large territories. Although they usually have an excellent sense of direction, there are a few scenarios where they may not find their way home.
Firstly, if you move house or take your cat on holiday with you; while cats have a fantastic in-built navigation system, a change of location can sometimes throw them off a bit. They may end up getting lost or even trying to find their way back to their original home. Secondly, if a young or new cat is let outside for the first time it may take a bit of time for them to get their bearings. Again this may lead them to get lost or stray too far from home to get back. Thirdly, although some cats may be house cats it is worthwhile having them microchipped in case they accidentally get let outside. House cats haven’t had the same opportunity as outdoor cats to fine-tune their senses, so may find it harder to get home if they wander too far away. In all of these cases if your cat is picked up by a stray centre or found and taken to the vets, the microchip can easily be scanned and your contact details obtained to get them back to you quickly and easily.
Another time microchips are incredibly valuable to you and your pet is if your cat has an accident while they are out and about. From road traffic accidents to catfights, if your cat is found and taken to the vet after an accident, it is essential for the vet to be able to obtain your contact information as soon as possible in order to keep you updated and obtain your consent for potentially lifesaving medical procedures. General anaesthetics and certain drugs require owner permission, so it is essential for the vet to be able to get in touch with you as soon as possible in order to avoid delaying treatment.
Cats love to explore other people’s gardens, houses and even another cat’s food (!). If they find somewhere they can steal food from or even a place where people will feed them they will often return to this place over and over. This sometimes leads people to believe that the cat they are feeding or who is stealing food from them must be a stray since they keep returning for food. Many cats in these situations are brought into the vets by people who have decided they want to adopt the cat that keeps turning up at their door for food. In these situations if a microchip is present it is quick and simple to determine the cat’s real owner and reunite them with you.
However, when a microchip isn’t present the process is a lot longer. Vets must advertise any “stray” cats for 28 days. After this time if the original owner isn’t found then it is presumed to be a stray and ownership granted to the person who brought them in. Therefore a microchip is the best way to ensure that your cat remains in your care regardless of how much they prefer other people’s treats.
Overall, microchipping is an essential procedure for keeping your cat safe and sound when they are out exploring the neighbourhood. It ensures they are reunited with you if lost, allows quick owner contact in cases of emergency treatment and prevents cats from being adopted when they already have a loving owner waiting for them at home. Hopefully this has opened your eyes to the importance of microchipping your cat. If you have any further questions or concerns then please do not hesitate to pop in and have a chat with our vets or nurses.