The following advice has been put together by @vitalpetclub
Having your cat microchipped is really important – especially if they become lost or stolen – as most vet practices, animal shelters, dog wardens and even some police officers have access to a microchip scanner. This scanner will allow them to scan your cat to access your details so they can be safely returned to you. But how exactly do microchips work? Can you change your contact details after a cat is chipped? How old does your cat have to be for a chip? And can you track your cat’s microchip? Find the answers to all your microchip questions below.
How microchips work
A microchip is a tiny radio chip the size of a grain of rice. This chip is inserted into the skin between the shoulder blades using a special device. The insertion of a chip is quick and, although the needle used to insert the chip is slightly bigger than a vaccination needle, the process is similar, and most cats experience no, or minimal, discomfort.
It’s really important to get your cat microchipped, even if they’re indoor only – as no owner ever plans for their cat to escape – and if your cat has spent their whole life indoors, they’re likely to become very frightened if they manage to escape outside, which means they can easily become confused and lost.
Microchips can be read by anyone with a microchip scanner. Lost cats are often routinely scanned, and most rescue centers and vets will have at least one scanner available. This means that, if your cat is missing and they are taken to a shelter or veterinary clinic, they can be scanned in order to access your contact details. But don’t worry, when a cat is scanned it won’t immediately show your personal details. Instead, the scanner will show a code and the vet or shelter can then contact your microchip company who will retrieve your details from their secure database in order to reunite you with your pet.
The benefits of microchipping your cat
The main benefit of having your cat microchipped is if they become lost or stolen, as there is a much higher chance of you finding them again if they’re chipped. And if your cat becomes injured and is taken to the vet, the vet will be able to get in contact with you to inform you of what has happened and create a plan with you going forward. Also, in the sad situation where a cat is found deceased, their owner can again be contacted, so they’re not left worrying.
Many cats can also stray and become friendly with other households. Often this isn’t a problem, however, if these other household think your cat is a stray and want to adopt them, they can scan them for a microchip to work out if they really are a stray in need of a home, or if they’re a much-loved pet who has become lost.
There are also microchip-activated cat flaps available. These cat flaps need to sense your cat’s specific chip in order to unlock, which means that no unwanted visitors are able to get into your home to steal your cat’s food or have a nap on your sofa!
When to microchip your cat
Cats can currently be microchipped at any age, although it’s always worth keeping up to date with new legislation requirements as they come in. However, as a general rule, it’s best to get your cat chipped (and fully vaccinated) before they go outside for the first time.
Kittens are often microchipped during their second vaccination, or at the same time as neutering (while they are still under anaesthetic). Your vet can help you to make a decision about when will be the best time to microchip your kitten based on their size, temperament, physical exam and history.
What about tags and collars?
Collars and tags are also useful to help people to get in touch with you if your cat goes missing – and you don’t need a scanner to read them. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that tags and collars can easily be removed or lost.
Collars can also be useful for other reasons, for instance, reflective collars can help to improve your cat’s visibility in the dark. However, if your cat’s collar is loose, there is a risk that their front leg or jaw may become stuck in their collar, or they could get their collar caught on a branch when they’re climbing around, which can be really dangerous and cause injury. To help to prevent this, it’s best to always make sure your cat’s collar has a ‘quick release’ mechanism, and also ensure their collar isn’t too loose (or too tight) by always ensuring you can get one or two fingers under it when it’s fastened. If you would like more information on fitting your cat’s collar, International Cat Care <LINK: https://icatcare.org/advice/collars/> have some really useful information on their website.
Can you track your pet’s microchip?
Microchips only work for identification, so you can’t use them to track your cat’s whereabouts – as interesting as it would be to see what your moggy gets up to…
There are special pet tracking devices you can purchase, which you can attach directly to your pet’s collar, and track via your phone. However, unfortunately most of these devices are currently quite big, and more suitable for medium or large size dogs rather than cats.
Is it compulsory to microchip your cat?
Although DEFRA announced in May 2021 that microchipping cats will be compulsory in the UK in future, it’s currently still voluntary for owners. However, due to the reasons stated above, it’s best to get your cat chipped, and the easiest way to do this is by ringing your vet to arrange an appointment.
How to change your cat’s microchip details
If your cat goes missing, it’s essential that their chip is registered to your current contact details and, if your details change, always remember to call your microchip company to update them. Similarly, if you rehome your pet, you will need to change their microchip details to those of their new owner. Also, if you take on a cat who has already been chipped, you will again need to contact the chip company to ask them to update their system to include your contact details, rather than those of their previous owner. Ideally, it’s also best to get all the microchip paperwork from your cat’s previous owner, however, if you are unable to do this, and are unsure which company your new cat’s microchip is registered with, your vet will be able to help you out. And if you’re not sure whether your cat is microchipped at all, your vet can help you with this too.
So, that concludes our guide on feline microchips. If you have any more questions about microchips, or want to check your cat for a chip, it’s best to get in touch with your vet for more information.