Microchipping Your Cat
In May 2021, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced that microchips will be compulsory for cats in the UK as part of an Action Plan for Animal Welfare(2). Owners of a cat without a chip may face a fine of up to £500. This legislation was implemented for dogs in 2016, and it is estimated that over 90% of dogs are now microchipped(3). In contrast, only about 70% of owned cats are estimated to be microchipped, which means there are over two and a half million pet cats without chips in the UK(3).
What is a Microchip and How Does it Work?
A microchip is a tiny implant, roughly the size of a grain of rice. It works according to technology known as radio-frequency identification. A microchip does not have its own power source, but when the scanner used to read the microchip passes over it, electromagnetic forces are generated so that the information on the chip can be transmitted to the scanner.
Each microchip has its own identification number and when the microchip is first inserted, this number and the owner’s details must be recorded on the microchip data base. Ordinary microchips cannot track lost animals - they rely on vets and welfare organisations scanning stray animals and then searching the database for the owner’s contact details.
Why is it Important to Microchip my Cat?
Microchipping is the best way to ensure that you will find your cat if it gets lost. Collars with tags are useful, but they can easily come off.
Microchipping may seem unnecessary for indoor cats, but unfortunately this is not the case. Cats are naturally inquisitive and masters of escape - not only from their homes but also any opportunities they might find during transport or even at the vet. Additionally, cat theft in the UK has increased more than 12% in the last year(3).
Lastly, if a stray cat is severely injured or unwell, and no owner can be traced, it is more likely to be euthanised at a welfare centre. Microchipping is a bit like skydiving with a reserve parachute – hopefully you will never need it, but you’ll never regret having it!
How is the Microchip Inserted?
Microchips are inserted via an injection, into the loose skin between the shoulder blades at the scruff of the neck. The needle is large to accommodate the chip, so the procedure is momentarily painful but does not require any medication or recovery time. There can also be a small amount of bleeding. The best way to keep discomfort to a minimum is to make sure that your cat is properly restrained for the injection, and to be calm and comforting. Sometimes it’s best if this is left to the veterinary staff, especially if you are anxious and may convey this to your cat! (No judgement here - my husband starts sweating whenever Gorbi has to be vaccinated!)
When Should I Get My Cat Microchipped?
If you have a kitten, it is recommended to get them microchipped before they go outside and some people choose to have it done at the same time as neutering. If you are re-homing a cat, they most likely will have done this already but it's always good to double check prior to adopting. There is no minimum age for a microchip to be implanted so the sooner, the safer.
How Much Does It Cost?
Microchipping typically costs between £20-30. Additionally, if you are re-homing a cat, there is sometimes a small admin fee to register new details.
How Long Do Microchips Last?
A microchip should last for your cat’s whole life. In rare instances, the microchip may become faulty or migrate, and then it will not be found by the scanner. For this reason, it’s a good idea to check that the microchip is still functioning correctly during check-ups at the vet.
It’s also crucial to remember to update your details on the database if you move house or change telephone number. Last year, only 43% of cats that came into Battersea Dogs and Cats Home had microchips(1), and alarmingly, less than a fifth of those with chips had accurate owner details(1).
It’s easy to lose track of microchip details and vaccination cards, but if you do not know how to update your details directly, then contact the microchip company to do so for you. Your vet may be able to help you find the right company by scanning the chip, as different microchip companies usually have specific identification codes.
At KatKin, we believe that cats should have chips with their fish!
In the UK, approximately a quarter of a million pets go missing every year(4). The new law is a positive step for animal welfare in the UK. We hope that with microchipping becoming mandatory, many more lost cats will find their way home.
If you have any queries about microchipping, feel free to pop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find us over on Instagram and be sure to join our private Facebook Group, the KatKin Club House to connect with like-minded cat lovers!
Closer Pets. (2021). Microchipping cats is set to become compulsory – here’s what you need to know. Retrieved July 31, 2021, from: https://closerpets.co.uk/blogs/news/microchippiing-cats-is-set-to-become-compulsory-here-s-what-you-need-to-know
International Cat Care. (2021). Microchipping to be compulsory for cats in the UK. Retrieved July 31, 2021, from: https://icatcare.org/compulsory-microchipping/
Lee, J. & Marshall, C. (2021). Cats must be microchipped under animal care plan. BBC News. Retrieved July 31, 2021, from: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-57068182
Royal Veterinary College. (2021). Pet microchipping. Retrieved July 31, 2021, from: https://www.rvc.ac.uk/small-animal-vet/general-practice/services/pet-microchipping