Anyone whose beloved family cat has gone missing will know how nerve wracking it can be.
Luckily most moggies turn up in their own time, safe and sound.
But for cats who wander far from home and are unable to find their way back, or are discovered injured, it can prove almost impossible to reunite them with their owners unless they have a name tag or are microchipped.
Cats Protection CATS 2021 report estimated that there were more than 10.8 million pet cats in the UK in 2021, but a whopping 2.8 million of these were unchipped. This leaves them in danger of being separated from their owners should they stray or get lost.
Microchipping is already compulsory by law for dogs. And now new government rules are set to make it mandatory to microchip your cat too.
Under the new plans, cats are required to be microchipped by the time they reach 20 weeks old, or owners face a £500 fine.
It’s a safe, permanent way of identifying your cat and provides you with the best possible chance of being reunited should your feline friend go missing.
Microchipping is important for protecting ‘indoor’ cats that never go outdoors, too, because there’s always the chance that they might wander out of an unclosed door and get lost in an unfamiliar environment.
It’s a simple procedure, much like having a vaccination. A small microchip - about 12mm long and not much bigger than a grain of rice - is inserted under the cat’s skin, usually between the shoulder blades.
It’s normally done at the vets, but it can be carried out by people who are specially trained or qualified to do it at places like cat rehoming centres.
Each microchip contains a unique serial number. This number, along with information on your pet and your contact details is usually passed on by the professional who microchipped your cat to the microchip database company, where all details will be stored.
If they don’t pass on this information themselves, they’ll let you know how to register your details with the microchip database company.
If a missing cat is found, their chip is scanned by a vet, animal welfare or rescue centre or a charity such as Cats Protection, to reveal its unique number. They can then contact the microchip database your cat is registered with and they’ll match the number to your details, so you can be reunited with your feline friend once security checks are carried out.
It depends where you have it done. But you can expect to pay somewhere between £20 and £30.
Charities and cat rescue organisations can sometimes microchip your cat at a lower rate. And if you rehome a cat from a rescue centre, microchipping is usually included in the adoption fee.
A cat microchip is designed to last for your cat’s lifetime, so there should be no need to replace it.
Often, there’s a small fee to pay for updating your contact details with the cat microchip database you’re registered with.
It’s a safe procedure and it will cause your cat no more pain than having a vaccination.
The microchip itself should cause no discomfort at all once it’s in place.
Ideally, you should get kittens microchipped at the same time as they get their first vaccination and before they go outside.
But you can get your cat microchipped at any time.
When the new rules come into place, you could face a £500 fine if you fail to get your cat microchipped by the time they’re 20 weeks old.
If you’re unsure whether your cat is microchipped, you can take them to your vet to be scanned.
The vet or other professional who microchips your pet will pass on all details of your pet, plus your contact information, to the microchip database company. Or they’ll let you know how to register the microchip, this can easily be done online or on the phone.
You’ll be sent documentation detailing your cat’s microchip number which you should keep safe.
If you move house, or change phone numbers, it’s vital you keep your cat’s microchip information up to date. If your cat gets lost and your old address is linked to the microchip, then it’s essentially useless.
You can log a change of address easily by contacting the database provider who holds your microchip’s details. You can do this online or on the phone.
They’ll either charge a fee every time you change address or contact details, or you can often pay a one-off fee which allows you to make as many changes as you like over your cat’s lifetime.
If you’re unsure which database your microchip is registered with, you could contact the vet who inserted the microchip or take your cat to a vet to be scanned.
Otherwise, key in your cat’s microchip number into the check-a-chip website, and it will show you which database holds the registration for your microchip.
If your microchipped cat has gone missing, you should contact the microchip database company to report it as lost. You can usually do this online, or if you prefer, on the phone.
The company will then flag on your account that your cat is lost. Should your cat be found and it’s scanned, they’ll see that the pet is marked as lost on your record and can contact you.
It’s also a good idea to call up vets in the area, the local animal warden, animal rescue organisations and put posters up of your missing cat in the neighbourhood. You can also register your cat as missing on sites like Pets Located.
If you’re giving your cat to a new owner, you’ll need to let the microchip database company know and complete a transfer of keepership. This is usually done online.
You’ll need to enter the new keeper’s email address and contact number and they’ll be sent a message with details on how to complete the transfer request.
A microchip cat flap recognises your cat’s unique microchip and unlocks only for your pet. It prevents strays or other neighbourhood cats from paying your pet unwanted visits.
Similarly microchip cat feeders only open for a designated cat’s microchip. They’re useful in homes which have multiple pets, some of whom might be prone to stealing another’s food. When your cat walks away from the feeder, the lid slides closed.
Though a few pets may be too small, almost all can be microchipped, including rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, parrots and even tortoises, snakes and larger lizards.