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Microchipping your Cat

Microchipping your Cat

The Chips are Down – Microchipping your Cat

The UK government is to make cat microchipping mandatory to help reunite lost, stray and stolen cats.  80% of cats that come into the Cats Protection League as strays, lost or ferals are not microchipped. The new legislation comes into force on the 24th of June 2023 and is part of a raft of other protections the government has schedule under their flagship, Action Plan for Animal Welfare. This was a key manifesto commitment. A recent consultation demonstrated that 99% of people support compulsory microchipping for cats and the new rules will protect millions of cats across the UK.

When can you Microchip?

You can microchip a cat at any age so if you acquire a stray or keep a lost cat that doesn’t belong to anyone else, then you will need to get them microchipped. The new law requires that owners microchip their cats by the time they are 20 weeks old.

Is Microchipping Painful for a Cat?

The procedure is quick and simple with a small chip inserted under the cat’s skin in the scruff of the neck between the shoulder blades. The vet will check the chip is working properly by scanning it after the procedure is complete. The vet will give you several stickers with the bar code and number and it’s useful to put one of these on your animals’ records like the vaccination card and any breed certificate or registration document.  The microchip is around the size of a grain of rice so could be uncomfortable for your cat as it’s being inserted. It is more intrusive than an annual vaccination. Cats vary in their response to microchipping; some make a fuss who don’t usually worry about vaccinations whereas other cats react to any injection. The process is swift and is only ever done once. A good time to microchip a young cat is when they are being neutered. Under general anaesthetic, they won’t feel anything. Sometimes you can feel the chip underneath the skin but don’t worry if you can’t. The chips can move around but vets and trained scanners are aware of this and will always scan any animal very thoroughly in case the chip has moved. A chip cannot migrate to a location which will cause harm to the cat. 

Microchipping is Part of Good Cat Care

Microchipping your cat is just as essential an element of good cat care as vaccinating your pet annually and administering flea prevention and worming treatments. All cats should be microchipped before they start going outside and all indoor cats should still be microchipped in case they escape or are let out by accident. The law applies to indoor cats too. Cat microchips also help with good feline management and can keep unwanted cats out of your house with a microchip-activated cat flap which only responds to your cat’s chip. You can also restrict food access using a microchip food bowl.

Final Thoughts

There are over 10 million pet cats in the UK and estimates suggest that nearly 3 million of them are unchipped. Even with the best care and attention, cats have a real curiosity and wanderlust and can easily become lost, injured in an accident or end up in a different location by climbing into vehicles. Microchipping ensures every cat can be reunited with their owner even after years of absence. It is quick and easy to find the owner in the event that a cat is injured and if the worst comes to the worst, there is peace of mind and certainty of outcome avoiding that horrible situation faced by many cat owners of never actually knowing what has happened to their pet.

Where are the Microchip Details stored?

The cat’s microchip will have a unique serial number which is kept in a central pet microchipping database. If you buy or acquire a cat that has belonged to someone else then you will need to update the records with the cat’s new details. If you find a lost, stray or injured cat then this new legislation can help unite them with their owner. You don’t need to go to a vet to have the microchip scanned. Pet rescue organisations and charities have handheld scanners and there are also ad hoc groups like Scan Angels which can be found on social media who will scan for a chip for free. Unfortunately, microchips don’t have GPS technology so you can’t use them to track a lost or missing cat. There are several different microchip database companies in the UK so you should ensure your cat is registered with one that is government approved. If your cat was microchipped a long time ago, there is an online facility called Check a chip which will remind you of which database your cat is registered with. If you move house or change your phone number, remember to update your details on the central database. If you rehome or sell your cat, contact the database company beforehand and they will give you a form to pass onto your new cat’s owner so they can change the details. Most microchip companies won’t update the details of a pet without the consent of the previous owner. This is designed to prevent anyone from changing a cat’s registration details for example, in the event they were stolen.

The Penalty for Failing to Microchip a Cat

A cat which has not been microchipped could land their owner with a £500 fine. Owners have 21 days to microchip the cat or face a financial penalty.

Are Vets the Only People who Can Microchip a Cat?

Microchips can be inserted by vets, veterinary nurses and other people who have been specially trained to do it. Many cat rescue organisations and charities will have at least one staff member trained to insert microchips.

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