The Importance of Cat Microchipping
Losing a pet is one of the most heartbreaking experiences for a cat lover to endure. That’s why so many veterinarians strongly recommend cat microchipping for their patients. As a loving cat owner, you’ve likely turned to the internet to learn more about how having your cat microchipped works and whether it’s right for your feline friend. Unfortunately, you can’t believe everything you read online. Here at GeniusVets, we believe that information regarding your cat’s health should come from licensed veterinarians — not Dr. Google. That’s why we’ve taken the most commonly asked questions about cat microchipping, sent them to skilled veterinarians throughout the U.S. and compiled their answers to provide you with helpful information you can trust.
While the information on cat microchipping below was sourced directly from leading veterinarians, we encourage you to seek the advice of your own veterinarian or find a trusted vet near you using the GeniusVets Directory.
Microchipping is implanting a tiny chip under the skin between the shoulder blade at the back of your cat’s neck. Each microchip is roughly the size of a grain of rice and is inserted using a syringe. This is done to give your cat a permanent form of identification that can’t be slipped out of or fall off. Should your cat ever get lost, their microchip will allow their rescuer to identify them.
Veterinarians recommend microchipping because it provides identification to help lost and misplaced cats find their way back home. Cats often wear break-away collars, so you cannot always rely on identification tags. It takes just seconds for a curious kitty to dart out an open door or wander too far from their home in pursuit of prey. Microchips allow rescuers to reunite lost cats with their distraught owners even when there is no collar or identification tag.
Having your cat microchipped is safe and causes only minor discomfort when the chip is implanted. Each microchip is sterile and comes in a syringe. Your veterinarian opens the package, lifts the skin at the back of the neck, and injects the microchip using the syringe. It takes just seconds, and microchips are benign, non-active devices that pose no risk to cats’ health and safety.
Each microchip has a unique number that helps identify the cat in which it is implanted. Veterinarians use a handheld scanner that detects the chip and displays its number. The number is then used to look up the microchip’s registration information to determine who the cat is and to whom they belong.
Collars and identifications are great, but they do not provide fail-safe identification. Tags can become illegible or fall off. And since cats wear breakaway collars that are intended to come off easily, lost cats often lose their collars shortly after making their great escape. In addition, unlike a collar, a microchip cannot be removed if a cat is stolen. Having your cat microchipped provides them with permanent identification that cannot be lost or altered.
Unfortunately, a microchip is not a tracking device and cannot be used to determine your cat’s location. On its own, a microchip only contains a number. Once registered, this number is linked to an account containing your pet’s name and your contact information. This information is used to reunite lost pets with their owners, but you cannot use a microchip to track the location of a lost cat.
All veterinary hospitals have microchip scanners, as do animal control organizations.
Other facilities that may have microchip scanners include:
- Animal Rescues
- Animal Welfare Organizations
- Pet Stores
Veterinarians, animal rescuers, animal control officers, and other individuals working in these facilities can scan cats for microchips.
Your veterinarian might scan your cat’s microchip during every wellness exam to ensure it is still in the correct place and functioning as it should. In addition, someone will scan your cat for a chip if they ever enter a shelter or veterinary facility as a stray. Many veterinarians check newly adopted patients for microchips, too. And you are free to ask your veterinarian to check the chip any time you’d like to ensure it’s still in place and functioning properly.
If you forget or lose your cat’s microchip information, don’t panic. This is a common occurrence. Your cat’s veterinarian keeps the information on file in their permanent medical record. If you give them a call, they will remind you of the number. Alternatively, you can contact the microchip company directly to obtain the information you need.
A microchip is an RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification, device and has no tracking capabilities. It does nothing until it is scanned, at which point it emits a signal that transmits the chip’s identification number to the scanner.
A GPS, or Global Positioning System, device, on the other hand, emits a signal that is detected by GPS satellites. The satellites pinpoint the location of the device and transmit this information to another device for tracking purposes.
In short, microchips are RFID devices used for identification, and GPS devices are used for tracking.
If you still have questions about cat microchipping, the AVMA is an excellent source of information. In addition, we encourage you to reach out to your cat’s vet. Don’t have one yet? Don’t worry! We can help you find a trusted local veterinarian for your cat.