Microchipping Cats – Everything You Need To Know

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Macro image of a cat microchipMicrochipping is a permanent way to identify a cat so that if it becomes lost, injured or stolen, there is an easy way to reunite the cat with his or her family. The microchip itself is a similar size to a grain of rice and is implanted under the skin through a syringe between the shoulder blades. Thin layers of connective tissue grow around the microchip, which holds it in place.

August 15th is Check The Chip Day – A day which serves as a reminder to pet owners to check and update their pets’ microchip registration information.

How does a microchip work?

Cat microchip
The microchip is between 11-12 mm long

The microchip uses passive RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology and emits a radio signal when a scanning device is passed over the skin. Because they use RFID technology, microchips do not require a power source like a GPS.

Most veterinarians, animal shelters and councils have access to a scanning device.

Microchipping a cat
The microchip is injected under the skin between the shoulder blades
Microchipping a cat
A scanner can pick up the unique microchip number which is linked to a database with the information including home address and contact phone number

Who can microchip a cat?

Only authorised implanters can insert microchips and they must fill out the microchip form and include the owner’s details which is then forwarded to the pet registry which is operated by local government.

The new owner will receive a letter from their local council or the relevant registry and pay a small fee. In NSW the fee is a once off, other registries have an annual fee.

Benefits of microchipping

Microchipping is relatively inexpensive and is the only permanent form of identification for a cat. Veterinarians, animal shelters and councils all have access to a scanner.

Unfortunately, the microchip is only effective if pet owners keep their details up to date. Remember to contact the database if you move house or your phone number changes. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, only six out of ten microchips are registered. It is frustrating for animal shelters and veterinarians to take in a lost pet only to find out the microchip details are out of date. At best, they spend time looking for the owners on social media, and at worst, if an animal shelter is unable to find the owners after a compulsory holding period, the cat is at risk of being euthanised.

If the cat is stolen, the microchip can be used as proof of ownership.

Some databases also keep information on the cat’s medical history, so if the cat turns up at a shelter or veterinary practice, they can quickly access this information and potentially give it medical treatment.

Microchips can also be used with additional technology, which includes cat flaps and microchip feeders. These products read the cat’s microchip and won’t work if the microchip number doesn’t correspond, which can help keep stray or wild animals out of the home or stop household pets accessing the wrong food bowl. This is especially useful if one or more cats are on a prescription diet.

Microchip cat feeder

Does microchipping hurt?

Microchipping feels the same as a routine vaccination. This can be eliminated if the cat is microchipped at the same time it is desexed, the cat will be under anesthesia when the chip is implanted.

How long do microchips last?

Because the microchip has no internal energy source, the microchip lasts a lifetime.

How much does it cost to microchip a cat?

Approximately $80 Australian dollars or $60 US dollars.

What if my pet was microchipped overseas?

Some databases do allow you to register your cat’s overseas microchip with them. Contact your veterinarian or a pet microchip in your country.

If a scanner does not detect the microchip OR the microchip is not an local standard microchip then it will be necessary to microchip the cat again.

Do indoor cats need to be microchipped?

Most Australian states have made microchipping of cats and dogs compulsory.  As of 1st July, 2019, anybody giving away or selling a cat in New South Wales is required to list the microchip number in the advertisement.

Even where microchipping isn’t compulsory, and the cats live indoors, it is strongly recommended. Accidents happen, collars can be removed or fall off, and cats can escape, if the cat is microchipped, it will be easy to for the relevant authorities to access the cat’s information and reunite him or her with their family.

What are the side effects of microchipping a cat?

Side effects are extremely rare, and the benefits by far out weigh any possible risks.

Possible migration of the microchip.

Spinal cord injury resulting due to incorrect microchip placement.

Your responsibilities

  • Pay council or registrar fees.
  • Fill out the form with up to date information.
  • If you move, or change address, update the database.
  • If the cat is sold, or adopted, you are responsible for transferring the microchip information to the new owners.

How do I change my cat’s microchip details?

Contact the relevant database company who can update your cat’s records. If you don’t know your cat’s microchip number, contact your veterinarian, council or animal welfare shelter who can scan your pet and supply you with the microchip number.

What if you don’t know which registry the details are with?

There are several online tools which allow you to enter the cat’s microchip and find out details of the registry.

Do microchips have a GPS?

Not at this time.