Some years ago, we had a tomcat called Frodo who loved chips – meaning the fried potatoes served traditionally with fish in the UK, and bought from a fish and chip shop, not the ‘potato chips’ of the USA, which we call ‘crisps’ here! (Nice to be two nations divided by a common language, eh?)
What Frodo did not love, or hate, or have any opinion about whatsoever, was the other sort of chip – the microchips that all cats should now have with them at all times, positioned just under the skin between their shoulder blades.
Microchips were not commonly used back when Frodo used to steal chips from our plates! These days, however, microchipping cats is standard, because it is simple, relatively inexpensive and arguably an essential part of being a responsible cat owner.
In the UK, Cats Protection will microchip any cat brought to them who does not already have one – and of course, they scan each and every cat first to see if they do have a microchip and the owner can be traced. This, of course, is the whole point of having a microchip in the first place: in a world full of cats, one quick scan can identify the wandering minstrel kitten who perhaps wandered just a little too far, and so your cat can be returned to you.
So, what are microchips and their advantages?
Basically, microchipping is the most effective was of identifying a lost cat – or, perhaps, one who has been injured on a road. Microchips don’t come off and there is no risk of collar-related injuries or problems. There are no known health issues to fitting a microchip – which is the size of a grain of rice and fitted under a cat’s skin between its shoulder blades. Your cat will not even know it’s there once fitted, and the initial insertion is as painless as a simple injection.
There is no minimum age for microchipping, though it is often done at the time of the first vaccinations for new kittens. Naturally, it makes sense to have a microchip inserted before you let your cat outside for the first time!
In the UK, the cost of fitting a microchip is around £20-30, though some cat-owners may qualify for help from charities and pay a reduced price. Cats Protection microchips all cats who arrive at its shelters for free (one reason it relies on the generosity of the British public!)
One big issue with microchips is the fact so many cat-owners fail – accidentally or otherwise – to update details when they move. Sometimes, there is a fee to do this (depending on the database the microchip company used), and so that may be why. Of course, there may be other reasons. Sad to say, in recent hard times, one suspects some owners may not wish to be traced as they can no longer afford to pay for the upkeep of pets. Abandoning a pet like this is something I personally could never do, but it is surprisingly common, unfortunately.
But then again, updating microchip details is often just something people simply forget to do when they move – which is a shame, as that microchip you paid to have fitted becomes utterly useless if you don’t keep it up to date! Updating a microchip is the owner’s responsibility – not that of the microchipping companies. It should be top of your ‘moving’ list whenever you move house!
Updating in the UK can be done via the following companies:
And Anibase www.anibase.com
There is another dimension for those moving to another country. If you come to, or return to, the UK and do not update your cat’s microchip details, then it may, if it strays and then taken to a vet’s, face a period in quarantine, or even be put down. This is because its legal entry into the UK cannot be ascertained. So for those moving countries, updating microchips is even more important.
Some people have cat flaps which recognise microchips, letting only your cat/s and no others into your house. I am unable to comment on how effective or reliable such contraptions are, however. My instincts tell me that if a stray wants to get into your house, he will find a way! We no longer use a catflap and keep our cats (Honey and Bumble) in at night, so don’t have any risk of strange cats coming in and partying all night long chez nous. Incidentally, torti-tabby cross Honey and semi-longhaired Bumble were rescue cats – and Cats Protection microchipped Bumble (then called something else) on arrival (Honey was already ‘done’). So when we adopted both cats around a week later, both already had microchips. We were given their Identichip certificates, so all I had to do was enter our details as the new owners online via the Anibase pet database.
There are always many examples in the news of cats who have been taken in by charities, notably Cats Protection (www.cats.org.uk), with microchips which have not been updated. It is extremely difficult then to trace you – the owner who has not updated the microchip details – and so therefore your cat may be put up for adoption by another owner if attempts to trace you, its first owner, fail.
That may bring up a thorny (and expensive) legal issue if a past owner demands a cat back from a new owner. A microchip is not absolute proof of ownership legally in the UK, but could be heard as evidence in disputes. For advice on this in other countries, please see your lawyer (but don’t pay ‘em a penny!)
In my opinion, it is always best to avoid paying any lawyers – ever – or even risk such expensive nonsense.
And you can avoid ANY issue here by following this simple two-step rule:
Make sure you get your cat or kitten microchipped.
Make sure you update microchip details when you move.
REALLY! MAKE SURE YOU UPDATE!
UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE!
Once you have done these things, you can let the cat out! Because you can rest assured that if your cat wanders too far, gets lost, or just wants to have a bit of fun by worrying you sick, wherever he goes he will be carrying his microchip with him, like a little metal flea under the skin which won’t worry him at all.
Apparently, for security reasons members of the British royal family have microchips inserted somewhere on their person – (I wonder where…) – and it doesn’t seem to worry them either. There is no way of telling whether they have a special cat flap installed at Buckingham Palace which only lets in royals and keeps out the riff-raff! But then, with microchips, anything is possible!
Some true-life tales: