Understanding pet microchips and the benefits of micro-chipping your cat
What is a microchip?
A microchip implant is an identifying integrated circuit (transponder) placed under the skin. The chips are similar in size to a large grain of uncooked rice and are based on a passive RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology. The chip contains a unique code (identification number); this number is registered on The National Register Database and should also be noted down on your cat's vaccination record. The chip is made of an inert material which means it has no power source and won't be rejected by your cat's body. To retrieve your cat's identification number, a scanner (wand) is passed over their body, this sends out a magnetic field, which picks up the 15 digit code imprinted on the chip. This code shows up automatically on the scanner's screen; the owner can be identified from this code and be contacted via the computer database. ISO 11784 & 11785 is the international standards that regulate the radio frequency identification (RFID) of animals.
Microchip cat identification is used in cases where collars and ID tags have been lost. Most cats lose their collars frequently, the microchip can't be lost. Microchips have been particularly useful in the return of lost cats. They can also assist where the ownership of an animal is in dispute. Animal re-homing centres and charities benefit from using microchip identification products as it allows them to identify lost and stolen cats and return them to their owners more efficiently. When a cat can be quickly matched to its owner, the centre avoids the expense of housing, feeding, providing medical care or euthanizing the cat. Micro-chipping is becoming increasingly standard at animal shelters: many require all animals to receive a microchip, and provide the service as part of the adoption package when re-homing. Several countries require a microchip when importing an animal, as a proof that the animal and the vaccination record belong together.
Inserting a microchip does not require surgery or, in most cases, even anesthetic. It is inserted deep under the skin with a large needle. Veterinarians who have micro chipping services will usually recommend the microchip to new puppy and kitten owners. Most owners will choose to have this procedure done at the same time as a spay or neuter surgery so their cat does not have to feel the big needle required to insert the microchip.
In cats, chips are usually inserted below the skin at the back of the neck, between the shoulder blades. The chip can often be manually detected by the owner by gently feeling the skin in that area. It stays in place as thin layers of connective tissue form around the biocompatible glass which encases it.
How do they work?
Microchips have a unique number, when a hand held scanner is moved over the body of the animal the scanner is able to read the number on the microchip. The microchip company is then called and the number given to the operator. The operator is then able to look in their database for the owner’s information. Most shelters and humane society's now have scanners and use them on all animals’ that come in their doors.
Microchips are not as expensive as many people believe. The insertion cost varies but most are between 20 and 40 pounds, depending on the clinic. The microchip number then needs to be registered with the microchip company that cost is usually between 10 and 15 pounds. The registration fee is generally a one time fee unless information needs to be changed or updated.
Microchips are important but do not replace collars and ID tags; these are still the primary means to getting your cat back when they are lost and should be applied to all cats. Microchips become more important in cases where an animal is stolen and you need a means to positively identify the cat or in cases where the collar has broken away and the animal home has picked up the animal. Ultimately the successful use of microchips depends on the honesty of members of the public.