May is National Chip Your Pet Month. Our smallest tabby, Bellarina, was implanted with a microchip before we adopted her seven years ago. She's not allowed outside and has never been missing, but should that ever happen, the chip gives us some assurance that she will make it back to us.
Some pet guardians think microchipping is only helpful for dogs. But experts emphasize that cats also need to be microchipped. Many people believe their indoor cat can't get out, and if he does, he'll naturally find his way back home. Unfortunately, this is rarely true and is why so many end up as stray cats at a shelter. And don't think your outdoor cat can't get lost. Both indoor and outdoor cats can be microchipped at around eight weeks.
Microchips - what they are
Microchips are your backup ID if your cat's collar or tag breaks off and he ends up in a shelter where the chip can be scanned and traced back to you. Microchips are mini devices the size of a grain of rice that contain an ID number personalized to the pet receiving them. They use passive RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology and are activated when scanned with a unique scanning tool. This is how animal shelters and veterinarians can quickly reunite pets with their humans. Microchips can also reduce euthanasia rates of incoming animals whose guardians may not claim them in time. They also explain stories about cats that have made their home months after they've turned up missing and found by a nearby animal control officer - armed with a microchip scanner.
Microchips - what they aren't
You're not getting a tracking device when you have your pet microchipped. Chips don't work like global positioning devices (GPS). Chips can reunite you with your pet, but they can't be discovered unless animal control departments and veterinarians invest in and use their scanners.
Who recommends microchipping?
Nearly everyone involved with animals approves of the technology, including the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). Even the American Mini Pig Association (AMPA) recommends microchips for all pet pigs. You can have just about any animal microchipped, including horses, birds, farm animals, snakes, whales, etc. According to their website, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service uses microchipping when researching wild bison, black-footed ferrets, grizzly bears, elk, white-tailed deer, giant land tortoises, and even armadillos.
Painful? No, inserting a microchip is quick and easy. No anesthesia is required. The chip is injected under the loose skin between your cat's shoulder blades. Veterinarians liken the procedure - and a pet's reaction - to a routine vaccination.
Helpful? Yes, but only if you keep your personal information up to date with the microchip company. The chip can match you and your missing pet, but it cannot track you down if your address or phone number changes. In addition, you'll need to pay a small yearly registration renewal fee to keep the chip active in the database. Tip: For extra peace of mind, ask your vet to scan your cat's chip once a year to ensure it keeps working correctly.
Expensive? Prices vary from near nothing to over $50 per pet. Check with your vet, area pet retailers, and animal shelters, who often offer the service at low-cost clinics. And watch the news - some rescue groups hold events where they offer free microchipping.
Microchipping is quick and painless for your kitty. If he should ever wander off, his tiny chip could mean the difference between finding his way back home to you or not.