The Cat Question: To Microchip Or Not To Microchip?

Lisa Selvaggio
by Lisa Selvaggio
Here kitty, kitty! Are you on the fence about whether or not to microchip your cat?

Microchipping is quite popular as a means of reuniting lost pets with their owners. But there’s also a bit of controversy surrounding microchips and their effectiveness and safety. Continue reading to get more information on this important topic, and consider doing your own research to assess the pros and cons before coming to a final decision.

Related: How Does a Dog Microchip Protect Your Pooch?

What Is a Microchip for Your Pet, and How Does It Work?

Microchips are also known as pet ID chips. They’re only about the size of a single grain of rice, and they use radio frequency waves that transmit information about your cat.

A veterinarian implants the microchip using a syringe, placing it between the shoulder blades, right beneath the surface of the skin. The procedure is quick and feels like any other routine vaccination. Your cat’s subcutaneous tissue will bond to the chip in about a day to keep it in place, although there’s a small chance that it might migrate a little bit before it settles in one spot.

A microchip is meant to last for about 25 years. So, if your cat gets lost, the animal shelter or veterinary office that finds your pet can simply use a handheld scanner to retrieve the chip’s information, which consists of a registration or IDnumber. The veterinary or shelter staff will then be able to look up the information that is associated with that ID number. And if all goes well, it will direct them to you. Once these workers have your phone number, they can get in touch with you to let you know that they have your cat, and then you can work on getting your pet back at home as soon as possible.

Related: Britain Passes New Dog Microchipping Law

The Purpose of Microchipping Pets

Pet microchips are tools that can be used to quickly and easily identify a cat and his owner.

Many pet owners who worry about their kitty getting lost someday decide to have their companion microchipped. That way, if their pet is found, he can be scanned and reunited with his family, regardless of whether or not he wears a collar and tag. This has certainly been the case for many lost pets who have been microchipped, making it the best reason for getting the chip implanted into your cat.

Think about it: even if your kitty spends all of his time indoors, there is a chance that he will run outside and get lost. As an indoor cat, he might be so frightened that he quickly loses his way. And if your indoor cat doesn’t wear a collar with an ID tag at all times, he could end up out there alone, not knowing what to do, and there would be no way to identify him if he were found by a stranger.

Shelters and rescue groups might also microchip cats that come into their care. That way, when they are adopted, these kitties are already set with a microchip and identification. And if the animals ever get lost in the future, their owners may be able to find them sooner rather than later. While some pet owners appreciate this effort, others who want more control over whether or not their cats are microchipped might be irritated by the fact that they weren’t given a choice in the matter.

Bottom line: the great thing about a microchip is that it’s in your cat and will remain there no matter what. Unlike collars and tags that can get lost or damaged, these ID chips might help ensure your pet will make his way home, provided that he is scanned properly once he is found.

The Potential Drawbacks of Having a Cat Microchipped

Despite all of the positive things about microchips, there are some cons associated with this product that you should be aware of. For example, even when a microchipped cat is scanned, it doesn’t always mean that the shelter worker will be able to get the information they need, and there could be several reasons for this.

First off, some scanners might not be able to read the data from your kitty’s microchip, even though there have been advancements to help ensure a pet’s microchip will be scannable, regardless of its registry and brand.

Also, shelter workers might not use a scanner properly and may end up missing a microchip completely. Or, if the microchip did end up migrating to a different spot in the cat’s body and the shelter worker doesn’t do a thorough scan, they might miss the chip that way too.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the microchip needs to be registered in order to work. If your pet had a previous owner who never registered the microchip, or if you adopted your furry companion from a shelter who failed to register it, it simply won’t work. So it’s necessary to ensure the microchip is properly registered at all times.

In addition to that, you need to keep your contact information up-to-date with the registry that holds the information about your pet’s microchip. Otherwise, if your cat gets lost and is scanned, the microchip might direct rescuers to the shelter you adopted him from or to his previous owner. Yikes! So, if you end up moving, be sure to update your information in the microchip registry. And, again, when you adopt a pet, be sure to update the contact information that’s associated with the microchip so it points to you instead of anyone else.

What does all of this tell you? Well, even if your pet has a microchip in place, it isn’t foolproof, so it’s still a good idea to continue using other forms of identification. You might, for example, purchase a collar that’s designed for felines, attach an ID tag to it, and have your kitty wear it just in case he ever gets lost.

One final note: some studies have found that pets who have microchips are at an increased risk of cancer, particularly of aggressive tumors that grow at the site of the chip. And there are also cases where cats who have been microchipped have suffered from neurological damage or died as a result of an improperly implanted microchip that hit the brain stem or caused severe bleeding. Although experts claim that the risks are low, some cat owners might choose to avoid getting their pets microchipped altogether for these reasons.

Weigh the Pros and Cons

When it comes to microchipping pets, there are certainly pros and cons that need to be considered. There are benefits that microchips can provide, but in order to enjoy those benefits, the chip and scanner need to work properly and the people scanning your pet need to be able to retrieve the correct information. Again, it isn’t foolproof, but it can give you greater peace of mind while you travel with your cat or if your feline friend ever gets lost, especially if your kitty isn’t wearing a collar with an ID tag that provides your contact information.

As your cat’s guardian, it’s up to you to decide what’s really best for your pet. Learning more about microchips is wise, and if you want even more information, you can consult with a veterinarian to get the personalized guidance you need to make the right choice.

Lisa Selvaggio
Lisa Selvaggio

Lisa Selvaggio is a freelance writer and editor, and our resident cats-pert, with certifications in pet nutrition and pet first aid. She enjoys producing content that helps people understand animals better so they can give their pets a safe and happy home.

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