Few things in this world can make you feel as scared and helpless as realizing that your cat has gotten lost. Sadly, many cats that go missing are never found, and they either end up dying on the streets or languishing in a shelter.
There is one thing that you can do that will increase your odds of finding your cat alive, though: Microchip them. These tiny devices make it more likely that if your cat is found, they’ll be reunited with you in the end.
While that definitely sounds good in theory, it also raises a few questions.
How Does a Microchip Work?
Microchips are small devices that are implanted just below your cat’s skin, usually between the shoulder blades.
The chip has a radio frequency (called an RFID), and vets and animal control workers have special devices that can read those frequencies. When they scan the chip, the reader will disclose the pet’s unique number.
This number will be registered with the microchip company, which will also have your information on file. They will then contact you to let you know where your missing pet is.
Doing things this way ensures that the only people who have access to your contact information are the microchip company — the person with the scanner will only be able to see your pet’s unique ID number, which is worthless to them.
It’s important to understand that you have to register your cat’s microchip, or else the company won’t be able to let you know when your pet has been found. Many pets get microchipped, but their owners fail to register the chip with the company, so they can’t be reunited with their little buddies if they get lost.
Where Should I Get My Cat Microchipped?
Most people just have their vets do it; it’s a routine procedure, and it doesn’t cost much at all.
There are other options available, though. Many animal shelters will do it as well, and even some pet stores have the capability of installing a microchip (especially if you got your cat through them).
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter where you get it done, so long as you do. The RFIDs that these things emit are universal, so if you have it installed by one vet, it can be read by another (or by an animal control worker, etc.).
How Much Does It Cost?
The price will vary depending on where you have it done. Generally speaking, though, you should expect to pay between $40 and $50 if you have it done by a vet.
A large portion of that cost will be due to the fee for the office visit, though, so having your pet chipped during a regular checkup could save you money. Registering your chip with the company is usually free.
You may be able to have it done more cheaply at an animal shelter or through a rescue group. Some shelters have special days with discounted chipping costs, kind of like a low-cost vaccine clinic. You may be able to have it done for as little as $10 in that case.
If you adopt your cat through a shelter, they may already be chipped, so be sure to ask. The chipping could be done by the shelter itself (in which case, it will be included in your adoption fee, but likely at a lower cost than you’d get through your vet) or the pet could have been chipped by a previous owner.
If the cat was chipped by a previous owner, though, you’ll need to contact the company to update your information. You don’t want them calling the old owner if your cat gets lost.
Is Microchipping Painful for Cats?
It’s about as painful as having blood drawn, which is to say that it’s uncomfortable, but not that painful. Your cat shouldn’t have any issues handling the implantation, nor should they have any lingering effects from it.
If you’re worried about your cat feeling pain, you might want to do the procedure at the same time as another procedure, like when they’re getting spayed or neutered. That way, the chip can be implanted while they’re under anesthesia, and they won’t feel it at all. This isn’t really necessary but it may be a nice touch.
Microchipping is one of the safest procedures that you can perform on a cat. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there have only been 391 adverse reactions to the implantation procedure, and over 4 million pets have been chipped.
The most common potential side effect is having the chip migrate from its original implantation site. This isn’t likely to harm your cat, but it could reduce the chances that the chip can get scanned if they get lost, so it’s worth having your vet check for the chip periodically.
Other side effects include hair loss at the site, swelling, and infection, although these are rare. Many people say that they’ve heard of the chips causing tumors, but out of those 4 million chipped pets, only 4 developed tumors at or near the implantation site. That’s an astronomically low number, and it’s quite possible that the tumors could have been caused by an unrelated issue entirely.
Microchip Registry and Lookup
There are several different microchip companies in the United States, and each one maintains its own database. At this time, there isn’t a central U.S. database that includes the information for all microchipped pets, but other countries (like Great Britain) have them.
Fortunately, the chip will display the name of the company when it gets scanned, so the vet will know exactly whom to contact.
All of this will be useless if you don’t register your chip with the correct company. After the implantation procedure is complete, your vet (or whoever performed the implantation) will hand you paperwork that shows you exactly how and where to register the chip.
We recommend registering it as soon as you get home, so you don’t forget. If you do forget and your cat gets lost, you can still register them if you have the paperwork, so don’t abandon hope.
Will a Microchip Help Me Track Down My Cat?
No, a microchip does not have a GPS or other tracking system in it. It will only help if someone finds your cat and takes them to a vet or shelter to get scanned.
That’s why it’s recommended to use a microchip as only one part of a pet-recovery system. You should still have a collar and tags on your cat, and you should still take pains to make sure they don’t escape.
If you want to go the extra mile, there are collars with GPS trackers in them. They’re expensive, but they can help you locate your cat with a good deal of accuracy if they get lost.
They’re not foolproof, though, and many of them will only give you a general idea of where your cat is, rather than lead you to their exact spot.
Still, when used together, all these techniques will give you a better-than-average chance of tracking down your kitty if they get out.
No one wants to think about their cat going missing, but to give you the best chance of being reunited with your best friend, it pays to be proactive, and getting them microchipped is an excellent way to do just that.
It won’t guarantee that you’ll get your lost cat back, but it will definitely boost your odds!
Featured Image Credits: LightField Studios, Shutterstock