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Cat Microchipping - What You Need to Know About Cat Microchipping and Why It’s Important

What does it mean to microchip your cat?

So when we say that, we're talking about implanting a small chip, or microchip, about the size of a grain of rice under the skin of your pet. In this case, a cat. It is usually done in the scruff area behind the neck. Why? Because you try to do it in a universal place so that anybody who is looking for his head chip knows where to look. You wouldn't want to put it on her back leg. Most people are not going to scan a back leg. It's universally accepted that chips are going to be implanted in that region. So that's what we do. But it is a way to identify - not track, but identify - your pet should they ever get lost and don't have any outer markings or tags on them.

Dr. Broussard
The Waggin' Train Veterinary Clinic

Why do veterinarians recommend cat microchipping?

Basically for that reason. So let's say you lose a cat that had collars and tags on as well. The cat turned up somewhere, and their collar had fallen off. And somebody took them in and said, "Oh, look at this poor little stray cat. They’ve got no tags. They must be a stray." Maybe they keep him. And I'm not saying this in a malicious way, but there's no way for them to know who he is, who he belongs to, where he belongs, any of that. But if they take the cat to a vet clinic or animal control and they scan him, the outcome could be a good one.

If that cat is microchipped, then a very unique number is going to pop up when they are scanned. And when that association or organization goes to the database to search that number, then your information as the owner is going to pop up. That way, you can be reunited with your pet. You can't always rely on tags.

If someone finds your pet, then this Good Samaritan might say, "That's Mr. So-and-So down the road." Then they'll call you. That's great. But it doesn't always happen that way, especially on cats, because cats often wear breakaway collars. What does that mean? So if the collar gets hung up at all, if there's any pressure or, heck, even if the cat scratches at it too hard, the buckle is designed to literally break away so they don't hang themselves. That’s why it's not all that dependable to rely on a tag or a collar on your cat, but a microchip can do the trick.

Is microchipping dangerous or painful for my cat?

Dangerous? No, you're implanting a sterile benign non-active device under the skin of the cat. So harmful, no. Painful, for about a second. It is a large-bore needle that we have to use. Imagine a grain of rice and a needle big enough to encompass the grain of rice. It has to go into the skin. So yes, it's a large gauge needle that we have to use. Other than that, it's really no big deal, as it’s done instantaneously and it's effective immediately.

Will my cat's microchip be able to tell my cat's location?

Unfortunately, no. It's not a tracking device. It's an identification device. One other point to make here, if you have your cat microchipped and you don't ever register that microchip number with your information, it's just a number. It's not attached to anything, any individual, no phone numbers. So I can't stress this enough—it's useless. It's worthless if you don't register your information with that chip number. But if you've registered the microchip, the person that finds the lost pet is going to have a vet or other professional look it up in their database and say, "Yep, that belongs to John Smith at 123 Oak Lane." You get the point. But that's how they can be reunited with you as an owner.

Who can scan my cat's microchip information?

Most veterinarians have scanners that are universal readers. It used to be that if you had an Avid chip, only an Avid scanner would detect it. If you had a HomeAgain chip, only a HomeAgain could do so. Thankfully, it's not like that anymore, not to my understanding anyway. The reader that I have would detect all of the major makes and manufacturers of chips. And to go back to the root of the question, who has them? Most veterinarians and every animal control organization should. I cannot even begin to imagine why they wouldn't because that's the whole point of why they exist.

When will a cat microchip be scanned?

It should be done upon taking an animal in to see a vet. So, as a veterinarian, if a client comes in with a cat and says, "Oh look, I just found this cat, he's new, but he's so sweet. I think we're going to keep him." Okay, that's great. The cat might be a stray, but they should be scanned right then. And that's what we try to do here. So anytime somebody comes in with a new pet, I try to just make it a habit to just scan them. Not that I don't trust people, but I just want to know if it's theirs or not, or maybe this was a cat that belonged to somebody else. Also, if your cat gets displaced and is picked up by animal control, then one of the first things they're going to do when they get back to the shelter is scan for a chip. And if the cat is chipped and it has your information associated with it, you should have your cat back pretty quickly.

What if I forget or lose my cat's microchip information?

This is pretty common. You should be able to call your particular company and they'll use their database to access your information, such as name, address, phone number, or something like that. And they should be able to pull you up in their database and give you a list of the pets that you have registered with them. And then from that point, you can have that information re-issued to you. It's pretty easy to do.

What is the difference between a GPS and an RFID device?

Microchips are RFID devices. What does it stand for? Radio Frequency Identification. So the chip is a dormant thing. It has a scanner. When the scanner passes over the chip, it causes it to emit a signal which contains a number that’s typically 16 digits. That's all it does. You can't locate an animal. You can't track an animal. It just says, "Oh, here's an animal. Oh, this is an animal with chip number one, two, three, four." And that's what it does.

GPS, as most people know nowadays, refers to the Global Positioning System. So whatever the GPS device, it is constantly emitting a signal that is detected by GPS satellites, and then sent down to another handheld device or some sort of a tracking device to where you can actually locate and pinpoint the location of a cat.

They are completely different technologies. I wish they were one and the same, but in order for a microchip to serve as a GPS, it would have to have a constant power supply to it in order to continually emit the signal. How are you going to do that? You can't. There's no battery implanted and, if there were, it wouldn't last for the life of a cat. So right now there's no feasible way. If you want GPS technology, there are several companies that have collars that have GPS devices on them, but remember that they do have to be recharged every so often.

If you still have other questions and would like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (337) 230-9247, contact us on Facebook, or email us. We'll get back to you as soon as we can!

Cat Microchipping - FAQs

Dr. Broussard
The Waggin' Train Veterinary Clinic

How can microchipping help my cat?

The simple answer to that one is that it can help reunite you with your cat. If your cat ever becomes lost, microchipping is one of the most dependable ways to identify who the cat is and who it belongs to, and reunite the owner with the cat.

Will the microchip tell me my cat's location?

Unfortunately, no. To know a location, we would have to have some sort of a GPS device or signal. This is different—microchips use what's called R-F-I-D, Radio Frequency Identification. What this means is that when the chip is scanned, it sends a very quick signal to the reader, and it is just a unique number— usually a 16 or so digit number. And if you've taken the time to register that microchip and you linked your contact information to it, then you will have your cat returned to you.

Any time that number is scanned, it will allow us as veterinarians or employees at animal control to pull up your information, so that we can call you and say, "Hey, we have Fluffy at our clinic," and that's how you're reunited. Unfortunately, it’s not a GPS though.

Do all shelters scan for microchips?

I think I can safely say yes, but I don't work in shelters, so I don't know how they operate. That is absolutely what they should be doing. Every animal that is picked up should be scanned when it gets back to the shelter and, if so, it's not all that difficult to find your information, as I just mentioned, and to reunite that cat with their owner.

Who else can scan my cat's microchip if they get lost?

Most veterinarians nowadays have that. The technology's changed a lot in the 20 or so years. When microchipping was first invented, whatever brand of chip was implanted, you'd have to have their scanner to detect it. So you could have a scanner for brand A, and that cat was microchipped with brand B, and it wasn’t going to pick it up. Thankfully, it's not like that anymore. Now, they have universal scanners that can detect any make and model of chip, making it quick and easy to identify.

Does a microchip ensure my cat will be found?

I'd love to answer that, yes, but unfortunately, the answer is no. Why? Because it's not a tracking device. If the cat shows up at somebody else's house and they say, "Oh, look at this cute little kitty," and they just take him, it doesn’t mean they're bad people. But if they never take the cat to a vet or a shelter, they have no way to know that the cat belonged to someone else before. Unfortunately, microchipping doesn't guarantee you'll get the cat back, but I would certainly say that it will increase the odds that you will get them back.

If you still have other questions and would like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (337) 230-9247, contact us on Facebook, or email us. We'll get back to you as soon as we can!

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