Everything You Need to Know About Microchipping Your Cat

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Losing a cat is every pet owner's biggest fear, but microchips were made to reunite pets and owners in a simple, safe way.

Cats are curious by nature, and indoor cats who don't get to experience the outdoors often, are prone to trying to escape whenever they see an opening. If you're lucky, your kitty won't stray far, and she's wearing a collar and ID tag that will enable a Good Samaritan to return her to the safety of your home. But, as the saying goes, "better safe than sorry," and that's where microchipping comes in. Microchips were made to reunite pets and owners in a simple, safe way even if she has slipped her collar or wandered far from home. Here's everything you need to know if you're considering getting your cat microchipped.

What Is a Microchip?

A microchip is a permanent form of identification implanted underneath your cat's skin. It's not a tracking device, though, as it does not show your pet's location; rather, it stores a unique ID number that's linked to your contact information. If your pet is lost and taken to a veterinarian or animal shelter, she'll be scanned for a microchip. If your cat has a chip, the scanner will pull up an identification number pre-registered with your phone number or address and call the info into a pet recovery service. There, officials will be able to contact you and return your kitty to you.

If your pet was adopted from a shelter or rehomed, she may already have a microchip. You can have your cat scanned for a microchip at her next vet appointment to register her ID number. Getting that info updated is important as you don't want the wrong family being contacted should she ever go missing.

Why Should Your Cat Have a Microchip?

Every pet should wear a collar with tags that have your contact information, but a microchip provides an additional form of ID that can't ever be lost or removed.

"Microchips provide an extra level of protection in case your pet loses their collar and tags," Kimberley Alboum, shelter outreach and policy engagement director for the Humane Society of the United States, says. "Providing your pets with both tags and a microchip can increase the chances of a reunion if your pet gets lost."

If your cat ever goes missing, you'll have the peace of mind their microchip connects them back to you. According to the microchip specialists at HomeAgain, "less than 2 percent of cats without microchips [are] returned home. However, if a cat is microchipped, the return-to-owner rate is 20 times higher than if the cat was not microchipped."

Do Microchips Hurt Cats?

The tiny, grain-size capsules are completely safe for your pet, and the procedure only takes a few minutes. No anesthetic is required—it's as simple and painless as a routine vaccination.

When Should You Microchip Your Cat?

Although the procedure is noninvasive, most shelters wait until kittens are at least 8 weeks old before inserting microchips. The chips are typically inserted between the shoulder blades, where there's loose skin. They can migrate with age, but they will never affect any of your cats' vital organs, as they're only skin-deep. Vets know to scan the entire body to look for chips that may have moved over time. And, unlike collars, microchips last cats' entire lives.

How Much Does It Cost to Microchip Your Cat?

The average cost is only about $45—and that includes the actual chip, the vet procedure, and possible registration fees.

What Should You Do After Microchipping Your Cat?

Getting the microchip implanted is only the first step. After that, you'll have to register your ID number with a national pet recovery database. Keep in mind you should update that info any time your phone number or address changes. Outdated info will make it much harder to reconnect you with your cat.

We don't like to think about the worst case scenario with our pets, but in the event your feline friend gets a little too curious about the outside world, a microchip will ensure they get home safe.

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