Nightmare scenario: your cat gets out of the house. You don’t know how it happened, but it did. Maybe she slipped out while you were bringing in groceries. Maybe a screen was loose or missing. Maybe someone broke into your home, and your cat escaped in the process. Maybe there was a fire or a storm, and the cat managed to make it out of your partially destroyed home, but is now lost. It’s a cat person’s worst nightmare, but in reality, this happens all too often.
In the event your cat goes missing, of course you’d want them to have every chance possible of finding their way back to you. With this in mind, it is bizarre how many loving cat guardians refuse to tag (collar & ID tag) and microchip their pet. It makes no sense, and far too many people realize this only after their pet is gone. Don’t be one of those people. Protect your pet while you can.
A microchip is a radio-frequency identification implant that stores a unique ID number registered to your pet. When scanned, the microchip transmits the pet’s ID number, which can then be looked up in a national pet recovery database. If the microchip has been registered by the owner (an important step!), the owner will be contacted to let them know their pet has been found. Any vet or shelter should be able to scan for a microchip, usually for free.
Microchips do not hurt. They are injected into the shoulder blade area of your pet and hurt no more than a normal vaccination. The implantation takes only a few seconds.
Microchips do not require a power source, so there is nothing to wear out or degenerate. Unless defective, they last the lifetime of the pet.
Microchips are not expensive. Microchip implantation usually costs around $45, but when adopting from a shelter, your pet likely comes with one. Sometimes, registration is not included, but the fee to register with a pet recovery database for the pet’s lifetime is very small.
Microchips work. Notably, only 2% of cats without microchips are returned to their owners. With microchips, the rate of cats finding their way home increases 20 times. In many situations, the microchip may be the only thing that saves your cat from being labeled a stray and/or feral cat, which leads to the very real possibility of euthanasia.
Collars & ID Tags
Often overlooked, collars and ID tags are the first line of defense if your cat gets out of the house. Even if your cat is microchipped (which they should be), a collar is an immediate indication that your cat belongs to someone and may be lost. Plus, unlike a microchip, an ID tag can be read by anyone who finds your cat, and you are more likely to be contacted immediately.
Collars and ID tags should be used in conjunction with microchips. Do not assume that if your cat is microchipped, she does not need to wear a collar and tag. Simply Googling “microchipped pet euthanized by accident” reveals how often a lost pet enters a shelter but does not make it out, despite being microchipped. A collar, in contrast, clearly marks your cat as a pet, so they are less likely to be euthanized if they make it to a shelter.
When choosing a collar, be sure to get a breakaway or stretch collar, such as those sold by the Cat Connection. These collars ensure that your cat is unable to strangle itself should the collar become caught on something. The collar should be secure, but loose enough for you to fit 2 fingers between the collar and the cat’s neck. The ID tag should contain your contact information and should be made of a lightweight material that will not easily deteriorate.
But My Cat Won’t Wear a Collar!
We love cats for their stubborn, independent nature. We love that if they don’t want to do something, chances are they’re not going to do it. But every so often, you need to pull rank, and this is one of those times. Cats have the uncanny ability to remove their collars, particularly safe collars with stretch or breakaway mechanisms. If your cat continually removes its collar, you must put the collar back on the cat each time. Eventually, they will resign themselves to the fact that they need to wear this annoying thing. It’s the price of safety, kitty. Deal with it.
Do not wait
Please microchip and tag your pets. It is likely that one day they will get out, and in that moment, you want them to have the best chance of finding their way home. A microchip and a collar & tag are the best chance they have. Otherwise, all you can do is put posters on telephone polls and post about it on Facebook. Give your pet a better chance than that.