Cat Chip Basics: Inside Microchip Identification

A cat chip is one of the easiest methods you can use to help identify your cat in the event she is lost or stolen. The chip (officially a microchip) provides a way for animal care workers to contact you when they find your pet.

Microchip Implantation Is Easy, Quick

Introduced in the late 1980s, microchips are now found in about 8.2 million pets in the United States. The chips are tiny computer chips that are designed to last about 25 years under normal conditions.

Implanting a microchip is not a complicated process. Your veterinarian can inject the chip under your cat's skin between her shoulder blades, and your cat is ready to have this procedure done after she's 6 months old. The chip should not create any health problems for your cat after it's been implanted by your veterinarian because it is enclosed in a biocompatible glass coating.

Tiny Chips Hold Important Codes

The chip contains a specific code that is read by a handheld scanner. There are an estimated 275 billion identification numbers currently available, so no two cats should ever have the same identification number.

The unique code in your cat's chip is connected to a computer file containing your cat identification and contact information. You give this information to the registry when you activate the chip, and the file can also be accessed by humane society or veterinary clinic staff who call a special toll-free number. Animal shelters and veterinary offices use the code to reunite pets and owners.

The scanner can only read the chip when it is held directly over the chip, which means that the chip cannot be used as a cat tracking device to follow the movements of a lost of wandering pet. Cat microchips are inert RFIDs (radio frequency identification devices) that do not emit a signal until they are close to a scanner, rather than being a device with a power source that's capable of emitting a signal that can be tracked.

Manufacturers Begin Working Together to Help Pets

One of the major issues that has limited microchip use by American pet owners is the lack of shared resources among the chip manufacturers, but the chip makers are beginning to work together. They have created universal scanners that read several kinds of chips, and the scanners have become easier for animal shelters and veterinary offices to obtain. The chip manufacturers have also joined forces with the American Animal Hospital Association to provide an online search engine for shelter and veterinary clinic workers to use in their efforts to reunite pets and owners.

Microchips Provide Permanent Identification

Once implanted, a microchip provides a permanent way to identify your cat and offers an excellent backup to her collar and identification tags. Unlike cat safety collars that slip off easily in potentially dangerous situations, your cat's microchip is with her all the time.

Having your cat microchipped improves her chances of coming back to you if she runs away or is stolen. The microchip can help an animal shelter or veterinary clinic get you and your cat back together quicker, and the chip can also help settle any potential disputes over ownership of your cat.