Microchipping Pets -
Pros And Cons Of Pet ID Chips

Microchipping pets (pet ID chips) is one of a few ways of identifying your cat should he get lost. This page looks at the pros and cons of using a cat collar, a tattoo and a pet ID chip.

Every time I see one of those posters stuck to a lamp post, or pushed through my door with a picture of a lovely kitty and the words "Lost Cat - Reward for Safe Return" my heart sinks.

It's awful to lose a pet and not know what's happened to them. Any cat can get lost - even house cats if they get outside by mistake.

I believe we owe it to our kitties to give them the best possible chance of a safe return if they do go missing. Here are the pros and cons of the most common cat identity methods:


Collars, Tattoos and Microchipping Pets -
Pros and Cons of Each Method

1) Cat collar with tag

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Non-permanent, so details can be changed if you move house for example
  • Easy to apply

picture of cat wearing cat collar and id tag

Cons:

  • Easily lost
  • Easily removed by a thief who wants to steal your cat
  • May get caught - if there isn't sufficient "give" could cause the cat to choke
  • Wear out over time and need replacing
  • Can cause matting of fur in long haired cats


2) Pet tattooing

A tattoo is applied by a vet, usually on the outer ear or inner leg of the cat. The tattoo is usually a number which identifies the cat with a particular registry. However, details of the registry often aren't part of the tattoo.

Pros:

  • Quick and easy to do
  • Permanent
  • Can help to deter theft - potential thief may think twice if they spot the tattoo and know what it is

Cons:

  • Usually requires anesthesia to apply
  • Can fade over time and become illegible
  • If applied to a kitten, as skin grows tattoo will become more spread out and may become illegible
  • Many people who find a lost cat won't know what the tattoo means, or even think to look for it
  • If the registry details aren't part of the tattoo, anyone finding the cat may struggle to locate the registry (there are several)


3) Microchipping pets

A microchip is a tiny pet ID chip, sealed in glass, that fits into a hypodermic syringe. The vet injects it under the cat's skin between the shoulder blades. The chip contains identity information which any vet can then scan, use to identify the cat, match it to a database and re-unite it with its owner.

Pros:

  • Quick and easy to do - no anesthetic required
  • Permanent
  • Tamper-proof
  • Doesn't irritate cat at all after insertion
  • Doesn't fade or change over time - lasts the cat's whole lifetime
  • Doesn't disfigure like a tattoo

Cons:

  • More expensive than collars or tattoos
  • It's not visible, so many people wouldn't think to take a cat they'd found to the vet to get it scanned for a chip
  • I've heard that it's possible to wipe pet ID chips by putting a strong magnet near where they were inserted, but I don't know how true this is

Out of all the methods above, I prefer microchipping pets to identify them. It's a bit more expensive than the other methods, but it's still reasonable - most vets will do it for about $30 - $40. You'd easily spend that printing out posters and putting ads in the paper to try to find your lost cat.

Some owners use a combination of a microchip and a cat collar to identify their cat. This is fine, as long as the collar has an elasticated piece in case it gets caught.

I once lost one of my previous cats, Daisy, for 72 hours. I got her back thanks to her pet ID chip. I was so relieved to see her again - the £20 or so I paid for it felt like it was the best £20 I'd ever spent.



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