Microchipping Cats

Overview

  • A microchip is a tiny identification device that contains a unique number linking a pet to their owner.
  • Microchips help reunite lost, stolen and injured pets with their owners as quickly as possible.
  • Microchips in cats are implanted under the skin between the shoulder blades – it’s a very quick procedure that takes just a few seconds.

What is a microchip?

 

A close up photo of a microchip on a fingertip

A microchip is a tiny identification device (the size of a grain of rice) that links a pet to their owner. Each microchip contains a unique number that can be read by a scanner. If your cat is microchipped and gets lost, anyone with a scanner (vets, dog wardens, and rescue centres) can scan them, call the microchip company and (if your contact details are up to date), get you reunited.

Cat microchips can also keep other cats out of your house if you have a microchip-activated cat flap, and restrict food access if you have a microchip food bowl.

Microchips are not linked to GPS and won’t track your cat’s location.

Getting your cat microchipped

  • Microchips can only be implanted by vets, veterinary nurses, and people who have been specially trained.
  • Most owners get their cat microchipped at the vet’s, but if you go elsewhere (such as a rescue centre or grooming parlour) it’s important to make sure the person chipping your cat is qualified to do so.
  • An ideal time to have your cat microchipped is when they are neutered - they will be under anaesthetic so won’t feel a thing!
  • The professional that microchips your cat will register them by passing your details on to your microchip database company. They will need your name, address, phone number, pet’s details, and ideally an emergency contact.

Cat microchip laws UK

  • It’s not yet a legal requirement for cats to be microchipped however, as of 10th June 2024, it will become law for all cat owners in England to have their cat microchipped by 20 weeks of age.
  • This will ensure any lost, stolen, or injured cats have the best chance of being reunited with their owners as quickly as possible.
  • If your cat is found to have no microchip after this date, you will be given 21 days to get your cat microchipped or face a fine of up to £500.
  • This law is not being introduced in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland at the current time.
  • We strongly recommend that all cats are microchipped before they start going outside.
  • We also recommend microchipping indoor cats in case they escape from the house.

Getting your cat microchipped

A photo of a cat being looked after by a PDSA vet
  • Microchips can only be implanted by vets, veterinary nurses, and people who have been specially trained.
  • Most owners get their cat microchipped at the vet’s, but if you go elsewhere (such as a rescue centre or grooming parlour), it’s important to make sure the person chipping your cat is qualified to do so.
  • An ideal time to have your cat microchipped is when they are neutered - they will be under anaesthetic so won’t feel a thing!
  • The professional that microchips your cat will register them by passing your details on to your microchip database company. They will need your name, address, phone number, pet’s details, and ideally an emergency contact.

Which database is my cat’s chip registered to?

  • There are many different microchip database companies in the UK, so it’s really important that you make sure your cat is registered with one that’s UK government approved (please note this webpage only talks about dogs but the microchip companies are all also relevant to cats).
  • Use 'Check a Chip' to check which microchip database your pet is registered with.

Cost of microchipping your cat

  • Microchipping usually costs between £10-30. Some vets include a microchip in their health plans, and some charities offer them for a reduced cost or for free.
  • Some microchip database companies also offer an enhanced service for a small fee, which often includes unlimited personal detail changes, and assistance if your cat gets lost or stolen.

Changing ownership of a microchipped cat

  • If you rehome or sell your cat, you’ll need to contact your microchip database company to let them know. They will give you a form or code to pass on to your cat’s new owner enabling them to change the details on the microchip. This process is designed to prevent people from changing a pet’s microchip details without the owner’s permission (i.e. if they were stolen).

Lost or stolen cats

  • If your cat is lost or stolen, phone your microchip database company to let them know ASAP. They will check your details are up to date, flag your cat as lost/stolen, and contact you straight away if they are found.

Other pets

  • It’s a legal requirement for all dogs in the UK over 8 weeks old to be microchipped. For more information, have a look at our article 'Microchipping your dog'.
  • Although it’s not a legal requirement to have any other pets microchipped, we recommend you do. Rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, tortoises, and other small pets are notorious escape artists, so having them microchipped will help reunite you quickly if they go wandering.
  • Even unusual pets like reptiles and birds can be microchipped – in fact it’s a requirement for some exotic species that fall under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) rules.

FAQs

How do I change my microchip details?

Contact your microchip company directly - there may be a fee for this. Sometimes you can pay a one-off fee that allows you to then make unlimited changes over the life of your cat.

Does microchipping hurt?

A microchip is implanted under a cat’s skin between their shoulder blades using a needle. Like any injection, microchipping can cause a tiny amount of discomfort but, fortunately, it’s a very quick procedure that takes just a few seconds. Most cats barely notice being microchipped, but a tasty treat afterwards is likely to quickly distract them if they do become upset.

Microchips are made out of non-reactive materials, so once it’s in place - it shouldn’t hurt or cause your cat any problems throughout their life.

How long do microchips last?

Microchips are hardwearing and should last for your cat's lifetime. It’s incredibly unusual for them to break or become faulty, but in the very rare case that one fails (meaning it can’t be read by a scanner anymore), the chip manufacturer will usually provide a replacement chip free of charge. There is no need to remove the old faulty chip, your vet can simply place the new chip in alongside it.

Much more commonly, microchips move a small distance away from where they are implanted but this doesn’t hurt, it very rarely causes problems and the chip will still be picked up if it’s scanned.

Can you feel a microchip in a cat?

It is sometimes possible to feel microchips under the skin depending how deep they sit. Microchips sat right under the surface of the skin are much easier to feel than those sitting deeper under another layer of tissue.

Can you scan a cat microchip with your phone?

It’s not possible to scan microchips with a phone, but it is possible to buy a microchip scanner that you can link to your phone.

Do I need to update my details when I move house?

Yes, it is really important to make sure you update any details with the microchip company that have changed including phone number and address. Many cats are unfortunately not reunited with their owners due to forgetting to update details.

What happens if I don’t know my cat’s microchip number?

There may be a record of your cat’s microchip with their vaccination card. If not, you can phone your vet who may be able to let you know their chip number or you may need to bring your cat to the vet to have it scanned for a chip.

Do I still need to microchip my indoor or elderly cat when the new microchipping law comes into effect in England?

Yes, it will be a legal requirement for all cats over 20 weeks old, including indoor cats to be microchipped from the 10th June 2024.

Published: August 2023

Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only. Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst.