Microchipping involves placing a small chip, a microchip about the size of a rice grain, underneath the skin and in your cat as permanent identification.
We, as veterinarians, recommend microchipping mainly because it is a way of permanent identification in your cat. The number on the microchip is specific to just your cat. So if they lose their collar or lost the tags on their collar, they would still be able to be traced and find the owner.
It's not. We often chuckle because clients will look and see the needle's size because the needle does have to be a little bit larger to get the microchip through. But actually, it is given just like a vaccine. No anesthetic is involved, and the cats do wonderfully. We use a larger needle bore, but they don't usually react to it. There are no real problems with that microchip going underneath the skin. If they do well with vaccines, they do well with microchipping.
Microchips have a number that's specifically assigned to the chips. So there are never two identical numbers. And those microchips that we use are what we call universal chips. There were different scanners available on the market in the past, and this was a problem when the microchips first came out. There were only certain chips that the scanners would read, so if you didn't have that scanner, then you might not have been able to read the chips. Through technology and advancements in microchipping, universal scanners and universal chips are being used so that a scanner can pick up any of the multiple chips implanted in the cat.
Collars and tags are absolutely wonderful for identification. Unfortunately, if your cat has been out and about, sometimes the tags will fall off, there's a breakaway collar, or the collar gets destroyed. There are ways that the animals are found, and they don't have a collar, they don't have tags, and it doesn't mean they didn't start with them; it just means that maybe they lost them while they were out. Since the microchip is implanted as a permanent identification, we don't ever have to worry about that chip not being there.
Unfortunately, your microchip is not like a GPS system. It does not work to locate. It is just a specific number on the chip. If your cat was brought into a shelter or was brought in by someone who said, "Hey, I found this cat roaming around my house; I want to see if it belongs to somebody," and they bring it to us, we use the scanner to read the chip, and we're able to trace that number back to the owner.
Most shelters and rescue groups will have some type of scanner that's available to them. Most veterinarian clinics will have a microchip scanner as well. You can purchase them yourself online, but there's really no reason unless you are either doing a rescue group or something like that at home, and you're chipping your cats before they're adopted. A veterinarian doesn't have to do the chipping, but we highly recommend that you bring your cat to someone who knows how to do the chipping and register them properly.
Here at Cloverleaf, we scan any animal that comes in that is portrayed as a stray or if somebody says, "Hey, I found this cat. I was driving down the road, and I just thought, I don't know if it belongs to anybody." So any animal that looks like they might be a stray or might have lost their way. We scan them if we don't have any history of a patient that's coming in. We do sometimes have puppies or kittens that come in that may have had a microchip, but the owner's not sure if the breeder did it or not, or they don't know what the number is. So we will typically scan all animals, especially if the owner says, "Hey, can you look for a chip?" It's painless. You just put the scanner up between their shoulder blades and hope you find a number.
When you're cat is microchipped, you will be given information to register online. So depending on what chip is being used, there is a national registry that stores that information. An owner must do that initial setup. Many places will go ahead and register the initial information for you. There are some fees associated. It could be a one-time registration fee or a yearly fee to keep your information in that system. So it depends on what chip is being used. It is definitely worth making sure that the information is kept for a small fee. The other important thing is that if you happen to move or your emergency contact person information has changed, or your phone numbers have changed, you need to remember to update that information on the website. A lot of the registries have a website where you can go directly and not have to talk to anybody but update it yourself. If there's old information in there, we may say, "Hey, this number belongs to Katie Smith, but Mrs. Smith no longer lives here. This number's no longer available." So then, we don't have any way of contacting Mrs. Smith to reunite her with her kitty.
An RFID device is a radiofrequency ID, which is what the microchip is. The microchip lets off radio frequencies from the chip into the transducer, which is your scanner. That's the way it transmits a signal for that information to show on our scanner or reader. A GPS is a global positioning system or satellite that relies on satellites everywhere. The rate of frequency bounces off the satellites to allow you to determine a location. A microchip does not have that capability.
If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (330) 948-2002, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.