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The new law on cat microchipping - what does it mean for me and my cat?

Written by Napo HQ
20th Apr 2022
6 min read
Summary
In 2023, it will become the law that all cats in the UK must be microchipped by five months old. Failing to do so could result in a fine for owners of up to £500. Microchipping usually costs less than £20, carries no known health risks, and can help you to be reunited with your cat should it get lost. Owners should always remember to update their pet's microchip details if they change their telephone number or move house.
Cat lovers know their cats love to wander. “Cats do what they want; they pack their bags and can go away for about eight weeks, and then they come home like, ‘hi, I'm back,’” said
Dr Louisa Lane
, from White Cross vets and owner of a three-legged rescue cat, Oreo.
We’ve all seen posters on lampposts seeking a missing cat and local Facebook posts pleading for their return. Of course, putting your details on your cat’s collar is the quickest way to have them returned to you, but collars do come loose, and the wrong fitting collar on a cat can also be potentially, very dangerous. 
And that’s where
microchipping
comes in.

Legal requirements for microchipping your cat

In 2021, the government announced plans that make it a legal requirement to have microchipped a cat by the time it reaches 20-weeks (five months) old. 
The law comes into force in the UK in 2023. Once implemented, owners who haven’t microchipped their cats will receive 21-days to get them chipped, and if they don’t, they’ll face a £500 fine. 
According to Cats Protection, over a quarter (26%) of UK cats or 2.8 million cats aren’t microchipped. Plus, 4% of people are unsure if their cat has a chip. 

Why should I microchip my cat?

While it will become law, the main reason to microchip your cat is to help reunite you if it’s lost. A government consultation found that 99% favoured making it mandatory, and there is also resounding support from experts. “I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a vet that didn’t think it’s an excellent idea,” said Louisa. 
She added: “We get many missing cats, especially in the summer when cats want to mate and look for other cats. It will make a huge difference to encourage responsible pet ownership and traceability.” 
Ed Hayes, Head of Public Affairs at The Kennel Club, agrees: “We’ve been chipping cats for years, and the benefit to the animals is overwhelmingly clear. It helps reunite people with their lost pets,” he said.

How does cat microchipping work?

A vet implants a microchip about the size of a grain of rice under your cat’s skin, which links to a database containing your details. When someone finds your lost cat, scanning the chip reveals these details and helps to reunite you.
Louisa has seen owners reunited after several years. “We had a lady who came in with a cat seeking treatment. We checked the microchip, and this cat wasn’t registered to this particular owner who’d been looking after it for over five years.”
Louisa rang the original owner, who took the cat back. “So, it was lovely for the previous owners to get their cat back but upsetting for the lady,” Louisa said.
Your vet can insert the microchip for you. Louisa recommends getting a microchip as part of a routine appointment. “We see cats at their first and second vaccinations from eight weeks old. Then, at four to five months, they should be coming in to get neutered. So, you can microchip at any of those appointments.”
Microchipping costs between £15 and £20. However, many vets offer a wellness plan covering initial vaccinations, worming, and microchipping, which may be cheaper. In addition, some charities provide free or low-cost microchipping.

Microchip databases: What happens if I move house?

Significantly, the microchip is only as good as the information linked to it. 
Many different databases hold an owner’s personal information. So, when a cat is lost, a vet scans the chip and accesses a database that contains your personal information. 
But what happens when you move house?
You should have paperwork that lets you know which database holds your details. However, if you’ve lost the paperwork or are unsure of the database, don’t worry, as The Kennel Club’s Ed Hayes explains.
“If you have no idea, take your pet to a vet and ask them to scan the chip and locate the correct database. The unique number will help identify it. Then, contact the database and update your details following some security checks,” he said. 
As the owner, you are responsible for updating personal details. 

Does cat microchipping hurt?

As a cat lover, you might be wondering, ‘will it hurt?’ Microchipping isn’t painless, but the chip is small – as we’ve said, around the size of a grain of rice. 
“A needle pierces the skin to insert the chip. Although the pain, I suspect, would be similar if you get an injection done yourself, it'd be a short-lived, unpleasant sensation, said Ed. “The lifelong benefits far outweigh the moment of discomfort.”
Vet Louisa agrees: “We wouldn’t do it in a conscious cat if it were too painful. Many cats are easily distracted by food.”

Are there other risks of cat microchipping?

Cat microchips can migrate under the skin and migrate along a cat’s leg. There are no health risks, but it does mean if a vet is scanning a lost cat, they should check the legs and behind the shoulder of a cat. 
As Louisa said: “Whenever I scan a chip, I wouldn't just go between the shoulder blades. I do go down the legs as well. It's important to let the owners know, ‘oh, your microchip has gone down a little bit. We have to raise awareness for vets and nurses, but most of the time, the chip stays put.”
Infections can happen but are rare. “It’s the potential with any injection. You can get things like injection site reactions. It's the same as with a scratch,” said Louisa. 
In ten years, Louisa has never seen an infection resulting from a microchip. Another rare risk is a sarcoma, although, similarly, Louisa has never seen one. 
Should you microchip your cat? The simple answer is “yes”. It increases the chances of keeping your cat safe and finding it when it does wander. 
Plus, it will soon become a legal requirement.