The new law on cat microchipping

Written by Napo HQ
20th Apr 2022
6 min read
Summary
From June 2024, 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. This article was updated 15 March 2023.
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 a quick way to have them returned to you. But tags fall off, collars come loose, or can be removed, and the wrong fitting collar on a cat can also be potentially dangerous. 
And that’s where microchipping comes in.

When does cat microchipping become law?

Compulsory cat microchipping will come into force on 10 June 2024. After that date, it becomes a legal requirement for all cats older than 20 weeks to be chipped. If your cat is found to be missing a microchip, you'll have 21 days to get one.

What do we know about the cat microchipping law?

In 2021, the UK government announced plans to make cat microchipping mandatory. According to the new law, it will be a legal requirement for all owners to have their cat chipped by the time they're 20-weeks (five months) old. 
The law comes into force in the UK in 2023. It was
announced this week
(March 2023) that owners will have until 10 June 2024 to microchip their cat.

What happens if I dont microchip my cat?

If you don't micochip your cat, you'll have 21-days to get them chipped. if you cat still doesn't have a microchip after 21 days, you’ll face a £500 fine.

Why should I microchip my cat?

The main reason to microchip your cat is to help reunite you if it’s lost or stolen. 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.
According to Cats Protection, over a quarter (26%) of cats in the UK, or 2.8 million cats, aren’t microchipped. Plus, 4% of people are unsure if their cat has a chip. That means if their cat goes missing, there's no way of telling who they belong to, or where home is.
Collars and tags can carry your details, but the tag may fall off, or the collar be removed. A microchip can't be removed easily, so your details will always be on your cat.
The photo shows a cat walking along a harbour wall. Cat microchipping means no matter how far your cat roams, anyone who finds them knows where they belong.

How does cat microchipping work?

A vet puts a microchip under your cat’s skin using a needle. Each microchip is about the size of a grain of rice and has a unique serial number. It links to a database with your details on. When someone finds a lost cat, scanning the chip reveals these details and helps reunite them with their owner.
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.
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.”

How much does it cost to have a cat microchipped?

It costs between £15 and £20 to get a cat microchipped. 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.
You might need to pay a one-off fee to register your details on the microchip database. You only need to pay once and any future changes to your details should be free.

How long do microchips last? Do I need to replace my cat's microchip

Microchips are made to last for life, so you shouldn't need to replace your cat's microchip.

How to check microchipping databases and keep your details up-to-date

How can I change the details on my cat's microchip?

There are many different databases used to store pet's microchip data. You should have paperwork that lets you know which database holds your details. If you know the microchip's unique number, you can also use
this online chip checker
to find out which database it's registered to.
However, if you’ve lost the paperwork or are unsure of the database, don’t worry. Your vet can help you find which one to update.
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 the personal details on your pet's microchip. 

What happens if I move house?

When you move house, or your contact details change, you should update the details on your cat's chip. Your cat's microchip is only as good as the information linked to it. If your personal details change, you need to update them on the microchip database.

Does cat microchipping hurt?

As a cat lover, you might be wondering, ‘will it hurt?’ Microchipping isn’t completely 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 too. 
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 working as a vet, Louisa has never seen an infection resulting from a microchip. Another very rare risk is a sarcoma, although, similarly, but again, Louisa has never seen one.
Should you microchip your cat? The simple answer is “yes”. Firstly, it will soon become a legal requirement. But it also increases the chances of keeping your cat safe and reuniting you if they ever go missing. If your cat ever does go missing, our
cat insurance
will also help to reunite you by covering advertising costs and a reward for their safe return.

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