April 16th is the beginning of National Pet ID Week and microchips for pets are an important part of trying to make sure your kitty can be reunited with you if lost. Pet collars with id tags are great, but all too often come off, especially if your cat is outdoors, scared, and hiding in the bushes. A pet microchip is permanently injected under your kitty's skin and will remain there in spite of the length of time he is lost or environmental conditions.
In my opinion, every pet should be microchipped. The only thing better than microchips for pets would be the ability to have a GPS in my cats. The day a gps device becomes small enough for cats and affordable, my cats will be first in line and they don't ever see the great outdoors. However, the "what if..." is enough to make me want to protect them. Meanwhile, pet microchips and collars and id tags are the next best thing. Microchips for pets are just a bit longer than a grain of rice, as you can see from the microchip pictures below, and are very affordable!
If you've ever lost an animal you loved, you know how agonizing it is to wonder what happened to them. Dozens of scenarios go through your mind, most of them pretty awful. The worst one is that your cat is out there, injured and suffering. However, it's also very disturbing to think that your kitty was found and taken to a shelter and is in a cage and can't be identified as belonging to you. The thoughts get even harder to bear if you consider that it could be a shelter that euthanizes stray animals.
Unfortunately, many years ago, before I started keeping my cats exclusively indoors, I experienced that very horror and not just once. One of my cats disappeared and I never found out what happened to her. She wasn't wearing a collar and it was in the days before there were microchips for pets. Was she shot by a hunter? Did an owl or hawk swoop down and carry her off? Unthinkable thoughts ran through my head and sometimes still do. Or did she wander off, get lost, end up in a shelter or someone else's home and couldn't be reunited with me because she couldn't be identified?
During that same year, two more cats disappeared. They were brothers. Because they were wearing collars with tags, I found out what happened to both of them. One ended up in someone's yard many miles away. We were called because his tag had our phone number on it. The other was run over by a car and killed, but we found out what had happened because someone found his body with the collar and tag and called us. I was heartbroken over both of the cats that disappeared and never came back, but my agony was far worse over the one that wasn't wearing an id. I never knew what happened to her or had a chance to get her back. I have read many times since that it is worse, for example, to be the parent of a missing child than it is to lose a child to death. Both are horrendous, but now knowing is worse. I think it's the same regarding our pets. My experiences during that time and my grief led me to keep my cats indoors from then on and I haven't regretted it for one moment.
One more story to share with you. My husband and I used to live in New York, right in the heart of Manhattan. We were walking our dog one evening when she managed to break away from us to chase a pigeon. Unfortunately, she ran into the street, was hit by a cab, and then was so freaked out, she ran off, limping in the opposite direction. We were unable to catch up with her and spent an agonizing night driving up and down the streets, calling her name.
We also called the shelters and vets in the area to ask if a dog fitting Jessie's description had been found. Everyone said no, and even though we called the shelter repeatedly, the answer was always the same. No dog fitting Jessie's description was in the shelter.
Then someone suggested we should go to the shelter anyway and look around. We did and she was there, wounded, but alive and happy to see us. She went on to live 14 more years. The point of my story is that we would not have ever seen her again if we didn't go to the shelter unless she was wearing an id tag or had a pet microchip implanted.
And she definitely wouldn't have lived 14 more years. We had rescued Jessie from a shelter the night before she was going to be killed because her personality was such that no one would adopt her. We took her home and discovered a different side to her, but back in the shelter cage, she was aggressive again and would have been euthanized. We got lucky, but it doesn't always happen that way. A collar, tag AND a microchip can make all the difference these days.
Why Invest in Pet Microchips?
You see, the unexpected can easily happen. My first missing cat had never left the porch before that night when she disappeared forever. Really. And the missing cat that was found dead on a road was found miles away from our house which was in the middle of acres and acres of fields and forest - a location we thought would forever be safe from the threat of automobiles.
Doors get left open accidentally, kids run in and out and forget to watch the cat, visitors come over and don't think about the cat and the door, repairmen inevitably come to your home and usually the cat is the last thing on their minds .....I could go on and on and these are just examples of what can happen to an indoor cat.
If your cat routinely goes outdoors, then any number of things can happen at any time: injured and crawls away, scared of another animal and runs away, chased off by a neighbor, wanders curiously too far from home and is suddenly lost, catnapped .....many different scenarios can lead to you not being able to find your kitty.
While a pet microchip is not a guarantee that you'll locate your missing pet, it certainly increases the odds over a lost pet that is not identifiable. Veterinarians and shelters have a pet microchip scanner and routinely scan rescued animals to see if they have a pet microchip. As long as you maintain your registration address even if you move, they will be able to match you with your cat's microchip.
What's Involved in Getting Your Cat a Microchip?
It's very simple and inexpensive to microchip pets. The microchip is injected under your cat's skin in the same fashion that a vaccine is administered. There is no need for anesthesia or sedation and there are no side effects, either short term or long term. One quick, little injection and that's it. Your cat will have an I.D. chip that can be scanned at any shelter or veterinarian's office, providing a permanent identification method to reunite you if you ever become separated.
Which Microchip Company Should I Use?
There are several different manufacturers of microchips for pets. The Avid microchip and the HomeAgain microchip are two of the most familiar names, but there are many reputable companies making microchips. Another one is 24PetWatch. Even if your vet does not use their microchip, you should take advantage of the Lost Pet Recovery Service by 24PetWatch. They will register your cat's microchip for free, regardless of brand. They offer free registration of all brands of microchips in the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom. One last word about pet microchips if you shop around for price. Some vets include the registration fee required by the company in the price they quote you and the registration is prepaid by them. Others do not include the registration and then you will have a registration fee to pay to the company when you register the microchip. So find out what is included when you get a price quote. Make sure you are comparing apples to apples.
Above all else, PLEASE put collars with id tags on your cats and also PLEASE microchip your kitties. It's simple, safe and inexpensive. Hopefully, it will never have to be used, but if your cat is ever in the position where a microchip would mean the difference between coming home to you or going to a strange home or even being killed, don't you want your cat to have the best possible outcome?