If you already own a dog, the idea of microchips might be old hat to you. They are a small implant, about the size of a grain of rice, that goes under your pet’s skin. They can be scanned by pet rescues and veterinarian’s offices in case your pet is lost and is found by someone else.
Most vets highly recommend getting one for your cat, as lost and found cats without microchips were reunited with their owners only 1.8% of the time, whereas microchipped cats went back home 38.5% of the time! (Lord et al, JAVMA, July 15, 2009)
Microchips are about 12 millimeters in size and are placed between your cat’s shoulder blades using a large-bore hypodermic needle. The procedure doesn’t require surgery or anesthesia and typically doesn’t even require a separate vet visit.
They are tiny RFID (radio frequency identification) chips encased in glass. These chips do not have a battery; they are just transponders, not a GPS. When a pet rescue or vet passes over the microchip with a scanner, the microchip returns a unique identification number. With that number, the person scanning your pet can contact the microchip company and through them, let you know that they have your pet. The only information actually stored in the microchip is the ID number, not your name or number. Only the manufacturer, like HomeAgain, Bayer, and Allflex, holds your personal information, along with what your cat looks like, age, and if they are spayed or neutered.
You can even purchase your own scanner for less than $60, like this one from the MINDPET-MED store on amazon.com.
The process to implant the chip takes only a few seconds and only hurts about as bad as a vaccination. This process is very common and any experienced vet has done this thousands of times. The average cost of this procedure is about $45 (US dollars), and includes registration with the microchip manufacturer. It’s important to keep your pet's chip updated with your current information. If you change your residence or phone number, or rehome your cat, it is important to call the manufacturer of your cat’s microchip and keep them up to date.
Collars with ID tags can fade or fall off, tattoos can fade and have to be redone, microchips are a one time deal that stays for life (average life span of a chip is 25 years)! Even if your cat is strictly indoor, there’s no guarantee they won’t make it out of your home. Microchips are a great, low risk way to give you a little more peace of mind and increase your chances of bringing your beloved cat back home. If you are concerned about the price of the procedure in San Francisco, https://www.sfanimalcare.org/ does free microchip insertions and registrations through PetLink. The SPCA branches in San Francisco and Oakland put microchips in the stray cats they spay/neuter, so if you see a free roaming cat with a clipped left ear, they have a microchip.