Our pets are part of our family and it feels just as sharply when they are lost or stolen. One of the best ways to protect our pets is by microchipping.
Currently, it is not compulsory for cats to be microchipped in the UK, however, the government has introduced a commitment to including compulsory cat microchipping as part of their action plan for animal welfare to be put through parliament later this year.
What Is A Microchip?
A microchip, or passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag, is a tiny implant roughly the size of a rice grain that carries pet a unique digital data code.
The microchip is placed under the skin, usually in the scruff of the neck, where it can be easily picked up by a microchip reader/scanner. Microchips can be inserted by a veterinarian or other trained professional who has undertaken a qualification in animal microchip implantation.
The cost of microchipping and registration is inexpensive, costing £20-£30 for a lifetime of service and cover, but they are priceless when it comes to being reunited with a lost or stolen pet.
There are currently an estimated 6.5 million unchipped cats in the UK with a far lower chance of being reunited with their owners if they are ever lost or stolen.
Benefits of Microchipping
Microchipping your cat is beneficial as it is the best way of proving that your cat belongs to you. When a cat is found, one of the first things a cat charity or vet clinic will do is check if the cat is microchipped.
The chip contains an encoded 15 digit code that will identify your cat. The microchip identification code is securely linked to the national Pet Identity UK database.
The database will hold the recorded details of your name, address, and phone number so they can easily get in touch with you to reunite you with your cat. New data-linked technology also allows for the recording of your presiding cat’s veterinary details and next of kin as well as any other vital information that can be used in the reunification of your pet or to assist in any urgent veterinary RTA (Road Traffic Accident) health care treatments.
Since many family cats go outdoors every day, there is a chance that they could get lost exploring their neighbourhood or even be stolen by someone hoping to sell them for profit.
The microchip never needs to be replaced, so you do not have any recurring fees to pay.
Microchipping is a quick and painless procedure, similar to your cat getting an injection. There is no recovery time required and your cat will not feel any different.
If you have a cat flap in your home or are considering getting one, your cat’s microchip has an added benefit. You can purchase a cat flap that can be programmed to recognise your cat’s microchip and only allow them entry. This stops other cats from entering your home to steal your cat’s food!
Are Some Cat Breeds More Likely To Be Stolen?
While the theft of dogs is more common, there are up to 300-400 cases of cat theft reported each year. This figure may seem low compared to dogs but It is difficult with cats to determine if they have been stolen or are simply missing as most cats have access to the outdoors.
It is not uncommon for cats to spend a few days wandering before returning to their home for food and rest. In fact, many cat owners learn to judge their cat’s wandering habits.
When a cat does not return home after a normal period, the owner would then report them missing.
Any cat can be a target for animal thieves if the opportunity arises, but the targets for criminals are typically rare pedigree breeds:
- Maine coon
- Russian blue
- American curl
It is becoming increasingly common for owners of rare breeds to keep them as indoor cats, as the risk of them being stolen is too great.
Cats are typically targeted for two reasons:
- Breeding: thieves will steal cats in the hope they are unneutered and can breed from them, with kittens being sold for as much as £2,000 each depending on the breed. Most cats stolen for breeding purposes are kept in poor conditions and are not given any rest time between birthing a litter and the next pregnancy. They are not providing any veterinary care as the vet may scan the cat’s chip and recognise the cat has been stolen.
- Selling for profit: cat thieves will try to sell on the cat they stole for a quick profit. The quicker they can resell the cat, the less chance there is of them being linked to the crime. It is vital that you ask for a cat’s microchip number if you are considering buying a cat. Any reputable owner will happily provide this information.
Stealing a cat tends to be appealing to criminals as the prosecution rates are low and punishment does not fit the crime. While a person convicted of stealing a pet can be sentenced to up to 7 years in prison, the most common sentences are community service or a fine.
What To Do If Your Cat is Lost or Stolen
In 2016 there were 261 reported cat thefts, however, research shows that as many as 360,000 cat owners believe their cat may have been stolen between 2016 and 2017, and only 55% of these people were reunited with their cat.
Your cat may never be the target of criminals, but it is best to prepared should the worst happen. It is important to act quickly if your cat is stolen to give you the greatest chance of being reunited with them.
- The first thing you should do is to contact Pet Identity UK and report your cat as lost or stolen. They can quickly in real-time update the details on your cat’s microchip so any animal organisation or vet clinic will be informed if they find your cat.
- Your next step is to call the police if you are certain your cat has been stolen. Give them your cat’s microchip number and any details you can remember about the incident. You should request a crime reference number so you can check the progress of the investigation.
- Post on your social media with a recent photo of your cat, where the theft took place and any details you think might help. Ask people to check their home CCTV as this can often provide vital evidence for the police to track and find the criminals.
- Contact local vet clinics and animal rescues to see if a cat matching yours has been handed in as a stray.
- Print posters and put them up around your local area. Choose busy places like supermarkets, parks, and high streets that will get lots of attention. Be sure to include your phone number so you can be easily contacted.
Your Lifetime Pet Identity UK registration will perform all of the veterinary lost cat report links and local contacts directly on your behalf should you report your cat missing or stolen.
Pet Identity UK has direct integrated links to over 5,000 veterinary surgeries, 1,000 council boroughs, and links to charity cat organisations and even international border control units.
Remember the key to microchip identification is to keep all your details up to date for the quick and safe return of your purring family companion.