Whilst compulsory dog microchipping has been enshrined in UK law since 2016, there is currently no equivalent legislation covering the microchipping of cats, despite animal welfare charities and organisations including Mayhew unanimously backing such a move.
Microchipping owned animals has multiple benefits for the owner, the pet itself and rehoming organisations; including but not limited to:
• Lost microchipped animals can be easily reunited with worried owners, which also prevents a beloved and wanted pet from being admitted to a shelter and going through a rehoming process;
• Veterinarians can make better informed decisions about an animals treatment plan if they can access the animal’s medical history and identify factors such as age and any known health conditions;
• Owners can be informed if an animal like Graham (below) sadly suffers an injury or fatal accident whilst out and about, providing them with much needed closure rather than a lifetime of wondering what happened.
Together with fellow animal welfare charities, Mayhew believe that all owned cats should be microchipped by 16 weeks of age, unless there is an applicable health exception certified by a practising vet. They are extremely confident that this would have a positive impact on cats, owners and rescue shelters throughout the UK, and they have fed their thoughts and research into an ongoing government consultation on the matter.
Why should owned cats be microchipped?
The key advantage to making microchipping compulsory would be to drive up the number of owned cats who are microchipped. Although animal welfare organisations and vets are recommending microchipping to all owners, only 70% of cats are currently assumed to have a microchip, and of those, many will be carrying around outdated details.
Mayhew’s own experience has shown that the percentage of owned or previously owned microchipped cats to be much lower than 70% - of the 228 stray cats admitted to Mayhew last year, only 20 were microchipped. Of these 20, they were able to return 50% to their owners, whilst the remaining half were rehomed due to incomplete or missing chip details, or because their previous owners were sadly longer able to cope with their care.
In addition to the benefits outlined above, compulsory microchipping would make it easier to collect and collate data on pet ownership; which in turn could then help inform how charities like Mayhew can support cats and cat owners in our local communities.
Microchipping is also a safer and more reliable method of identification than using collars, which can often fall off or become too tight and injure or suffocate the cat, especially if an animal is lost or straying over a longer period of time.
For some cats, an up-to-date microchip can be the difference between life and death, as injured animals who are able to be identified can be quickly reunited with an owner and registered vet, who can then administer treatment. Cats who are not microchipped must rely on luck and the ability of strangers or charities to help them, as was the case with poor Graham recently.
Three-year-old Graham was in a poor state when he was found in a member of the public's garden at the end of last year. He had open weeping wounds on his neck, back and ear; appeared anxious and scared, and was obviously in a significant amount of pain.
The member of the public contacted a private vet she knew of, but unfortunately could not secure any treatment for Graham - so, unsure what to do next, she trapped him in her bathroom so that he would not come to any further harm and called Mayhew for advice.
Mayhew immediately agreed to go out and collect Graham, and admitted him as an emergency case whilst they tended to his wounds. It was discovered on intake that Graham was not microchipped and did not have a collar, so Mayhew also put up posters in the neighbourhood he was found in, in case his owner lived nearby and was worried about him.
Thankfully, the vets were able to treat Graham’s injuries, and whilst he settled down well in the Cattery and enjoyed a smooth recovery period, unfortunately nobody came forward to claim him. Graham was therefore placed in foster care as soon as he was well enough to be up and about, and Mayhew plan to list him for rehoming as soon as he is ready.
Unfortunately, it will never be known if Graham’s owner misses him or would have taken him back in, as without a microchip there was no way of tracking down whoever they may be.
However, Graham has now been chipped in advance of him finding a brand-new home, and will ensure his details are updated as soon as his is adopted so that this cannot happen again.
Mayhew are very much hoping that the ongoing government consultation will result in compulsory microchipping legislation for cats, and fully support strengthening the codes of practice that will enable adherence to such a law. Animal welfare organisations have been consistently promoting the importance of microchipping for many years already, and having this requirement enshrined will communicate that microchipping is an essential, not optional, part of cat ownership.
To find out more about Mayhew’s microchipping services, please visit their website: www.themayhew.org/community-vet-clinic