How effective are microchips?

There are problems with pet microchips despite the fact that they are promoted quite heavily by vets and animal advocates. Also local authorities discuss whether they should be obligatory. It is worth noting, initially, that in the USA, quite a small percentage of cats are microchipped. I don’t have an exact figure but one reference book (page 72, The Welfare of Cats) states that 0.3 percent of cats are provided with microchips or tattoos for identification.

A recent story about rescuing cats and dogs from Hurricane Harvey provides us with an indication of the percentage of companion animals who are microchipped. An animal activist, Jason Cooke, was involved in rescuing cats and dogs and he said:

“The saddest thing out of all of this is that out of all those animals that came in, maybe five percent were microchipped.” – Vindy.com

Let’s just agree that the percentage of microchipped cats and dogs is low in America.

The big problem is that even when cats or dogs are microchipped the data contained in them is often out of date. I don’t have statistics from America but I do have them from Australia and the UK (source: a study).

In Australia, a study of June 2015, found that only 28% of dogs and 9% of cats were microchipped and importantly a substantial proportion, namely 37%, had problems with stored data.

In 47% of cases, the microchip data indicated that the animal was registered to a previous owner or organisation. The phone number was incorrect or disconnected in 29% of cases. The microchip was not registered in 14% of cases. Clearly when the microchip was inaccurate it was harder to contact the owner.

The proportion of animals reclaimed fell off significantly when the microchip had data problems. For dogs, when the microchip was accurate 87% of animals were reclaimed (i.e. reunited with their owner), while when the data was inaccurate, 69% of animals were reunited with their owner. Non-microchips animals were reunited 37% of the time.

For cats, accurate microchips resulted in a reunification rate of 61%. When the data was inaccurate cats were reunited with their owners 33% of the time and only 5% when there was no microchip.

With respect to dogs in the UK, 45% of stray dogs, in a survey, were microchipped. But the owners’ information stored on the microchip was out of date in half of the microchips. In 30% of cases the microchip stored an old phone number. As for old addresses, this occurred 31% of the time. And registration was to the wrong owner 25% of the time. I don’t have figures for cats but you can imagine that they will be similar (source: Battersea Dogs and Cats Home).

Clearly, far too many dog and cat owners are not ensuring that their pet’s microchip is up-to-date. This makes them far less effective.

In answer to the question in the title, it must be that micro-chipping is effective but the effectiveness is substantially undermined by a failure to update data.




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How effective are microchips? — 8 Comments

  1. I have a problem with the companies that manufacture and sell the microchips. I understand that we are all trying to do the best we can for our companions, but the prices of the microchips are rising and the fees for the chip companies to keep track of all the chips are also rising. All my companions are chipped and I have had them chipped for as long as the chips have been in existence. However, those of us who are on a very limited budget cannot afford the rising fees if we have several pets. I am down to six feline companions, and can’t afford the fees. I have 3 different companies none of which wish to accept all my companions. In the beginning, the companies would keep track of what numbers went to what vet. We were able to locate several owners that way. But I understand that is no longer the case, so having a companion chipped is kind of useless.

  2. Home Again says your pet is registered permanently in their data base. I need to find my login and see if there is a renewal and fee for other services. I have changed data on two of my cats years after they were chipped and no renewal fee was ever mentioned.

    • I’d get it scanned by your vet or if you know the suppplier/company providing the microchip telephone them. There will be some databases. You have to find out their contact details and go from there.

  3. Thanks for featuring this topic, Michael! I have long been a proponent for microchipping cats, and have microchipped all of my own cats for as long as I can remember. I do need an occasional reminder by my veterinarians to have them check my cats to ensure the chips have not “migrated,” as they sometimes do.

    Notes from my last two adoptees, whom we rescued after moving from California to Georgia:

    Jack, a handsome young tabby cat, had a microchip registered to a local person. When the veterinarian called the number indicated on the chip, the woman who answered the phone shouted, “I don’t HAVE a cat! I don’t WANT a cat!” When my veterinarian related the message, I said, “That’s all I needed to know,,” and my Jack had a new, loving “mother” and a new “indoor-only” home.

    Our Stacey (named after a dear friend) was a slightly different story. She was also microchipped, however, the original “owner” had moved with no forwarding information,and a discontinued phone number, so the chip information was a deadl-end. She, like Jack, was a tame, loving “street cat,” and I was happy to take them off the street and give them a loving, indoor-only home.

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