Cat Owners Should Be Forced To Have Their Pets Microchipped

The RSPCA and Catch Protection, the two most respected rescue organizations in the UK are urging the government to make it compulsory for cat owners to microchip their cats. Compulsory microchipping is being introduced for dogs in April 2016. They say it should also apply to the 10.5m cats in the country.

microchips for cats
Microchipping does not always find the owner. “After calling six microchip providers, we found out his microchip is untraceable” Rocky Mountain Feline Rescue.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

I know we are going over old ground but this is the first time that these two large rescue organizations have made a direct plea to the government to do what a lot of people consider to be common sense.

We know that micro-chipping helps reunite lost cats with their owners. That is the purpose of it and it works. It also encourages more responsible cat guardianship.

Cats Protection said that cat caretakers should be fined for failing to comply after receiving a warning. Dog owners will face a fine of up to £500 if they fail to comply with a notice which requires them to have their pet microchipped within 21 days.

Cats Protection said that it had to plant microchips in a 83% of unwanted or lost cats that it had re-homed. This obviously signifies that the vast majority of cats are not microchipped. The cost to the organization for microchipping cats that it rehomed is £900,000 a year.

The cost of microchipping is relatively low at £20-£30. Failing to microchip cats which have been lost and picked up by Cats Protection often means that the organization has to rehome them needlessly.

“When we take an unchipped cat into our care it can be very difficult to trace the owner and may well result in us re-homing a cat needlessly.”

Jacqui Cuff, the charity’s advocacy manager, referred to another benefit of cat microchipping. She said that compulsory microchipping will also help to regulate commercial cat breeding.

Cat Protection would like a fine for non-compliance with any law making it compulsory to microchip. That said they would like time to be given to the owner for her/him to get the cat microchipped and if she complied there would be no penalty.

In Britain about a quarter of households own at least one cat. In Spain and Belgium micro-chipping of cats is compulsory.

Despite the good sense of micro-chipping, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said:

“We support micro-chipping as it can help reunite lost pets with their owners. We do not consider this should be made compulsory as cats do not present the same challenges as dogs if they stray.”

I find the government’s answer rather strange and poor. The answer is what I’d call human-centric. In other words they are thinking about the consequences to people when a companion animal strays. Dogs are more dangerous than cats and can seriously hurt people. Therefore micro-chipping dogs means that the owner can be apprehended if their dog attacks somebody. As it happens stray cats can also seriously harm people so the government’s argument from the human perspective does not stand up really.

However, if one looks at a law which makes microchipping compulsory from the perspective of the animal, it clearly makes sense to microchip cats. This is because the cat can be returned to their owner and an environment that they are familiar with. On many occasions it will also result in the cat not being euthanized because of the failure to find a fresh home. I realise that some cats in some homes are better off being rehomed.

The West (let’s say Europe and the UK) and the Australian continent are heading towards compulsory microchipping in my opinion. The only question is when. Personally I have always advocated an approach to cat ownership which is less laissez-faire than is currently in place in order to raise the bar in respect of cat ownership caretaking standards.

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15 thoughts on “Cat Owners Should Be Forced To Have Their Pets Microchipped”

  1. Our laws are that it is compulsory, and re by responsible owners obey the law and can see the benefits. However, there are many cats who are not microchipped, desexed etc, so it doesn’t seem to be enforceable. Also microchiping is NOT a 100% guarantee you will get your cat back. I had a much loved cat go missing a few years ago, he had a collar with ID and Council registration tag and was microchipped, desexed etc, he was a indoor/outdoor cat. Despite spending a lot of time posting flyers, going to pounds, door knocking etc, he was never seen again and he was not the sort of cat to go up to a stranger. My cats are all kept indoors now, and only go out in their secure cat enclosure. I learned my lesson the hard way even though everything else was done, in hindsight he should not have been allowed outside although he loved it.

  2. I wrote about this on PoC last year quoting a group for compulsory neutering:
    ‘We are getting together to petition the government for compulsory neutering for pet cats and dogs, compulsory microchipping for pet cats and dogs and compulsory breeding licences for breeders of cats and dogs’
    So why have the others in the petition been dropped I wonder? I think myself that compulsory neutering is the most important of all.
    Yes microchipping is good, but it wouldn’t stop irresponsible people from abandoning their cats when they moved, they would just not update their details so wouldn’t be traceable.
    It’s irresponsible people who don’t have their cats neutered too and here in the UK there is no excuse when Cats Protection help those on a low income.

    • Yes, micro-chipping is a bit Orwellian but it is a compromise. Life in the West is somewhat Orwellian already as we are being watched on our computers and telephone calls or instant messages. Our twitter accounts are being scanned by Big Brother and so on and so forth. Is the nature of what we have created. In a way the fact that micro-chipping is arguably beneficial to the domestic cat indicates to a certain extent that our relationship with the domestic cat is not that great when you look at it globally.

  3. Even if microchipping cats became compulsory it would cost far too much time and financial resources to police it. As most dogs outside are on a lead or under the control of their owners, it makes random scanning for a microchip much easier than it would be with free roaming cat in the UK. Unless of course the intention is that cats and dogs will only be scanned during routine trips to the vet or if they become lost?

    Responsible owners already neuter, vaccinate and microchip their pets. I don’t see that legislation would create a huge surge in uptake, especially where people keep their cats indoor only.

    What happens when people plead poverty? Do the charities still end up footing the bill to microchip the cat for the owner or does the cat automatically get surrendered for re-homing?

    Much as I support the idea of all pets being microchipped, I’m just not sure how easy it is to put into practise.

    • Good points, Michele.
      I, actually, think that mandatory microchipping makes better sense for here where free-roaming is illegal in most places. Should a cat be picked up by A.C. and taken to the kill shelter, the hope is that they will be scanned for a chip.
      Just trying to make myself feel better, really. It’s more likely that they will be deemed feral and killed.

          • I agree with you Dee, compulsory microchipping would be easier to enforce in areas where cats don’t have a legal right to roam.

            It could however put vets in an awkward position if they are expected to participate in policing whether pets have been microchipped or not. Will they be legally obliged to report such owners to the authorities if they refuse to allow the vet to microchip their animal?

      • I personally don’t see any downside to micro-chipping other than sometimes they can cause health problems. There is a problem there potentially but it is quite a slight problem. Other than that micro-chipping puts some sort of structure and order into cat ownership in the UK which I think is beneficial all round. At the moment it is completely without regulation. There’s nothing in the way of regulation governing owning and looking after a cat. I don’t think that is quite good enough.

    • I think, perhaps, you are being a little bit too negative about it. There is an automatic deterrent quality about the criminal law. If people realise that they might be penalised for not complying with the law then a certain percentage of irresponsible people will be forced to be responsible.

      I agree that policing it may be difficult but I suspect that the veterinarians would be involved here to a certain extent. At some stage even cat owners who some might consider irresponsible will probably take their cat to the vet. At that point they can be checked out for micro-chipping. Of course, if the cat is not micro-chipped the person may not take their cat to the vet. In which case the law would work against the health of cats.

      I consider obligatory micro-chipping a little bit like making wearing seat belts compulsory. It is very hard to enforce the law in respect of seat belts but over time everybody puts them on even though the vast majority of people have never been stopped. It is the fear of being stopped and fined which is the deterrent.

      Over time people then become habituated to micro-chipping their cat and it no longer needs policing and enforcing. That’s the way I see it working.

      If people plead poverty then they would be lying because at £20-£30 a time for neutering even the poorest person on benefits can afford it and if they can’t they shouldn’t have a cat so the cat could be rehomed.

      The bottom line is that the law can create a new culture over time and I think that will happen with respect to compulsory micro-chipping.

      • There are always people who think the law doesn’t apply to them.

        In the UK there are countless owners of “banned” dogs who fail to comply with the regulations required to register their dogs on the Index of Exempted Dogs.
        This is despite the maximum penalty for having a banned dog is a £5,000 fine or 6 months in prison (or both). The dog will also be destroyed.

        I’d rather see more education about the benefits of microchipping and funding to make it even cheaper to get done.


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