Checking a cat for a microchip at home (and reuniting a lost cat with owner)

It is possible to check a cat for a microchip at home. You don’t have to rely on a veterinarian. I am referring to the situation when you find a stray cat and you want to check for a microchip to find out whether the cat has an owner and is lost. If the cat does have a microchip you want to reunite the cat with her owner.

Pet microchipping

Pet microchip scanning. Picture in public domain.

Arranging a reunion is not quite as straightforward as it might sound, however. You can buy microchip scanners on Amazon. They cost about £50 in the UK and it’ll be the equivalent amount in dollars in America, I suspect. There will be instructions which are easy to follow.

The tricky bit is that these scanners provide you with the chip number which you write down. You then have to do some research online to identify the chip company. Apparently, there are a few of them in the UK. It is probably similar in most countries. You then contact the chip company, ask them to use their database to find out who owns the cat. The chip company contacts the cat’s owner and asks them to contact you so that you can make arrangements for them to pick up their cat.

The reason why it is quite convoluted is because of data protection laws in developed countries. It is an era of privacy rights under human rights acts. The scanner you buy on Amazon will not tell you the name and address of the owner of the cat you have found, and want reunited with their owner. That information is stored on the database at the chip company. Therefore you have to go through the company in order to contact the lost cat’s owner.

Data protection and disputes about cat ownership

There have been quite a few stories about disputes between couples who have both claimed ownership of a lost cat. The scenario unfolds like this. A couple lose their cat. A person finds the cat and takes him to a rescue centre. A couple adopts the cat from the rescue centre. The process is entirely legal. The original owners discover that their cat has been adopted from a shelter by a couple but they don’t know the name or address. They want to be reunited with their lost cat. They asked the rescue centre for details. The rescue centre refuses to provide those details under data protection laws. Although the original owners are still the cat’s owners they cannot be reunited with him or her because of the obstruction created by data protection laws which prevents the rescue centre from helping them. The outcome of these scenarios is that the true owner lose their cat to the people who adopted him or her from the rescue centre.

Sometimes the situation can be compounded by poor behaviour by the animal shelter. If the shelter don’t retain the cat, under their policy, for long enough to allow the original owner to claim him or her, the cat can be lost to a new owner in unacceptable circumstances. Even under these circumstances animal rescue shelters do not assist and they will still refuse to provide contact details of the person or persons who has adopted the cat.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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