Make sure your cat’s microchip works
Winnipeg Humane Society’s assistant manager, Anja Richter, said that a very small number of stray cats received at the shelter annually – about 12% in fact – are reunited with their owners.
Even though cats are either microchipped or tattoo identified there are still barriers to reuniting pet with owner. Micro-chipping is not a panacea or a 100% solution because of human failure and a somewhat chaotic system in America (wrong? – I’m happy to be corrected).
Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine highlight some of the barriers to successful recovery of your pet despite micro-chipping. For cats, 1.8% of non-microchip cats are returned to their owner. The success rate is 38.5% of microchip cats being successfully reunited with their owner.
However, they tell us that 60% of micro-chipped dogs and cats are never registered. It appears that many cat owners are unaware that microchipping does not automatically lead to registration on a database. Manufacturers of microchips do not know whether microchips are registered or not. A vital part of micro-chipping is registration. In fact it is a crucial part of the process and the weakest link in a cat or dog’s recovery.
There is no legal requirement to register a microchip. There appear to be miscommunication between veterinary clinics, manufacturers and pet owners.
Another barrier is making sure the details on the microchip are up-to-date and accurate. Information must be updated otherwise a microchip becomes almost useless. It appears that phone numbers on microchips become inactive particularly smartphone telephone numbers. This is not uncommon.
Another problem is that there are many different microchip registries and also major manufacturers maintain databases. However, there is no central registry as I understand it.
Apparently larger companies register microchips on behalf of smaller companies and it can be done online, by mail or over the telephone with a customer service representative. The key is to make sure that the microchip is registered and the information current.
They say that it’s useful to have an additional identification such as a tattoo on an ear or a collar and tag with a microchip number, manufacturer telephone number together with the current owner’s contact information.
This sort of belt and braces approach should include full-time indoor cats because they can escape. The idea of a secondary method of identification is important because a collar and tag can come off.
There are also different types of scanners working on different frequencies. A problem therefore exists concerning the different types of microchip protocols and scanners used which appears to cause confusion.
We are told that the lower frequency scanners don’t read the international ones and vice versa. It is recommended that shelters and veterinarians have a universal scanner that can read all three frequencies.
It appears an attempt to create a more cogent and cohesive system has resulted in the American Animal Hospital Association Universal Pet Microchip Look Up Tool to assist with registry identification. The tool is not a registry. It acts as a ‘clearinghouse of registries’ but not all companies participate.
Apparently two thirds of microchip cats or dogs aren’t registered which undermines the whole process and the raison d’être of micro-chipping to reunite cat or dog with owner.
Please read the Tufts article for more if you wish. It is a complicated area and a less than successful process.
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