I had no idea. I was reading a news story – a nice news story – of a German ginger cat who went walkabout 15 years ago and was found by 19 year old Kilian Schoettel. The cat had an identification tattoo on his ear. This allowed his owner to be identified by the local Munich animal sanctuary. The details from the faded tattoo matched an entry in the sanctuary’s records of missing animals. A result!
As an aside, the cat’s name is “Poldi”. Apparently he ran away from home because he couldn’t get on with another cat. There might be a story in that as well. I am thinking of my mother’s ginger cat that disappeared under similar circumstances. Are ginger cats more prone to run away and live in the wild? This could be the case because ginger (yellow or red) cats are, it is said, predisposed to being alpha, leader types and therefore more able to survive on their own and are perhaps less accepting of others and more independent.
This begs the question, “how common is cat identification by tattoo?” Microchipping is perhaps the most common method. It is argued that not enough people have microchipped their cat companion. If more people did identify their cats more lost cats could be reunited with their human caretakers and there would be less unregulated breeding going on. This would reduce the number of feral cats. That is the theory anyway.
It appears that tattooing was used for cat identification before microchipping became the new method in Germany. I wonder whether it is a better method?
The downside of tattooing a cat’s ear is (a) you can see it so appearance is a problem (b) the tattoo may become faint over time as the cat grows etc. (c) it can be altered – perhaps. But who would bother, really, and you could probably tell anyway and (d) it is not commonplace so people won’t know what it is.
The plus points of tattooing a cat for identification are (a) it is easy to do although it might mean an anaesthetic. That increases cost and can injure the cat (general anesthetic) (b) no side effect of cancer. Microchipping can, rarely, cause cancer (c) does not move. Microchips can move.
Microchipping is more modern and does not require an anaesthetic. It is cheap and easy. And of course it is invisible so does not disfigure the cat. Microchips are very durable and have a long life and don’t fade like tattoos. However, I wonder if someone could or has devised a way of “reprogramming” a microchip to change the information on it. It sounds feasible. They are also not without hazard as there are stories of cancer being caused by them. They are after all a foreign body stuck inside the cat. Living creatures don’t like sort of thing.
Collars with an ID tag are the old fashioned way to identify a cat but these can be hazardous too. There are stories of cats being strangled or injured by collars that are not the easy release type.
Identifying your cat is sensible. That said, I have not done it for Charlie. I wonder why? Probably because the chance of him getting lost or stolen are next to zero. Also he is neutered so he can’t procreate! However, the reasons for microchipping or identifying are wide ranging.
I just like the idea of the tattoo for some reason as it is very practical but purists won’t like it as it can spoil appearances.
Update: here is picture taken by Maggie (see comment below) of Chilli with his ear tattoo:
Maggie says this about the tattoo:
“It’s not specifically an identification tattoo, but it means the cat has been desexed and microchipped, and is therefore owned by someone. So if Chilli ran away, and someone found him, they would see the tattoo, and know that he’s desexed and has a microchip with his owner’s details on it.”