If you’re a cat owner in the UK, you might be asking ‘do I have to microchip my cat?‘ as there’s been a lot of discussion lately about microchipping, and whether it’s compulsory or not. And that’s because there’s been a very recent change in law for cat owners who live in England. Up until now it’s not been compulsory to have a cat microchipped but, from June 2024, it will be. With one in four households in the UK owning a cat (sorry, that should be ‘owned’ by a cat…) it’s very welcome news and will soon bring cats in line with dogs who have been protected through compulsory microchipping since 2016.
The majority of cat owners already have their cat microchipped but, for those that haven’t, many are now asking ‘do I have to microchip my cat?’ So, here’s some common questions and answers which I hope you’ll find helpful.
What’s changed to make it compulsory for me to microchip my cat?
As part of the Action Plan for Animal Welfare pledge, the Dept for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have announced that there will be compulsory microchipping for all cats from June 2024 in England. At the moment it’s only for England, although the Cats Protection League will continue to campaign for the same measures to be introduced in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Will this apply to all cats?
All cats in England will need to be microchipped except for those defined as ‘free living cats that live with little or no human interaction or dependency’, e.g. living on a farm, as a feral or community stray.
Kittens will need to be microchipped before they reach 20 weeks of age but can be chipped sooner. And it’s advisable to microchip puss before they go outside for the first time, as this is when they’re at the greatest risk of becoming lost or injured.
What’s the exact timeline for when I’ll have to microchip my cat?
If your cat has not yet been microchipped, you will need to ensure it is by the 10th June 2024.
What happens if I don’t microchip my cat?
If it’s found that your cat has not been microchipped by the 10th June 2024 you will be given 21 days to do so. And, if the cat still isn’t microchipped after the 21 days you could be fined up to £500.
Do I need to microchip my cat again if it’s already chipped?
No, not at all. If your cat is already chipped, the only thing you need to do is to make sure your contact details are kept up to date. It’s pointless having your cat microchipped if a vet or cat rescue facility can’t get in touch with you if your cat is found and handed in. When a cat is microchipped, the details are stored in a database, including the owner contact information, so make sure you keep them informed of any changes, such as if you move house or the cat has changed owner.
Do I have to microchip my cat at the vets?
Yes, your vet will be able to microchip your cat. They’ll implant the chip, quickly and painlessly, under the cat’s skin. The chip has a unique serial number which is stored in the database along with the cat and owner details.
To find those details, a vet uses a scanner to read the information and then contact the owner (as long as the contact details have been kept up to date). Some rescue agencies can also help in scanning a cat.
Microchipping isn’t expensive or harmful, so there’s no reason to put off having your cat microchipped. If you’re adopting a rescue cat or kitten, it’s likely the cat will have already been microchipped by the rescue agency – you just need to make sure the owner information is updated.
My cat has been microchipped but he’s missing. Is there anything I can do?
The first thing to do is to contact the company holding the microchip information, let them know your cat is missing and check your contact details are correct and up to date. Hopefully someone will soon find Puss and you’ll be contacted.
There’s a cat which keeps turning up at my door. Can I find out the microchip information to locate the owner?
If a cat turns up at your door, or regularly loiters, it could be lost. If you contact your local vet, or Cats Protection branch, they may be able to scan the cat and find the owner. Each year many cats are taken in by a worried neighbour, thinking the cat is unwanted and a stray. But somewhere there’s often a frantic owner trying to locate their feline friend and fearing the worse. So please try and reunite them by taking the lost cat for a microchip scan.
Just get it done…
So, if your cat isn’t microchipped then now’s the time to get it done. It’s all part of being a good cat owner so don’t wait until the 10th June 2024, but protect your cat now. There’ll be more chance of you being reunited should puss become lost or injured. Cats don’t always turn up just a few doors or streets away and a cat collar and tag can easily become detached from the cat. And it’s not just if the cat is lost, a microchip could also help you be contacted should your lovely cat be injured or sadly killed in an accident – it may not be the happy ending you’d hoped for, but it could save you from being left worrying for weeks, months or even years about what happened to your beloved pet.
If you’re still not convinced, here’s some amazing UK news stories about cats that have been reunited with their owners because of their microchip.
Jess became lost just one month after arriving on the Isle of Wight. She found her way to an assisted living home where she stayed for 14 years. She was scanned by a vet who located Jess’s original owners, and the two were happily reunited.