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Microchipping: Your Pet’s Identification Tool

The door gets left ajar. A gate latch is loose. The gate gets left open after the yard is mowed. The screen in the window comes loose. Accidents can happen, and your dog or cat could get lost. Now is the time to ensure your pet has proper identification to find her way home in the event the unthinkable happens. This is where a collar with an ID tag and a microchip can increase the likelihood that your pet will find her way home.

Person checks the size of a small dog's collar.
This collar is a good fit.

First, your pet should wear a collar and ID tag with a current phone number and/or email address. It can be great to include the phone number of a trusted friend or family member who may not live locally, in the event of a natural disaster. Often, you or your pet may not appreciate the jiggle of tags on a collar. We know they can be annoying. However, there is a solution for that! You can get an ID tag that is attached on each side directly to the collar. Information embroidered directly on the collar is another great choice. If your pet does not like wearing a collar or scratches at it, you have a couple of options. Try a collar made of a different material. Just like you and me, our pets have material preferences. Make sure wearing a collar is a positive experience. Be sure to take a little time acclimating your dog to wearing a collar. If you see him scratching or pawing at, distract him with a game of fetch or brief training session. Lastly, make sure your dog’s collar is fitted correctly. Too loose and it will come off. Too tight and it is just unsafe. A good fit will allow you to get two fingers underneath a flat collar.


Orange cat wears a breakaway collar.
Breakaway collar from LitterBox.com

But what about cats? Cats can wear collars with ID tags too! There are “break-away” collars specifically created for cats. These collars are designed to break open in the event it gets caught on something, like a tree branch, so your cat does not get hurt. While these collars do break away, they are still a great way to ensure your cat has an ID tag and a greater chance of finding her way home if she gets out. The same rules apply when getting your favorite feline used to wearing a collar. Be sure to give her time to get acclimated to wearing a collar and distract her with treats or play time if she starts to scratch at the collar.

Collars with ID tags make it quick and easy for anyone to help your pet find his way home. With a quick call, text, or email, you are alerted that someone has found your furry family member. But what happens if your pet escapes without his collar, like just after a bath where you took it off? That is why you need to have a back-up plan with a microchip!


Microchips provide a permanent form of identification. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “A study of more than 7,700 stray animals at animal shelters showed that dogs without microchips were returned to their owners 21.9% of the time, whereas microchipped dogs were returned to their owners 52.2% of the time. Cats without microchips were reunited with their owners only 1.8% of the time, whereas microchipped cats went back home 38.5% of the time. (Lord et al, JAVMA, July 15, 2009)” You have more than double the chance of being reunited with your pet if he has a microchip.

So, what is a microchip and how do you get your pet microchipped?


A person scans a small red dog for a microchip.
Scanning a dog for a microchip

A microchip is a small radio-frequency identification transponder that is injected just under the skin, usually between your dog or cat’s shoulder blades. The microchip is about the size of a grain of rice, and injected with a needle, just like a vaccination. The microchip contains an identification number and phone number to a registry database. The identification number is accessed with a handheld scanner that is moved over the area where the chip is placed. These scanners are found at animal control agencies and with their officers, animal shelters, veterinary clinics, and some pet rescue groups. When an animal is found without an ID tag, it is important to have him scanned for a microchip.

Pet Community Center offers microchips that can be administered during a vaccine appointment or during a spay/neuter appointment. The microchips come with a lifetime registration. You will need to keep your contact information up-to-date. This is important because the main reason microchipped animals do not get returned to their people is due to incorrect or no contact information in the microchip registry database. The most important thing you can do is keep your contact information updated!


At your pet’s annual veterinary visit, you can always request to have his microchip scanned and ensure your contact information is correct with the registration company. If you move, make sure updating your contact information is on your to-do list, just like updating your address with the post office. If you are wondering how effective microchips are, consider Buzz’s story.


A blonde woman holds a striped cat.
Buzz reunites with his owner at PCC.

In 2019, a community cat caretaker brought a male cat to Pet Community Center to be neutered. During his appointment, the staff saw that he was already neutered, and, like all community cats, he was scanned for a microchip. Staff immediately discovered he did have a microchip! They quickly noted the identification number on the scanner and contacted the registration company. Thankfully, Buzz had an owner listed with up-to-date contact information! After calling, they learned that Buzz’s owner had been missing him terribly for the past 6 weeks. Thanks to his microchip, and a dedicated community cat caretaker, Buzz was able to find his way home to his family after hanging outside with some well-cared-for community cats.


Sources Used:

https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/animal-health-and-welfare/microchipping-animals

https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/high-tech-identifying-lost-pets-microchips

https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq


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