Cat microchips only take a few seconds to implant.

How Do Cat Microchips Work? We Explain


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Cat microchips are fast becoming the new normal, catching up with their dog microchip cousin. However, while microchipping is mandatory for all dogs in New Zealand, in a lot of our regions microchips aren’t a legal must-have for cats.

That said, you’ll probably find almost every cat and his neighbour has, or will soon have, one. It’s because microchips are small, unobtrusive and help us find our pet if they’ve been handed into a vet or shelter after getting lost or going missing.

Whether you’re becoming a new kitten parent or wanting even more security as a older cat parent, it’s a good idea to find out all about microchips. Read on for the full story…

What is a cat microchip?

Just as the name implies, a microchip is a tiny computer chip – roughly the size of a grain of rice. The chip stores important data, from pet details to ownership and contact details. And, unlike cat collars with a pet name tag, a microchip won’t unclip and fall off.

The microchip is placed in the scruff of the neck, just under the skin. Once it’s placed, a microchip scanner can be held between the cat’s shoulder blades to receive the data. Easy as pie.

Cat microchips can be scanned to see ownership details.

Is cat microchipping painful?

We’ve yet to ask any cats how it feels to have a microchip implanted. However, the implantation procedure lasts all of a few seconds and can be likened to your cat getting a vaccination.

They don’t need an overnight stay at the vet’s or anaesthetic, and the microchip is injected very quickly. So, it’s safe to say that although your meow will feel a pin prick, it’s relatively painless.

If you’re concerned, you could opt to microchip your cat during a scheduled procedure. For example, if you spay or neuter your cat, they can have the microchip implanted at the same time. Then you save both of you an extra visit to the vet!

Watch this video to see how easy and pain free the procedure is:

Microchipping your cat in New Zealand

As mentioned earlier, it’s not mandatory everywhere in New Zealand to microchip cats. One of the main reasons for the obligatory microchipping of dogs is so they can be classified if they display undue aggression. (Speaking of which, read why do dogs bite to understand the underlying causes).

This importance for public safety is why microchipping laws haven’t to date applied to cats the same way as to dogs. However, there are many benefits to cat microchips.

Cat microchips – pros:

Whether yours is an outdoor or indoor cat, our felines tend to display a streak of independence every now and then. OK, always… And these streaks of independence can have any number of outcomes.

For example, fighting other cats for a mate, or getting into a tiff with a neighbourhood dog. Wandering into the bush and getting lost or becoming ill. Even being knocked by a car. A wounded cat can become disoriented or be too injured to come home.

Happily, if they’re microchipped, the nearest vet or animal shelter that receives them can scan their microchip. This means they’ll at once be able to validate your role as owner and call you to let you know where kitty is.

Although we hope our cats don’t get into any serious pickles, it’s important to remember most cats jump, explore and roam. You can save yourself and your cat lots of worries by being prepared for the unexpected.

PD did an interview in 2023 about keeping dogs and cats from wandering with Dr Imogen Bassett, Principal Advisor for Biosecurity at Auckland Council. She told us that “microchipping of domestic cats in New Zealand has increased from 12% in 2011 to 49% in 2020.” That’s an impressively positive increase.

Even more heartening is that Dr Bassett says after the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes, “85% of microchipped pets were reunited with their owners, compared with only 15% of non-chipped pets.”

Another study shows cats with microchips are 20 times as likely to be returned home than they would otherwise. Speaking of pets wandering, read our article on how to find lost pets.

Cat microchips help return lost pets 20 times more effectively..

Cat microchips – cons:

Given cat microchips last a lifetime and the information can be updated anytime, there are very few cons.

There are a few misconceptions though, such as that a microchip is a GPS – not true. While it can be scanned to check your pets’ details, it can’t be tracked and traced. Perhaps that technology is still to come.

Another concern of pet parents are the health and safety of microchip implants., yet it’s unlikely a cat will have an adverse reaction to a microchip. Worst case is there will be some inflammation around the injection site; not unlike some vaccinations.

And of course, you’ll hear stories of a microchip migrating. While this can happen, all it means is that it can take a bit longer to find the chip with the scanner.

To give you a better idea, here’s the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) data around the health and safety of cat microchips:

  • More than four million animals microchipped
  • Less than 400 had adverse reactions
  • Of these 400, most relate to the chip migrating

In other words, the benefits are very much on the heavy side of the scale, with very minor drawbacks.

Covering your cat with pet insurance

Did you know PD Insurance has three affordable online cat insurance plans that will cover your puss for all kinds of emergencies and routine care?

Pet insurance is often something you’re unsure of until you need it the first time. So many of our customers have claimed back lots of money in their first few months with us, and continue to claim regularly.

Allergies, accidents, bite wounds and illnesses some of our top claims. Unlike cat microchips appointments, they’re medical issues you can’t plan for. But we can help you pay for them.

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