Dear Ms. Kitty,
My 3-year-old cat, Mittens, recently got out of the house and I was lucky enough to find her within the day and bring her home safely. I would like to get some kind of identification for her, but I’m unsure of my best option and I don’t think she would tolerate a collar. Do you have any suggestions?
Close Call with Kitty
Dear Close Call,
Thanks so much for your question. The third week in April has been designated as National Pet ID Week. So now is the purr-fect time to talk about the best way to ensure that our pets are quickly and safely returned should they become lost. Statistics show that only 2% of unidentified, lost cats are reunited with their families. Many cats who end up at shelters are indoor kitties who have slipped past an open door or out of a window. So you were very lucky indeed.
The are three options of identification for cats. Collars with tags are the easiest way to properly identify your pet. But we know that cats aren’t fond of collars and become very adapt at removing them. If your cat will tolerate a collar make sure there is a tag attached that is inscribed with your name and phone numbers (home, cell and/or work). You may also want to include other markers on the collar like a cat license or rabies tag. ID tags should be registered with a national recovery service and database, which can be found through a simple internet search or referred by your veterinarian’s office. Always remember to keep your information up to date with the recovery service.
The best type of collar to use for a cat is going to be a break-away type – so this makes the collar unreliable as the only form of ID, which brings us to the second choice – tatooing. Tatooing a cat means having a permanent code marked on their skin, which in a cat is typically on the inside of their ear since placing the tatoo on their stomach is going to be hard to see/read later. This technique is done at a veterinarian’s office typically while the cat is under anesthesia. But tatoos will fade over time making them somewhat unreliable.
The third option and my personal preference is microchipping. Microchipping is the method for permanent identification. Microchips for cats have come a long way in the last several years. The microchip is a very small device (sized less than a grain of rice) with an unique code that is implanted just underneath the skin between your cat’s shoulder blades. Placement is quick and pain free through use of a needle injection, although your veterinarian may choose to use a topical numbing crème prior to the procedure.
Microchips can be scanned using a handheld reader device commonly found at any shelter, medical or animal control office. The device is dormant until scanned meaning that the scanner activates a momentary response that shows as an ID number. The microchip is registered with your information and your cat’s personalized code in a national database, which can be accessed by an authorized individual. It is crucially important to keep your contact information up to date as most cats are lost directly prior to, during or soon after moving to a new home and list an alternate contact person who will be available if you aren’t.
There are many choices of microchip manufacturers – but the most common in our area are AVID, 24 PetWatch and Home Again. Watch out for ISO microchips (frequently used in Banfield clinics) as they are not compatible with most US scanners. The medical fee for microchipping ranges from $20 to $40 and most chips charge a yearly registration fee of between $15-20. Many local shelters hold low-cost microchipping clinics where the implant fee is typically $10 or $15. Statistics prove that the chances of finding a lost pet are more than 10 times greater if they are microchipped.
If you are concerned about having your pet microchipped, I recommend that you read a FAQs document available on the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website at https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/FAQs/Pages/Microchipping-of-animals-FAQ.aspx
Now that the weather is getting warmer, more cat guardians will be letting their kitties spend time outdoors and unsupervised. But the safest option is to keep your cat indoors and make sure that they have a reliable form of identification.
— Ms. Kitty
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