One of the biggest fears for a pet owner is losing a pet. When it comes to cats, whether you allow your cat to go outdoors or not, the opportunity always exists for your furry friend to somehow sneak outside and get lost.
That’s why cat identification is so important. To get to the bottom of the different options, what’s best and how to use them, we spoke with Dr. Jules Benson, VP of Veterinary Services at Petplan pet insurance.
Here’s what the vet had to say.
Why is it a good idea to have identification for your cat?
Dr. Benson: It’s easy for pet parents to think, “It won’t happen to me,” but the truth is that one in three pets will get lost in their lifetime. Sadly, without identification, 90% of them will not return home. In fact, according to the American Humane Association, only about 17% of lost dogs and only 2-5% of lost cats ever find their way back to their original owners. Having identification will put the odds in your favor, should your feline friend ever wander off.
What are the different types of cat identification available, and is there one that vets prefer over others?
Dr. Benson: There are several different types of collar tags, including plastic or metal printed tags, even ones with SQR codes that store your pet’s contact information. Just be sure to choose one that will stay securely on the collar and has enough space for a phone number.
For our own part, we strongly advocate that all pets (including indoor only cats) be microchipped. That’s because if your cat slips out through an open door, is lost without his collar or becomes separated from it, he can still be identified when he is found. Virtually all veterinarians and shelters (more than 5,000+ nationally) are now equipped to scan your cat should he get lost, and the process of implanting the device is simple and painless.
What is the process like for getting a microchip for your cat?
Dr. Benson: It’s incredibly easy. Microchips are about the size of a grain of rice and can be implanted at any time quickly, painlessly and inexpensively by a veterinarian. A veterinarian will inject the microchip beneath the pet’s skin, usually between the shoulder blades. Anesthesia is not needed, and the procedure causes little to no discomfort for the pet. For many pets, the whole experience is over without them even noticing.
How to do they work?
Dr. Benson: The chips are detected by special scanners that pick up a unique combination of numbers and letters that can be traced back to your pet and its associated details, registered in the microchip maker’s database. All you have to do is make sure that you keep your contact information updated, and whomever finds and scans your pet will be able to help reunite you in no time.
How often do you see cats that do have the proper type of identification?
Dr. Benson: Personally, every day—all four of my cats are microchipped! But, if a cat’s identification is judged “proper” by its effectiveness in returning a pet who has been lost, then statistics show that the number is not high enough.
What are the other important tags your cat needs?
Dr. Benson: Even if your pet is microchipped, don’t discount the importance of a good old-fashioned collar with tags. Vets and shelters can scan for chips, but a collar tag is still the fastest way for someone to reach you in the event they find your lost pet. After all, if a neighbor finds your cat, and he has a tag with a phone number to call, there’s no need to bring him to a vet or shelter. Putting a cell phone number on a tag is a smart way to ensure that you are reachable no matter where you are.
Additionally, rabies tags can help reassure your cat’s rescuer that she doesn’t post a health threat to them, and often your microchip company will provide a tag to put on your kitty’s color indicating that she has a chip in place.
Image: Sydneymills / via Shutterstock