Once a pet is lost, the odds of being reunited with the owner are poor. According to the American Humane Association, only about 17% of lost dogs and 2% of cats ever find their way back from shelters to their original owners, and almost 20 million pets are euthanized every year because their owners can’t be found. Having a form of ID can make a huge difference in whether you and your beloved missing pet will ever be reunited.

Tags, collars, and tattoos are a good start, and are certainly better than no ID at all, but they aren’t 100% dependable. Tags can be removed, fade, rust, or get scratched and be impossible to read. Collars can tear or slip off. Tattoos can fade or be covered up as hair grows. A microchip, however, provides a unique, unalterable, permanent form of identification for cats and dogs. Although primarily used for identification, they have the potential for many other uses as technology expands, such as storing a pet’s medical records.

Microchips contain a number that is linked to a national database. If your pet is found, any animal hospital, shelter, or humane society can use a microchip reader to read the unique ID number contained on the chip. The veterinarian or shelter worker then accesses the database by phone or computer, and enters the microchip number. Information about the pet, including the owner’s address and phone number is stored in the database. Microchips can’t be lost or damaged, and they last a lifetime.

Microchips are not new. In fact, in 1989 the Marin Humane Society in Northern California became the first shelter in the country to implant the chips in all animals they put up for adoption. Many humane societies, shelters, and pet adoption agencies now implant microchips in all the pets under their care. Those pets that haven’t already been microchipped are encouraged to do so at their veterinarian by virtually all the major animal welfare agencies. In fact, millions of pet owners in the U.S. have had the procedure. The US, however, still lags far behind Britain, Canada, and other countries in percentage of pets being microchipped.

The microchip itself is about the size of a grain of rice, and is made of an inert material (soda-lime glass). Microchips contain no batteries, silicon, or any substance that can hurt the animal. They are implanted painlessly, in a procedure nearly identical to administering a vaccination. Implanting the chip takes about three seconds. No anesthesia is needed. It’s simple, rapid, routine, and painless. The chip is injected under the loose skin between the shoulder blades. It doesn’t cause any allergic reactions, and it won’t degenerate over time.

Many cat owners think that because their cat is totally indoors, a microchip isn’t really necessary. However, apartments in which there’s high traffic – repairmen coming in an out, children, relatives – run a higher risk that someone will leave the door hanging open long enough for kitty to bolt. A heavy storm, flood, or other natural disaster could cause some damage to your house, causing your cat to run away in fear. No matter how closely you watch your kitty, there’ always a chance he or she could get out, and without ID, reclaiming him or her may be very difficult. According to the American Humane Association, only 2% of lost cats are reunited with their owners. But microchipping your feline friend greatly increases the odds your cat will be returned to you quickly and safely.

Nearly every day, somewhere in the country, a pet is reunited with its owner because of microchips. Shelters now routinely scan all pets that are admitted to the shelter. Most shelters have a policy of holding a pet for a finite period of time to see if it’s going to be reclaimed, before euthanizing. Sadly, many pet owners have had the heartbreaking experience of discovering that their pet was turned into a shelter, only to be euthanized because they didn’t find their pet in time. Microchips have the potential to eliminate this possibility.

Please feel free to ask us any questions you may have about microchipping your pet.