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A tale of two lost cats – to chip or not to chip?

John Stitt, BVM&S MRCVS, vet at the Alexander Vet Centre, Barrow-in-Furness

John Stitt, BVM&S MRCVS, vet at the Alexander Vet Centre, Barrow-in-Furness

EVERY fortnight, JOHN STITT, BVM&S MRCVS, a vet at the Alexander Vet Centre, answers your questions

Q WE recently found an injured cat on a wet Sunday evening.

We phoned the police, who told us to contact a vet. The duty vet turned out to examine the cat, which luckily wasn’t as badly injured as it looked, but we didn’t know whose it was, or what could be done about it.

The vet tried to locate a microchip with his scanner, but was disappointed to find none. Apparently had this been done we could have located the owner in minutes with a simple call to the national database where microchip details are held.

Why wouldn’t someone have done this, and how does it all work?

A Every year the RSPCA and numerous other hardworking animal charities pick up thousands of lost pets, and attempt to locate their owners, or rehome them when this is not possible.

Finding the owner can prove to be very difficult. Having a microchip fitted is the obvious solution. A range of pets can be chipped, dogs, cats, horses, small pets and even fish. However the system is most commonly used for cats and dogs. Chipping is a straightforward and affordable procedure. A tiny microchip (smaller than a grain of rice) is injected under the skin. The chip carries a unique identification number, which can be read with a scanner, found in all veterinary surgeries, some animal charities and some police stations, dog pounds, etc.

All found and stray animals are scanned routinely. At the time of chipping the owner’s details and the unique number are registered on a national database. Unlike collars and tags this chip is a permanent identification. “Unlucky” the cat you write in about, spent four days in the vets, dinner B&B. Despite numerous phone calls, a feature on the practice facebook page and viewing by 4,350 people no owner was forthcoming.

Alexandre, as she was named, was eventually rehomed after spending time in the Animal Welfare shelter.“Lucky” was another lost cat that turned up in the practice about a month ago, again picked up by a passer by.

ON THE PROWL ‘Lucky’ who was chipped, and ‘Alexandre’ who wasn’t

ON THE PROWL … ‘Lucky’ who was chipped, and ‘Alexandre’ who wasn’t

Scanning this one – bingo! Microchipped.

The owner, who actually lived in Leeds, was over the moon. One night’s dinner at the vets B&B and she was collected the next morning. Curious cats have been known to jump into vans, cars, even into engine compartments and wind up hundreds of miles from home.

From 2016 every dog owner in England will have to microchip their animal under plans intended to cut down the rise in numbers of strays. Owners who do not comply will face fines of up to £500. Government figures reveal that more than 100,000 dogs are lost or abandoned each year at a cost of £57m to the taxpayer and various animal charities. Compulsory microchipping is an attempt to reduce this burden.

The message – have a happy and prosperous 2014 and ring the vets to get your microchip appointment.

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