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Meow or never: owners have deadline to microchip their cats

The UK government has introduced new legislation in Parliament this week, making cat microchipping compulsory. The move is part of a commitment made in the Action Plan for Animal Welfare and a manifesto pledge to introduce mandatory microchipping for all owned cats. The new rules will require cats to be implanted with a microchip before they reach 20 weeks of age and their contact details stored and kept up to date in a pet microchipping database.

Owners will have until 10 June 2024 to microchip their cats. Those found not to have microchipped their cat after this date will have 21 days to have one implanted or may face a fine of up to £500.

The introduction of compulsory microchipping will make it easier for lost or stray pet cats to be reunited with their owners and returned home safely. There are over 9 million pet cats in England, with as many as 2.3 million unchipped, meaning that it would be difficult to reunite them with their owners if they get lost or stolen.

Chief Veterinary Officer, Christine Middlemiss, said that microchipping is the most effective and quickest way of identifying lost pets. As seen with dog microchipping, those who are microchipped are more than twice as likely to be reunited with their owner. By getting their cat microchipped, owners can increase the likelihood that they will be reunited with their beloved pet in the event of it going missing.

Cats Protection’s Head of Advocacy, Campaigns & Government Relations, Madison Rogers, welcomed the new legislation, stating that the charity regularly reunites owners with their much-loved cats, and in most cases, this is only possible thanks to microchips. No matter how far from home they are found, or how long they have been missing, if a cat has a microchip, there is a good chance that a lost cat will be swiftly returned home.

The process of microchipping involves the insertion of a chip, generally around the size of a grain of rice, under the skin of a pet. The microchip has a unique serial number that the keeper needs to register on a database. When an animal is found, the microchip can be read with a scanner and the registered keeper identified on a database so the pet can quickly be reunited with them.

It will not be compulsory for free-living cats that live with little or no human interaction or dependency, such as farm, feral or community cats. Owners with cats that are already microchipped should ensure their details are up to date. The commitment to microchipping is part of a wider government effort to build on existing world-leading standards for animal welfare. Since publishing the Action Plan for Animal Welfare in 2021, the government has brought in new laws to recognise animals sentience, introduced tougher penalties for animal cruelty offences and brought forward a ban on glue traps.

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