Many pet owners and community cat caregivers now microchip their animals to ensure they can be quickly reclaimed if impounded. When veterinarians, animal control officers, or shelter workers take the time to scan for microchips, pets that are chipped can be reunited with their owners, or in the case of community cats, returned to their outdoor homes. That means far less risk of companion animals and community cats being unnecessarily killed in shelters. Since 70 percent of cats face euthanasia in shelters, microchipping is especially vital for community cat caregivers and owners alike.

Microchipping cats greatly increases their chances of going home—cats with microchips were over 20 times more likely than those without to be reunited with their owners, according to a study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Microchipping is most effective when animal control officers or shelters scan upon intake. Scanning at intake multiple times, which research shows increases the likelihood of detecting the microchip, is a standard procedure in the Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters.

If you run a shelter or rescue, make sure you have microchip protocols in place. If you’re a veterinarian, encourage your clients to have their animals microchipped and don’t forget to scan all new patients, including stray cats brought into your office. If you’re a pet owner or community cat caretaker, make sure you register your microchip so the shelter can contact you.

Besides saving lives and enabling cats to return to their homes, scanning for microchips also reduces the time an animal spends at the shelter, which decreases expenses and makes room for animals in need. Plus, it provides a public service to the community—if animal control can scan cats in the field, it reduces the need for them to be impounded altogether.

Whether you think you’ve taken in a community cat or a lost pet, plan to scan—early and often—to save lives.