How to save & take care of a kitten and feral cats - an advocacy tool kit

Microchips Save Lives

Guide/How-to| Animal Shelter, Plan to Scan, Veterinarian Awareness


It’s nearly the size of a grain of rice and has the power to save a life. It’s a microchip, and more and more cats are being implanted with this amazing tiny technology.

Microchips save lives by helping reunite lost or displaced cats with their human families indoors or community cats with their bonded feline families outdoors, also called colonies . With many animal shelters still killing countless cats, a microchip is a critical lifeline.

A cat who is microchipped and scanned can be moved quickly out of the shelter and back home rather than remain impounded and at risk.

Many top animal organizations support microchipping and scanning, including The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

Save Cats with Microchips—The Three Basic Steps

  1. Get cats microchipped during a veterinary visit, low-cost microchipping clinic or Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) initiative.
  2. Register the microchip with the microchip company’s database and/or with a free database such as Found Animals Registry.
  3. Keep your registered contact information updated, especially if you move or your phone number changes.

What is a Microchip?

A tiny piece of technology that is implanted just under an animal’s skin between the shoulder blades. It’s a permanent ID with a unique number that corresponds with contact information registered with a microchip registry. A single microchip will last a cat’s full lifespan.

The person who has a cat microchipped must register the microchip with their contact information. Then, anyone who scans for the microchip will know exactly who to contact if that cat is ever brought to them.

Cats can be microchipped during any veterinary visit and microchipping is sometimes offered as part of TNR. Contact your local veterinarian, animal shelter, rescue, or TNR organization for microchipping services near you.

What Does a Microchip Do?

According to a study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, cats who are microchipped are over 20 times more likely to be reunited with their families. The likelihood of reunion is 38.5 percent for microchipped cats compared to just 1.8 percent for cats who are not microchipped.

Microchips also protect cats by:

  • Returning more community cats to their outdoor homes. Caregivers or TNR organizations can have community cats microchipped during TNR and register the chips with their contact information. Then, if those cats are ever brought to an animal shelter, the caregivers can be contacted to pick them up and return them.
  • Helping animal shelter staff and veterinarians keep track of animals. By scanning for a microchip at every step of a procedure, they can ensure they are treating the right cat every time!
  • Reuniting cats during and after natural disasters. Because microchips are permanent identifiers that cannot be lost or damaged like a collar or ID tag, they can always be used to identify and find where a displaced cat belongs.
  • Allowing cats to travel. Most countries require microchips for visiting animals.

How Does A Microchip Work?

A microchip won’t work unless someone scans for it! A microchip scanner is a handheld device that detects microchips using one of three low radio frequencies (125kHz, 128 kHz, and 134.2 kHz).

There are different types of scanners, but only universal scanners detect all three microchip frequencies. All animal shelter staff, veterinarians, and animal control officers should use a universal scanner.

The scanner is waved over an animal’s body until it can detect the microchip and display its unique ID number and the contact number of its microchip registry. The registry is then called to get the associated contact information.

Registering a Microchip

If you don’t register the microchip, you can’t be contacted!

You can register with the microchip company, which may charge registration or annual fees. You can also register with a free database, such as Found Animals Registry, which is a nonprofit service.

Note: If your cat is already microchipped and registered to someone else, remember to contact the registry to update it with your information. (Example: If you are adopting a cat, you may need to update the contact information for the cat’s microchip from the previous owner or rescue organization.)

Educate Your Community with Alley Cat Allies’ Resources

Our expert information is an easy and accessible way to spread the word about the lifesaving power of microchips.