Identification Options for Cats

Lorie Huston, DVM
Published: April 16, 2012
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Have you ever considered what would happen to your cat if he were to become lost? How would he find his way home to you? After all, accidents can happen and even strictly indoor cats can sneak out accidentally.

There are two forms of identification that I consider to be extremely important for cats. The first is an identification (ID) tag or, alternatively, some other form of identification that can be attached to a collar. The second is a microchip.

Even if your cat lives strictly indoors, it’s worth considering an ID tag. In the event that your cat does somehow accidentally slip outside, it’s likely to be one of your friends or neighbors that finds him. By wearing an ID tag that contains your contact information (including your address and phone number), your cat can be easily returned to you. Consider including your cell phone number (instead of or in addition to your home phone number) on the ID tag, particularly if you travel with your cat.

The second form of identification that I believe is worth considering is a microchip. A microchip is a small device that is embedded under your cat’s skin, usually between his shoulders. The microchip itself is about the size of a grain of rice. It is implanted with the aid of a needle which is used to deliver the microchip through your cat’s skin and deposit in the desired location. The procedure itself is fast, simple, and relatively painless.

Encoded within the microchip is a number that corresponds to that individual microchip. The number is read from the microchip through the use of a scanner which deciphers the encoding and displays the number on the scanner’s screen.

One of the most important things to remember about a microchip is that the microchip must be registered once it has been implanted in your cat. Registration of the microchip links your personal information (name, telephone number, address, etc.) with the microchip your cat is now carrying. Without registration, a microchip is useless. Remember to keep your information up-to-date if you move or change phone numbers.

Another thing that is important to remember about microchips is that they are not GPS devices. They cannot be used to pinpoint the location of your pet through a remote device. These types of devices exist for dogs but, at the current time, they do not exist for cats. GPS devices for dogs are generally attached to the collar of the pet and are currently too large to be worn by cats or very small dogs. That may change in the not-too-far-distant future though.

Which type of identification do I recommend for most cats? I recommend both an identification tag and a microchip. Because microchips require a scanner to be detected and read, an identification tag is a simpler means of providing the appropriate information to any neighbor who does find your roaming cat.

However, collars and tags can fall off and get lost. Or they can be removed. A microchip provides a permanent means of identification. In the event that your cat ends up in a local pound, shelter, or rescue, the microchip should send him safely on his way back home to you even if the collar and tag are gone.

Whatever form of identification you choose to use for your cat, providing some means of identification greatly increases the chances that your cat will be returned to you. Too many cats without proper identification never find their way home.

Do you have a favorite method of identification for your cat? Does your cat wear a collar and tag religiously? Is your cat microchipped? Do any of you have stories to share about being reunited with a lost cat because he was properly identified? If so, please share. We’d love to hear from you.


Dr. Lorie Huston

Image: Miska: Stance by Tomi Tapio K / via Flickr