Cats

Is cat microchipping worth the cost?

posted: 01/19/13
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© iStockphoto.com/Micah Young

Whether you purchase or adopt a cat, the associated costs can quickly mount when you factor in vaccines, vet visits, spaying/neutering, supplies and food. Once all of those dollars and cents start to pile up, many pet owners begin to question the necessity of certain services. Since no one wants to believe that their beloved kitty will ever wander off (not with such an excellent parent as you), microchipping is often crossed off the new pet wish list. This despite the fact that more than 38 percent of microchipped cats who wind up in an animal shelter are successfully returned to their humans, as opposed to under 2 percent of kitties not sporting a microchip, according to Web site Petfinder.

Microchipping has become more common in recent years, thanks to its usefulness and ease of placement. The process, where a veterinarian uses a needle to inject a tiny chip under the cat's skin between the shoulder blades, takes mere seconds from start to finish. Each chip sports an individualized code that can be scanned quickly when a lost pet is brought into a vet or animal shelter. Vets and shelters routinely check animals for microchips when they're brought in. Compared with a collar and tag (which your cat should still wear), microchipping is almost always permanent.

As with any procedure there's always at least some risk to the pet. It's extremely rare, but possible for complications to occur during chip implantation. Also, there is a minute chance that a tumor could develop at the site. Other than those unlikely occurrences, the procedure is extremely benign, with most pets feeling only a minor pinch when the needle breaks the skin.

Now that you know what a microchip is and what the risks are, it's time to decide whether or not to spring for one. The typical cost is runs between 40 or 50 bucks, which isn't horribly expensive, but is still a significant amount for many people. To make it easier on owners, many vets offer package deals in which the price of the microchip is folded in with other necessary costs. Some animal shelters even offer the service for free or at drastically reduced rates, so do a little bit of research if cost is an issue.

Where your cat spends his time is another major factor in the decision. Microchipping is definitely the safest bet for outdoor kitties, since they can wander far and wide in a short amount of time. But even exclusively indoor cats have a tendency to make a break for the exit every once in a while, so a microchip can give some peace of mind to humans concerned about a feline escape artist.

When it comes down to it, the cost and risks of microchipping are nominal, especially when compared with the harsh realities your cat could face if you can't track her down on your own. Make sure to safeguard your investment, and your pet, by having your vet do an annual scan to make sure that the chip is still working and located where it should be. Also, update your vet if you move or change your phone number, since a microchip is utterly useless if no one can get ahold of you.

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