Making Sure that your Cat is Correctly Identified: The Basics

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Cat collarsIt is your responsibility as a pet owner to ensure that your cat has some form of identification.

To start with, put a visible identification tag on her collar and include important information such as her name, your name, your address and contact details. Many vets and pet shops supply this service at a nominal cost.

If you’ve never purchased a collar for your cat, make sure it is one with a breakaway clasp so that if your cat catches herself on something it will open easily and not choke her to death. A collar with a tag on it will save your cats life, but the problem is that if it comes off, there is no way of identifying your cat.

This leads us to the subject of microchips.

Microchips are inexpensive (under R400 including insertion by a vet) and a brilliant way of being able to identify your cat if she gets lost. If she is implanted with a microchip she can be quickly identified and reunited with you.microchip

A microchip is a tiny electronic microcircuit sealed into a biocompatible glass tube. 11mm long and 2mm wide (about the size of a grain of rice)

Identipet microchips are not tracking devices. They are radio-frequency identification (RFID) implants that provide permanent ID for your pet. Because they use RFID technology, microchips do not require a power source like a GPS. When a microchip scanner is passed over the pet, the microchip gets enough power from the scanner to transmit the microchip’s ID number. Since there’s no battery and no moving parts, there’s nothing to keep charged, wear out, or replace. The microchip will last your pet’s lifetime.

There are NO microchips that are tracking devices. Technology isn’t advanced enough to create an implantable tracking device as tracking devices need a power source (battery).

Microchip scannerMicrochips have no side effects upon insertion, barring the small amount of discomfort when the needle penetrates the skin during the insertion process. The pain is well worth it and quickly forgotten in the long run!

Once your cat is microchipped, she can be registered with the national database (in South Africa we would recommend Identipet). If she is found and taken to a facility with a microchip scanner, the vet or shelter can contact the pet registry, who will look your information up on their system and call you to make arrangements for your cat’s safe return home.

It is important that you maintain your contact details at the registry, especially if you move home or your contact number changes.

Here is some important information (taken from the Identipet web site at www.identipet.com) about microchips:

How is it implanted?
Each microchip is individually packaged in a sterile syringe. This is then a simple injection at the inoculation site (for dogs and cats) between the shoulder blades, by a veterinarian or a trained person

Is it painful?
No more than any inoculation.

How does it work?
The microchip has an unalterable unique number coded into it. This microchip number is read by means of a scanner. The scanner is similar in the size and shape of a ping-pong bat. The scanner emits a electro-magnetic wave that instantaneously “excites” the microchip. The microchip responds to the scanner with its number, which can then be read off the scanner’s screen.

Tell me about this number.
It is totally unique and from a series of 34 billion unique numbers. It can never be duplicated, altered or erased. Its uniqueness will stand up in a court of law. Identipet supplies the companion animal world in South Africa, 10 digit (alpha-numeric) microchips. The FDX-A microchips are the predominant microchip protocol worldwide and have been the protocol adopted by Identipet South Africa for the past 16 years. FDX-B (15 digit) microchips, although used in Europe and Asia are not compatible with the installed base of Identipet-scanners at SPCAs and Animal Welfare Organisations countrywide.

Who keeps the Microchip number?
Each microchip is packaged with a four part registration form. The veterinarian completes the form with the owner and animal details. The veterinarian, the owner, Identipet, and the breed society keep copies of the form.

 Who keeps the database?
Identipet loads the information sent back to them, onto their companion animal database (which currently holds over 200 000 records).  Authorised users (Vets, SPCAs, Animal Welfare Societies etc) can access this database information 7 days a week from the Identipet office, or by using their cellphone, can access the information within 30 seconds of sending the microchip number to Identipet’s dataline “ 084 PET INFO”.

What happens if my pet is lost?
Most lost animals are taken to a vet or SPCA. The animal is scanned for a microchip, and the Identipet Database is contacted.  Information (telephone and cell numbers, address and other owner details) is provided, and the owners are informed of their pet’s whereabouts.

How well does the Identipet system work?
Brilliantly!  Identipet annually reunites several thousand lost or stolen animals with their owners.  Data provided by the SPCA shows that the average time that it takes to re-home a lost pet (that has been microchipped) animal is two hours, compared with several days for an unidentified animal, if that animal is not eventually euthanased.
Who can scan my lost pet?
Hundreds of users of the Identipet system, with over 2000 scanners countrywide. Most vets in the large centers (and many in the smaller centers) are equipped to scan all lost, abandoned or stolen animals. All branches of the SPCA, as well as Animal Welfare Organisations are supplied with Identipet-scanners to assist them in the identification of lost, strayed, stolen, abandoned and adopted pets.
Can the microchip migrate?
Identipet microchips do not migrate.  They are the ONLY microchips with the patented BioBond™ technology of an anti-migration cap.  This sets us aside for all other microchips that cannot claim this essential feature.
What animals can be microchipped?
Any animal. From fingerling fish to rhino and elephants.
What about tattoos or collars with tags?
Tattoos can fade and become illegible. Collars and discs become lost.
What does the microchip cost?
The microchip and its insertion by a vet or SPCA can cost between R200– R350. Your pet is then identifiable for life. The microchip never “wears” out. Your pet will always have an identity.

Is there an Annual Identipet Service Fee?
Yes. The current charge for this is R55.00 per year per animal.

Apart from the cost of data retention and management, updates etc. Identipet supplies free of charge, to ALL Animal Welfare Organisations, and ALL of their branches, the Identipet Lost Pet Recovery System and the scanners required to actively identify lost, strayed and stolen pets and thereby facilitate those pets return to their owners.

Veterinarians, SPCAs, and all who implant microchips know about the Annual Service Fee. They are constantly reminded to fully inform the client about this fee, before implanting the microchip.

Identipet sends out annually (mid-year), a letter to confirm, and update, any owner or pet information (addresses or telephone numbers etc.) that may have changed in the past year. Should the letter be undeliverable due to the postal address not having been updated by the pet owner, Identipet data staff go to great lengths to trace the owner by phoning all available contact numbers, as well as following up on address leads etc.

Should your pet be lost, all Identipet services are free. There is no charge for re-homing of animals.

What about a Lifetime Membership?
Identipet offers a lifetime membership for any pet of R375. This gives lifetime coverage as well as ensuring you receive annual update letters and product offers, but do not pay further, and are not subject to future increases.

Who is Identipet?
Identipet is one of the (only) 6 world distributors of implantable microchips for Digital Angel (formerly Destron-Fearing) the worlds largest manufacturer of implantable microchips.

Identipet has been operating in South Africa since 1989 and supplies about 97% of the South African market of implantable microchips for animal identification.

by Phillipa Mitchell

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