By Steve Dale
Last summer, though an initiative supported by the Winn Feline Foundation, nearly 52,000 cats were micrcochipped and enrolled in the HomeAgain Pet Recovery System. That’s likely a world record for the number of cats microchipped in three months " considering that cats are rarely microchipped at all.
A microchip is a permanent form of identification " it’s the size of a grain of rice and implanted just under the pet’s skin by a veterinarian. Estimates are that somewhere around half of all dogs are microchipped in the U.S., yet less then ten percent of cats have a chip.
No one knows for certain why there’s such an astounding discrepancy. Gary MacPhee, director of the HomeAgain Business Unit, InterVet Schering-Plough Animal Health, Roseland, NJ says “In general, cats are undervalued. They don’t visit veterinarians as often as dogs; we just don’t think of their value being equal to dogs. Interestingly, though, we actually have more cats than we do dogs.” (According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there are about 72 million dogs and 82 million pet cats).
Also, increasingly, people are keeping their cats indoors. “That’s a very good thing,” according to feline veterinarian Dr. Susan Little of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, president of the Winn Feline Foundation. “Life is certainly safer for these indoor only cats. But the problem is that if they do find themselves outside in a strange environment, they’re arguably more at risk for getting lost than a cat more experienced at dealing with life outdoors. Still for all cats, a microchip is a good idea.”
Also, Little says that if and when an unexpected event occurs which forces an evacuation, as a result of perhaps a nearby fire or a neighborhood gas leak, you may not be home at the time. “Dogs are more likely to be microchipped, and they generally wear an indentifying tag on their collars. Cats usually have nothing. No wonder, in emergencies many more cats are never reunited with their families, while most dogs are recovered.”
Lost pets ultimately may land at an animal shelter. Bob Rohde, president of the Dumb Friends League, Denver, CO expresses frustration common among shelters. He says those lost pets are always scanned for a microchip. While around half the dogs and at least a few cats might have a microchip, too many of those never registered with the microchip company, making it difficult and sometimes impossible to track down the owners. In other cases, the pets were at one time registered, but the contact information, phone, email and street address are outdated. “You don’t expect mail forwarded unless you give the post office an address to forward it to,” says Rohde. “This is the same thing.”
So, here’s what’s happened because increasingly people are micrcohipping dogs, and hopefully registering with the microchip company. When lost dogs are scanned for a chip, Dumb Friends League contacts dog owners before they even have a chance to contact the shelter. On occasion, it happens so fast, the family didn’t even realize their dog was missing. Certainly, the number of dogs reunited with families has increased dramatically as a result of microchips. That’s sadly not the case with cats.
That’s why HomeAgain is encouraging microchipping cats with local efforts, such as the CHIP YOUR CAT campaign in Denver, and national initiatives, like the one again being supported this summer by the Winn Feline Foundation. For every cat micrcohipped from now through August, HomeAgain will donate one dollar to the Winn Feline Foundation to support cat health research.
The Winn Feline Foundation is a not-for-profit funder of veterinary studies concerning cat health. If you have a cat, funding from Winn has impacted the cat’s day to day life " from routine vaccines first studied through Winn funded research to the foods most cats eat.
As it turns out, those who enroll in the HomeAgain Pet Recovery system will never search for their lost pets alone. Volunteers help search for lost pets. And HomeAgain sends lost pet alerts to nearby shelters and veterinarians. If the pet is found more than 500 miles away from home, up to $500 will be paid to help return the pet. Also, all pets are covered for up to $3,000 in veterinary bills (through insurance) while they are lost; paying for everything from scratched corneas to severe injuries as a result of being hit by cars. Also, there’s free toxicology advice available 24/7 through the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. Annual renewal of the Pet Recovery system is $14.99.
“The idea is that we proactively help you, the pet owner,” MacPhee says. Another point is that the HomeAgain chip is among those on the Eurochip or ISO industry standard, certainly the best choice for consumers.