Microchips and collars: both are needed to keep your pet safe

What if your pet doesn’t like his or her collar: can you get away with a microchip instead? Or, is a collar enough to keep your pet safe? These are great questions to ask, because both are important. A microchip, a small device implanted just under the skin that can be scanned to reveal an owner’s name and address, is an essential device for your pets safety. Even if you have a collar, the microchip is necessary for if the collar was to fall off (and if you have a cat, your collar should release if your cat is caught on an object. Our dogs also wear break-away collars). It’s a great back-up measure to get your pet safely home. Even for indoor cats, a microchip is essential for escapes out the door or emergencies like earthquakes.

All animals in collars (and microchipped)” title=”All animals in collars” class=”alignnone” width=”640″ height=”427″ />

Microchips are not fail-safe though. They can sometimes “shift” under the skin, making them difficult to find with a scanning device. There’s also human error to consider: in the stressful event of moving, sometimes we forget to call the microchip company right away with the address change. And the move to a new house is often when pets can escape due to the stress or prevalence of open doors on moving day.

What about collars?

Collars are really important too, and microchips are not a replacement for a collar. Because your neighbors (most likely) cannot scan a microchip, the collar is often the quickest and easiest way your pet will find its way home if he or she is lost, wanders off, is trapped, or someone “finds” her. The neighbor knows the pet has a home, and they will simply give you a call, and a shelter visit is completely avoided. If your pet ends up in a shelter and has a collar, you will most likely receive a call to come pick him or her up. Without a collar, things are a bit more complex. Not all shelters scan for microchips as they should, may forget to scan, or they may not check carefully or thoroughly enough (especially if the microchip has shifted from a common location). There are many reports of such mistakes and not complying to standard procedure, particularly in certain cities. If your pet’s microchip was missed, you could run into the fact that many shelters don’t list found animals, which makes it particularly difficult to find your pet. Not to mention there are typically fees for the duration of your pets shelter stay, in the hopeful event that you are reunited. For these reasons, a collar is very important and simple measure to avoid these potential complications, especially for outdoor kitties and all dogs.
Mort sports his collar, and a halloween costume
As this New York Times article mentions, “Less than 2 percent of cats in animal shelters make it back to their owners, whereas about 15 to 19 percent of dogs are returned, and one reason is that more dogs wear collars.” Therefore, Because collars can fall off, and microchips might not be scanned, both should be considered essential to your pets safety.

My cat hates the collar

Cats are known to be sensitive, and finicky. If they hate their collar, it can be a real task to get them used to the collar but there are several things you can try. There are different styles and types of collars you can test, such as the soft velcro collars or collars made of alternative fabrics and widths (although always make sure that you choose a collar that will release if caught on something, a “break away” collar, and that it is fitted correctly). Make sure that the fit is correct, and it’s not too tight or too loose. In case your feline objects to the dangling tag or a bell, you can remove these items and opt to write your contact information onto the collar itself, get tags that are fastened along the collar length, or embroider the information.

Don’t make a big deal about the collar in front of the cat! Cats are smart creatures, and if you’re making an issue of it, they will sense it and raise a stink too.

Here are a few articles that might help:
Cats and collars
How to teach your cat to wear a collar

You are lucky if your cat is young, or you have a kitten on your hands, as you can start getting them used to wearing a collar right away.

And finally: patience. It can take awhile for cats to adjust to change, sometimes weeks and months. I have an incredibly stubborn cat, who often “gives up” after awhile and doesn’t seem to care about the change anymore. In the case of our dogs, she started to actually enjoy what she complained about previously (we swear she plays mind games). Make sure you give the adjustment some time, and not make a big deal about it.

Update your microchip if you move

A microchip doesn’t have much use if you don’t keep the information up-to-date with the microchip company. Make sure that you contact them with your new address as soon as you move.

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Jen deHaan

Jen deHaan is an animal advocate, volunteer, and dog person living in Bay Area, California. She likes to support local and national efforts for animal welfare and advocacy. Jen enjoys learning about dog training and behavior, and has taken several courses and seminars since 2010. It all started with a great dog called Mikey (aka "dude"), loved and lost but remembered forever.

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