How Can You Tell If A Cat Is Microchipped?

How Can You Tell If A Cat Is Microchipped?

Have you seen a strange cat wandering in your front yard lately? Chances are it has wandered off and gotten lost. If it seems tame and has a collar on its neck, it could mean that she has an owner and is not feral. Most of the time, owned cats are also microchipped, which makes the process of locating their owners easier.   

What is a microchip and how does it work?

A microchip is a small chip that contains important details about the cat’s owner. It is about the size of a grain of rice with dimensions of about 12 mm by 2 mm. It is injected by a veterinarian into a cat’s loose skin between the shoulder blades using a large-bore needle and does not require anesthesia.

A microchip is designed to last for at least 25 years and works through the use of radiofrequency waves. It costs around $40 to $50. Many veterinarians offer package deals for the procedure that can include costs like registration.

How can you tell if a cat is microchipped?

There is no visible way to tell if a cat is microchipped because a microchip is not able to be seen by the naked eye. If you find a lost or stray cat, you should take it to the nearest animal shelter or veterinary clinic to have it scanned.  If it has a chip, it should be registered in a database. The cat’s owner can be easily tracked as long as they have up-to-date contact details. 

A knowledgeable person can identify a microchip by feeling for it. However, since you are a stranger, a lost cat may not trust you enough to allow you to hold and feel her. 

Microchips contain a registration number and the phone number of the registry for the chip’s brand.  A handheld scanner reads the radio frequency and displays the information. The animal shelter or vet clinic will then contact the registry to get the details of the cat’s owner.

Can you feel a cat’s microchip?

Yes, you can feel a cat’s microchip. It is normally positioned near the lower neck and between the shoulder blades. By gently pressing that area, you can feel a small, hard object. 

Can a microchip get lost inside a cat’s body?

No, there is no way that it could get lost inside a cat’s body, although there is a small chance that it may migrate to another body part.  A cat’s subcutaneous tissue will bond to the chip within 24 hours after it is injected into a cat, which prevents it from moving. 

Reasons why a microchip cannot be located in a cat’s body:

  • A cat has long or matted hair. 
  • The chip is enclosed in too much fat. 
  • The cat is wearing a metal collar. 
  • The cat is squirming.
  • The chip moved or migrated to an undetected area of a cat’s body.

Why do cats need to be microchipped?

Cats need to be microchipped since it provides enduring identification. It will also make it easier to locate them if they become lost or separated from their owners in a disaster or accident. People nowadays are more aware of what to do if they find a lost cat and hopefully will bring it to the nearest pet shelter or vet clinic to have it scanned. In addition to microchipping a cat,  you should also register the chip’s code online in a pet microchip registry for a more seamless tracing process.   

Microchips are tamper-proof and permanently embedded in a cat’s skin. They do not wear away so cat owners can ensure that their pets are easily traced and returned. 

What are the side effects of a microchip?

1. A microchip could move to another part of the cat’s body.

In rare instances, it could migrate to the leg where an RFID scanner may not be able to detect. 

2. It may result in an infection. 

Some cats tend to develop swollen sores due to an improperly placed microchip. Others may also develop skin infections.

3. It could lead to neurological symptoms and health problems.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) notes that there have been cases where microchips were placed too close to the spine. This causes temporary paralysis among cats. Forceful injections, such as when a cat becomes restless and aggressive, can also cause limb weakness and labored breathing.

4. It could malfunction. 

Mishaps can happen and microchips can be prone to malfunctions, just as most technology. 

5. It may not be able to be located. 

There are instances when a microchip cannot be located due to the cat’s metal collar, matted fur, or if it is enclosed in too much fat.

6. It could lead to medical issues like cancer. 

Some cats have reportedly developed cancer on the site where the chip was injected. However, this still needs further proof. The probability of chip-related cancers is still subject to ongoing research.


If you happen to find a lost cat, it is hard to identify its owner if it has no ID tag or collar on. What you can do is to bring it to the nearest animal shelter or vet clinic and have it scanned for a microchip. You cannot visually assess if a cat is microchipped, and it is only possible to locate it through an RFID scanner. The animal shelter or veterinarian should be the one to contact the registry to gather the cat owner’s contact details.

Image: / IvonneW