Looking after your pets with the help of microchips

Last week, we came back from lunch to find a small tabby cat pacing back and forth outside of the door to our building. On a busy university campus in the middle of a sizzling afternoon, not many people paid attention to a cat wandering around. We left a small tupperware of water outside for the cat to drink while we went inside to search online about lost/found pets.

Source: Toronto Animal Services (2011)

Since the cat didn’t have any visible identification (just a bell on a red collar), we took it down to the Toronto Animal Services (as per their instructions). When the representative saw the cat, she told us the shelter was packed and that cats rarely get reunited with their owners. To our surprise she told us that they expect cats to easily fend for themselves, despite the fact it was a sizzling 34.2˚C (41˚C with the humidex) that day and Toronto’s medical officer of health even issued a heat alert for the city. She also told us that we shouldn’t have brought the cat in until it had been wandering around outside for at least 24 hours (how could we have known how long the cat’s been outside?).

Wouldn’t the Toronto Animal Services be one of the first places someone would go to look for their missing pet? It should be, if you read the FAQ on their website. However from today’s experience, it appears as that the Toronto Animal Society act more as pest control—merely taking in stray animals and prefer to leave domesticated (owned) animals to fend for themselves and search for their own way home.

After finding a lost cat today, the value of having your pets microchipped became very apparent. To all of the pet owners out there, I would strongly suggest that your pets be microchipped to ensure that they can be returned to you if they ever become lost.


What are pet microchips?

Microchips are gaining popularity amongst pet owners as a permanent form of identification. The small microchip, about the size of a grain of rice, is implanted in the back of the animal’s neck just under the skin. The microchips are typically encased in biocompatible glass, making them impermeable and chemically stable [1]. Most veterinary clinics and animal shelters have scanners which can read the pet identification number that’s stored on the chip. The owner’s information is stored on the chip manufacture’s database and can be recalled from this identification number.

How do they work?

Pet microchips are based on passive RFID technology, meaning no internal power source is required (only powered when the scanner is used). The microchip is composed of three parts [2]: i) a silicon chip (integrated circuit) which contains the pet identification number; ii) a coil inductor (piece of ferrite wrapped in copper wire) which is used to receive electrical power from the scanner and acts as a radio antenna; and iii) a capacitor that acts as a tuner with the inductor to form a LC circuit. When the chip is scanned, the inductive field generated by the scanner excites the coil and charges the capacitor. This provides power to the silicon chip and the chip transmits the pet identification number through the coil to the scanner.

Implantation of a microchip is a similar to a vaccination procedure. The microchip is implanted using a pre-packed sterile needle just behind the shoulder blades of the cat or dog. It can be done at most animal welfare centres/shelters, vets, and pet stores. Typically, the procedure will cost about $50 to $75 [3]. This is a fairly inexpensive procedure considering it is a one-time fee, and the microchip will last for your pet’s entire life [3].

Cat FOUND— Brn. tabby (grey with darkbrown strips). Has been left with Toronto Animal Services (South Region) Animal ID: A590591 Telelphone: 416-338-6668


[1]Pet Works (2010). Pet ID microchips – Technical Information. [Online] Available: http://www.pet-works.net/professionals/pet-id-microchipping/technical-information

[2] The Kennel Club (2010). How does microchipped pet identification work. [Online] Available: http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/item/2904

[3] Pets.ca (2011). MICROCHIPPING YOUR PET – PET TIP 128. [Online] Available: http://www.pets.ca/dogs/tips/microchipping-your-pet-pet-tip-128/


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