My cat Luna is a very happy house cat. She's quite content with her predictable meal schedule, wide variety of windows and numerous nap spots in her safe, domesticated life. Occasionally though, Luna finds herself unable to resist the opportunity that an open door and a distracted human presents, and she slips outside into the wild suburban unknown.
Thankfully, she's never been able to escape too far away from home so we've not had to worry more than a few minutes. In preparation of that chance though, Luna and our other two cats have all been equipped with microchips.
What is a microchip? Let's start first with what it isn't, because there is a common misconception: A microchip is not a GPS or location-finding device. For better or worse, neither you nor the FBI will be able to track your pet's location using its microchip signal.
Pet identification microchips are tiny (about the size of a grain of rice) transponders that can be implanted just under your pet's skin, usually between the shoulder blades, by a veterinarian. The procedure is quick, virtually painless (similar to getting a vaccination), affordable, and usually only needs to be done once in a pet's lifetime.
Each microchip contains a unique registration number that can be read by a special scanner that most veterinarian offices and shelters possess, in the same way that a grocery store scanner reads a bar code on a product. This registration number is then provided to the indicated microchip company (there are several) who in turn can provide the owner's contact information.
This registration number is useless though if the information tied to it is not kept current. If your pet has a microchip, call the company it's registered with to make sure they have your correct contact information. If you're not sure which company that is, ask your veterinarian.
If your pet doesn't have a microchip, what better time that National Chip Your Pet Month to get it done? The SPCA Albrecht Center's Veterinary Care Center offers the service for just $25, and you don't even have to make an appointment. Call 803-648-6863, ext. 1 or visit SPCAVetCare.org for hours.
And if you're considering adding a pet to your family, you'll be happy to know that pets adopted from the SPCA Albrecht Center are conveniently already microchipped. Adopters just need to make sure their contact information is updated with the microchip company after adoption and if they ever move, in case their pet ever does stray from home.
It's also important to bear in mind that a microchip shouldn't be your pet's exclusive identification, especially if that pet spends time outdoors. A collar and tag with contact information means a much faster reunion with a lost pet and avoids a trip to an animal shelter, even if it is short-term.
Do your pet a favor this month and check their chip or get it done to ensure they always make their way back home to you.
Sarah Neikam is the Director of Organizational Development for the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare. She is an Aiken native and has been with the SPCA since 2012. Sarah's family includes three adopted cats: Bastian, Luna and Grady, who are all living happy, loved lives thanks to the efforts of the SPCA.