All cats must be microchipped under new law: What you need to know

TV report by ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi, words by Multimedia Producer Georgia Ziebart

From Monday, June 10, cat owners could face a fine of up to £500 if they fail to microchip their pet.

The new legislation makes cat microchipping compulsory in order to make it easier for lost or stray pet cats to be reunited with their owners.

There are more than nine million pet cats in England, but as many as 2.3 million of those are unchipped.

Here's what you need to know ahead of the new law.

What do pet owners need to do?

Under the new legislation, all cats in England must be implanted with a microchip before they reach the age of 20 weeks.

Their contact details must be kept up to date in a pet microchipping database.

The new law does not apply in Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland - but there have been calls from animal charities for those nations to follow suit.

Owners should keep a note of their cat's microchip number, and those whose cats are already microchipped should ensure their details are up to date.

Only a trained professional can fit a cat's microchip. Owners can ask their vet, local council, or rehoming centre to microchip their cat.

What is microchipping and how much does it cost?

The RSPCA says microchipping gives a pet the best chance of being identified and returned to their owner if they get lost or stolen.

Unlike a collar, which can be removed, the microchip is inserted under the pet's skin, and gives them a unique code.

Charity Cat's Protection says the process of microchipping a cat is very quick and no more painful than an injection. They say there is no need for recovery time after the procedure.

The microchip, which is about the size of a grain of rice, can be scanned and matched to the owner's details, which are kept on a national database.

Microchipping a cat costs between £10 - £30, according to the RSPCA, although some animal charities and organisations may offer microchipping at a reduced rate, or for free.

Why is the law changing?

The new legislation follows a government call for evidence and a consultation on the issue, in which 99% of respondents expressed support for the measure.

The introduction of compulsory cat microchipping is part of the government's action plan for animal welfare pledge.

Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said microchipping "is by far the most effective and quickest way of identifying lost pets".

"As we've seen with dog microchipping, those who are microchipped are more than twice as likely to be reunited with their owner," she added.

Cats Protection's Head of Advocacy, Madison Rogers, said: "No matter how far from home they are found, or how long they have been missing, if a cat has a microchip there is a good chance that they will be swiftly returned home."

What happens if you don't microchip?

If after June 10 an owner is found not to have microchipped their cat, they will be given 21 days to do so.

If owners fail to microchip their cat after that point, they may face a fine of up to £500.

The only exception to this in England is free living cats that have very little human interaction or dependency, such as farm, feral or community cats.

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