RSPCA welcomes England’s new mandatory microchipping law
The RSPCA has today welcomed the UK Government's announcement on compulsory microchipping for owned cats in England.
Under the plans, confirmed today, it is to become a legal requirement for cat owners to microchip their cats before 20 weeks of age and to ensure their contact details are stored and kept up to date in a pet microchipping database.
Under the new legislation, cat owners will have until 10 June 2024 to microchip their cats. Owners found not to have microchipped their cat will have 21 days to get one implanted or may face a fine of up to £500.
The RSPCA is hopeful that alongside increasing the number of lost or injured cats reunited with their owners, the new law will also help to tackle common welfare issues for cats, including abandonments.
David Bowles, head of campaigns and public affairs at the RSPCA, said:
We are pleased to see the UK Government delivering on their pledge to bring in compulsory microchipping for owned cats in England.
Microchipping is an absolutely essential component of being a responsible pet owner. This new law means that lost cats can be easily identified and reunited with their owners, rather than being handed to rehoming charities that are struggling with overflowing waiting lists.
Microchipping dogs has been mandatory for many years, so to finally see the same law and protections being applied to cats is a huge step forward for feline welfare.
We have seen innumerable stories of non-microchipped cats that have been hit by a car or strayed who never get reunited with their owner, as well as the happy stories where cats have been reunited with their owners by our dedicated RSPCA officers thanks to this tiny chip. We are hopeful that now we will see more happy stories than sad ones.
There are 11 million owned cats in the UK and it is estimated that over a quarter of that population is not microchipped. In 2020, only around 500 cats, out of the more than 3,000 arriving in the RSPCA centres were previously microchipped - which is just 15%.
Microchipping your cat means that should they be lost, or injured they can easily be returned to you. It is a very easy and painless procedure which involves a tiny microchip being quickly and simply inserted under the animal’s skin and this then gives the pet its own unique code.
The microchip can be scanned and matched to the owner’s contact details which are kept in a database. We believe the optimum time to microchip a cat is when they are neutered as a kitten at around four months old and under anaesthetic.
We have seen the success with compulsory dog microchipping which has greatly reduced the number of stray dogs and are hopeful that cat microchipping could have a similar positive impact on lost and abandoned cats. This is of course great news for cats in England, but we're also hoping the Welsh Government will act and introduce compulsory microchipping for cats in Wales too.
If an owner moves house or changes their telephone number they must also make sure that they tell the database they are registered with so that they have up-to-date contact details. If the information on that database is old and out-of-date then the chip is useless. Telling your vet does not automatically update the details on the database but this is something you can do yourself online.
Microchipping will not be compulsory for free-living cats that live with little or no human interaction or dependency, such as farm, feral or community cats.
More information about cat microchipping can be found on the RSPCA website.