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A guide to microchipping your pet

Microchipping your pet means if they do get lost, they’re more likely to be returned home to you. New legislation also means that microchipping will be compulsory for cats as well as dogs soon.

Here’s the lowdown on microchipping your pet and the law.


Microchipping your pet means if they do get lost, they’re more likely to be returned home to you. New legislation also means that microchipping will be compulsory for cats as well as dogs soon.

Here’s the lowdown on microchipping your pet and the law.


Written by
Anna McEntee
Insurance comparison expert
Last Updated
6 APRIL 2023
6 min read
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What is pet microchipping?

Pet microchipping is a way to permanently identify your pet, in case they go missing.

Microchipping involves inserting a tiny microchip implant under the skin of your pet, usually near the scruff of their neck. The chip has a unique code that can be used to identify the pet and match them with their owner’s details stored on a central database.

If your pet is found and taken to an animal shelter or vet clinic, the microchip will be scanned to find your contact details so you can be reunited as quickly as possible.

Is microchipping my pet compulsory?

All dogs have to be microchipped by law and the government passed new legislation in March 2023 to make microchipping cats compulsory too.

Cat owners have until 10 June 2024 to microchip their feline friends. The government estimated that around a quarter of the UK’s pet cats aren’t microchipped, meaning up to 2.3 million cats will need to be microchipped before the law comes into effect.

Microchipping your cat and dog is also one of the requirements for taking your pet with you if you’re travelling to the EU.

Why is microchipping my dog important?

Microchipping gives you the best chance of being reunited with your beloved pet if they go missing. 

Hundreds of dogs wander off and over a thousand are stolen every year, causing heartbreak and distress for many owners. If a dog is found by a local authority dog warden, it’ll be checked for microchipping. If your dog has a microchip, the unique code can be entered on a national database and used to find your contact details.

If your dog’s name collar has fallen off and it isn’t microchipped, there’d be no way for the authorities to contact the owner. After seven days, your dog could be passed on to a rehoming charity.

Alarmingly, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home found that in 2021, 74% of stray dogs in the UK could not be easily reunited with their owners – either because they didn’t have a microchip or the contact details linked to the microchip were out of date.

Why should I microchip my cat?

It’s not uncommon for cats to stray, leaving their owners heartbroken. The RSPCA alone rescues around 90 cats a day. A microchipped cat has by far the best chance of being reunited with its owners. That is, as long as the details connected to the chip are correct.

Without a microchip, it could take longer to reunite a stray cat with its owners, and sometimes it can’t be done at all. Eventually, if the local authority or charity looking after your lost cat can’t get in touch with you, they’ll have to find your cat a new home.

What’s the law on microchipping your dog?

Since 2016, it's been a legal requirement  in the UK for owners to make sure their dog is microchipped. It’s estimated that around 90% of UK dogs are now microchipped. 

Microchipping needs to be done by the time the dog is eight weeks old.

The microchip must be fitted by an approved professional like a private vet or a vet from a registered animal charity. The details on the chip must then be registered on a government-approved database.

You must also make sure that the details on the database are up to date. Updating your contact details with your vet does not change the details on the database. It’s your responsibility to update your details if you change phone numbers or move home.

As well as being microchipped, your dog must also wear a collar and tag with your name and address on it when in a public place. 

If you don’t get your dog microchipped and registered on a government-approved database, you could be fined up to £500. 

What’s the law on microchipping your cat?

The UK government’s new legislation on compulsory microchipping for cats comes into effect on 10 June 2024. 

From this date, all cats over 20 weeks old must be microchipped and their owners must store their contact details on a government-approved pet microchipping database. Cat owners will also need to ensure their registered details are up to date. 

If you don’t get your cat microchipped and registered by the time the law comes into effect and you get found out, you’ll have 21 days to comply or face a fine of up to £500.


Why else should I get my pet microchipped?

As well as it being a legal requirement for dogs, and soon for cats too, your pet should be microchipped for the following purposes:

  • Travelling with your pet – if you’re taking your dog or cat to an EU country or Northern Ireland, they must be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. You’ll need an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) from your vet confirming microchipping and vaccinations. Read our guide to taking your pet abroad.
  • Pet insurance – your dog must be microchipped to get pet insurance. And once the cat microchipping law comes into effect this will apply for your pet cat too. Although most polices won’t cover the cost of microchipping, many offer ‘lost and found’ cover to help fund adverts, for example, to find a lost or stolen pet – but only for pets that are microchipped.

Will my pet be microchipped when I buy it?

Puppies must be microchipped and registered by a breeder before they can be sold. The breeder should also provide you with the microchipping paperwork and certificate before you take the puppy home. Make sure you update the microchip details on the registered database once you become the official keeper. 

Kittens can be microchipped from around eight weeks old. Responsible breeders may take care of microchipping for you, but it’s not guaranteed. Check and ask for any certificates and paperwork before you take kitty home. If it hasn’t been done already, speak to your vet about getting it done before your kitten is 20 weeks old, or before you let them explore outside.

If you’re rehoming a cat or dog from an animal shelter there’s a good chance it might have been microchipped already. Make sure you ask for any paperwork and update your contact details on the database when you take your new pet home. 

Did you know?
If your dog is found by the police or local authority not to have a microchip, you’ll be given the chance to have it done – but if you don't comply within a short period of time, you could be fined up to £500. This will apply to your pet cat soon, too.

Are there any exceptions to microchipping your dog?

There are a couple of exceptions to the general rules:

  • You have a working dog with a tail docked in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act (2006). In this case, you’ll still have to get your puppy microchipped, but you can wait until the puppy is up to 12 weeks old to do it, if you choose (you don’t have to).
  • Your dog’s health would be compromised by microchipping

If your dog’s too unwell to be microchipped, your vet can give you an exemption certificate. You’ll need to have your dog microchipped once this expires, unless another certificate is given.

If you’re a breeder and aren’t able to microchip a puppy for health reasons, you can still sell the dog at eight weeks, but it must be accompanied by the vet’s certificate of exemption.

Will there be any exceptions to microchipping cats?

Only ‘free living’ cats are exempt from the new microchipping law. That means any cats who don’t have owners, including feral cats and farm cats.

The new microchipping law for cats doesn’t make any exceptions for indoor cats. Even the most indoorsy of cats can escape from time to time, and they could be easily become lost if they’re not used to the outside world.

How does microchipping work?

Your vet will implant the microchip under your pet’s skin, usually between the shoulder blades. It’s only the size of a grain of rice. Each microchip has a protective shell to stop it causing a reaction or moving around.
Microchipping is a fast procedure that only takes a few seconds.

The microchip should last as long as your pet’s lifetime.

Will microchipping hurt my pet?

The process is quick and shouldn’t cause your pet any distress. However, it does involve a needle, so it might be slightly uncomfortable for a few seconds – just like vaccinations.

Will the microchip track my pet if it gets lost?

No. The microchip isn’t a tracking device, but because its unique code will be registered along with your details, it can help the authorities reunite you with your pet.

You can buy GPS tracking devices for your pet, though. This could be a worthwhile investment if you have a dog that occasionally gets distracted chasing rabbits while you’re out on walkies – or you’re simply curious about where your cat really goes at night…

How much does microchipping cost?

It can vary, but usually vets charge between £10-30 to microchip your pet at the vet, depending on where you live in the UK.

The following charities will microchip your dog for free:

If you’re struggling to afford the cost of microchipping your pet, it’s worth looking for any local animal charities or shelters that could help or offer advice about free or discounted microchipping in your area.

How do I update my pet’s microchip details?

It’s vital you keep your pet’s microchip details current and up to date. If you move home, for example, you’ll need to contact the database you’re registered with and give them your new details.

You might be charged a small administration fee to do this, depending on which database your pet is registered on – usually between £6 to £20.

If you forget which database your pet is registered on, you can find out by visiting the Check-a-Chip website.

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