Now that we are actively trapping, neutering and vaccinating feral cats in our priority areas, those of you living within these areas may find a TNVR leaflet dropping through your door explaining more about this part of our work. In the leaflet we mention ‘microchips’ for pet cats, alongside vaccinating and neutering your pet. Getting your cat neutered and vaccinated helps wildcats because your cat won’t then breed with a wildcat and is less likely to pass on diseases to them. But what’s this about microchips? Microchips, otherwise known as passive integrated transponders (PITs), are rice grain-sized pieces of electronics that use the energy contained in the radio waves emitted by a scanner to send out a signal with a unique electronic number code. This enables someone with a scanner to detect the cat has a microchip and, if they have access to the database, they can look up the number on a database to find the contact details of the owner. Because the microchips require no battery, the tag lasts for years too. In animals such as pet cats, the microchip is injected into the nape, where it lies between the skin and muscle and won’t irritate the cat.
Our TNVR teams are armed with scanners to read these microchips so that we can quickly identify whether a cat in one of our cage traps is someone’s pet. It is a more assured method than cooing at the bundle of rage sitting at the back of the cage, or shaking a box of cats treats (just two of the many alternative methods we might use to help decide whether a trapped cat is someone’s pet). The scanners we are using will also automatically inform us if the cat has been registered as missing.
When I was testing one of our new scanners, I realised, a little embarrassingly, that my own pet cat hasn’t been microchipped. She is a feral kitten that I rescued, alongside two of her siblings, at the tender age of three weeks one cold winter. I had her neutered at six months (not a moment too soon) and had, for some reason, assumed that she’d been microchipped at the same time.
Never mind, she was due for a renewal of her vaccinations so it was off to the vet with her. Plonked from carry cage to vet’s table, she immediately took sanctuary on my shoulders (something she always does as that’s where she perched as a kitten). Disentangled from my jumper and placed back down on the table, we distracted her with a few cat treats. The actual process of microchipping and vaccinating took seconds and she didn’t even notice as Jane the vet expertly administered the needle.
The cost of the microchipping was around £25, which included the cost of registering the cat on the database, while the vaccinations cost around £60. For that price, I have peace of mind: should my cat ever go missing or wander into a TNVR trap, that tiny grain of electronics sitting between her shoulder-blades will reveal she’s someone’s pet and even help a vet identify where she lives. I’d say to all cat owners, whether or not you live in a wildcat priority area, go and book an appointment at your vet and get your cat microchipped. It really only takes moments.
For more information about the project, visit www.scottishwildcataction.org or on Facebook and Twitter @SaveOurWildcats.
Scottish Wildcat Action is the first national project to save the highly endangered Scottish wildcat from extinction. It is a partnership involving over 20 organisations, including, Scottish Natural Heritage, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), Cairngorms National Park Authority, Forestry Commission Scotland, National Museums Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. It is funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and Scottish Government, as well as its partners.