Cat owners have just nine months to get their pets microchipped, or face hefty fines if they do not comply —however a feline charity has confirmed that farm cats will be the only exemption to the rules. 

From June 10, 2024, it will become illegal for cat owners to not microchip their pets. 

If owners are found to have flouted the rules they will have just 21 days to comply and have a microchip implanted in their pet or face a fine of up to £500.

The process of microchipping involves the quick, simply and painless insertion of a chip, generally around the size of a grain of rice, under the skin. The microchip has a unique serial number that the keeper needs to register on a database. When a cat is found, the microchip can be read with a scanner and the registered keeper identified on a database so the pet can quickly be reunited with them. 

However, cat charity CatsMatter says it worked closely with DEFRA when writing the laws in order to prevent complications.

A spokesperson for the charity confirmed: “There will be just one exemption to the law. It 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, to be microchipped. When working with DEFRA on the detail of the law, we pushed for just two exemptions. 1) On medical grounds, such as those undergoing veterinary treatment and it would work against their welfare to chip them, although it should be done as soon as the cat is well enough for such a procedure, and 2) Feral/farm cats be exempt on the grounds that it could prevent feeders of colonies to abandon them if they were legally obliged to microchip. Some rescues will microchip farm/feral cats when they leave for their new homes, and we would still advise people caring for feral colonies and farm cats to spay, neuter and microchip, as a microchip would allow any rescue that picked them up know they are being cared for already, and also allow vets to notify the carer of their fate.”

They added: “Microchipping is part of responsible pet parenting and we, not only support the financial burden for those unwilling to follow the new rules, we actively pushed for strict measures when working on this legislation in both it’s Bill form and as stakeholders throughout its consultation phases. The Government call for evidence and consultation on the issue received 99% approval rate from respondents expressed support for the measure, so we are assured we are not alone. 

“When a cat is not microchipped, they can be picked up as a stray and end up clogging the rescue system, which is already on it’s knees due to the current cost of living crisis, some shelters with waiting lists full of cats to enter care into the hundreds. Microchipping ensures that people are notified should an accident happen, and we are fully aware how important it is for people to be notified of incidents concerning their cats, and how vital it is to have that closure should the worst happen. Even cats that are house cats or have ‘catios’ and enclosed gardens can still escape through windows, doors, or of course carriers on the way to the vets. 

“We are so pleased the Government have brought in this law after years of campaigning, but we remain concerned about the scanning system that compliments it. We have remained clear to DEFRA that, for microchipping to work in practice, chips must be scanned. We continue to push the Government on introducing effective scanning measures so as many cats as possible can go home to their families where they belong. 

“Our efforts have always been, and will always continue to be, focused on the welfare of cats firstly, followed by the rights and needs of their owners. We urge all cat owners who have not yet microchipped their cat to make an appointment at their local vets or with their nearest registered implanter. It’s vital people book through a trained and registered implanter (found here:  Animal Tracker | Find a Microchip Implanter ) to prevent injury or potential complications to their beloved cat. We simply want cats to have the assurance of a voice when they are beyond their owners four walls, and we want cat owners to be given the very best chance of being reunited should they become separated from their cat for whatever reason. We urge people to act now to prevent a hefty fine. Microchips may be low cost or even free as rescues offer incentives to beat the deadline, and some will offer year round discounts to those on low incomes, so do check with your local rescue centre.”