cat_0Each year, more than 10 million pets are lost, injured or stolen and more than half are not wearing collars or ID tags by the time they reach a shelter or veterinarian. The cost of handling these lost pets is nearly $1 billion a year.

All pets should wear identification tags at all times. Tags should include a local contact number, as well as a number for a friend or relative. Proper identification tags are your pet’s first ticket home if he becomes lost. Microchips provide an important extra level of protection in the event your pet becomes separated from his collar and tags. Providing your pet with both tags and a microchip can help ensure a happy reunion if the unthinkable happens–your beloved pet gets lost.

The benefit of microchipping animals is that it ensures that the owner can be contacted should their animal get lost or escape from their care. When combined with visible ID tags on a pet’s collar, microchips constitute the most reliable system for the recovery of lost or stray companion animals. Tags can fade, rust, or get scratched and be impossible to read.

Even if your cat never goes outside, a guest or a repairperson could easily leave the door open, or a screen could come loose from an open window. Unaltered pets in particular will take any chance to roam. There’s a possibility that your house could be damaged in a heavy storm, flood, or other natural disaster, causing your cat or dog to run away in fear. No matter how closely you watch your animal, there’s always a chance it could get out or be stolen.

In a perfect world, leashes, fences, and doors would be enough to keep your pet safe at home. In the real world, accidents happen, and your pet depends on you to protect him or her against the things that could go wrong. With a little effort now, you can take a big step toward ensuring that your furry friend will be with you in the future. Once the microchip is implanted, it will remain there and active for the life of the pet without needing replacement. The chip can’t be lost or damaged.

Microchips can be implanted in puppies and kittens as early as five weeks old. Of course, the injection can also be done at any time after that. Implanting a microchip is a quick, safe, non-surgical process that involves injecting a sterile microchip-about the size of a rice grain-between a pet’s shoulder blades. Microchipping is painless, similar to receiving a vaccination, and animals can’t feel it afterwards. Millions of dogs and cats now carry a microchip.

Each chip has a unique code that, when picked up by a scanner, enables animal shelters to locate owners should pets become lost. A special scanner is used to read the microchip through the skin of the animal. The animal feels nothing as the scanner is passed over it.

When an animal arrives at a shelter, staff scans the animal. If he or she is microchipped, the unique number is read and phoned in to database operators. A check of the database will reveal information such as name, address and the medical history of the animal.

While the price can vary from one veterinarian to another, it often falls between $25 and $40. A lot of veterinarians will charge even less if they perform the implantation at the same time as another procedure, like spaying, neutering, or dental work. It’s a one-time fee. However, there may also be a fee, generally under $20, to enter your pet’s ID number in a database, and change your address, phone number, or other contact information in the future. Microchip identification along with collars with ID tags is the best way to find a lost pet.