How to Find a Microchipped Cat? An Owner's Guide

Key takeaways

Microchips don't contain GPS trackers, despite many pet owners assuming they do.

This means that finding a microchipped cat is very similar to finding any other lost cat.

We detail our top tips and expert insight into how to find your missing pet. But before that, we take a look at how microchips work and why it's important for all pet parents to chip their cats.

Quick Navigation

  1. Key takeaways
  2. How do microchips work?
  3. Tips for finding a microchipped cat
  4. Why pet owners should microchip their cats
  5. FAQs
  6. Final thoughts

How do microchips work?

There's a common misconception that microchips contain GPS trackers. However, your pet's microchip simply holds your contact details. This means that every pet is accountable.
In some countries, it's law to have your animals chipped. For example, in the UK, every dog over the age of 8 weeks must be microchipped, and soon, the same rule will apply to cats. (source)
Person scanning a found kitten for a microchip

How is the microchip inserted?

For cats, microchips are usually inserted just beneath the pet's skin in between the shoulder blades. The microchip is so small that it fits into a syringe. This makes insertion quick and relatively painless, as a small needle can deposit the chip into the skin.
Owner and their cat at a vets getting their cat microchipped

Who does the microchip registry?

Different microchip companies operate in different countries. However, anyone who is trained can insert a microchip. This can include vets, nurses, and shelter workers. Some rescue organizations also offer the service.
A microchip company will charge around $45 to microchip your cat. They will provide you with a microchip number, which will help you manage and update your contact details.
A cat receiving a microchip implant

Tips for finding a microchipped cat

Because a microchip isn't a GPS tracker, there isn't much difference between finding a lost pet and finding a lost microchipped pet.
While it will help if shelters, vets, or other organizations are handed your furry friend, you should still start a physical search for your buddy. It's been proven that when you actively search for your pet, it increases your chances of finding them alive (source).
Missing male cat traveling through a neighborhood

Search outside at night

It may seem like a strange suggestion, but trust us Searching at night can be helpful for many reasons. Our cats' eyes are reflective, meaning if you use a flashlight, it will be easier to spot them. If they are in a deep hedge or a hidden spot, you'll be able to see their eyes before you even see their bodies.
Cats are also more active at night. If your cat has been missing for a while, they are likely to hunt in order to find food. And they will choose to do this at night because most of their prey are nocturnal.
Top Tip: Remember, don't just search the immediate area outside of your house. Lost pets can roam far, so don't forget to check possible hiding places further afield.
Searching for a lost cat outside at night with a flashlight

Use social media

At PetRadar, we understand just how powerful social media can be, especially when trying to find lost pets. This is why we help worried owners contact over 4000 of their neighbors through sponsored posts on Instagram and Facebook.
You simply choose the radius of neighbors you want to reach, and we create a digital missing cat poster that will pop up on their social media feeds. They can click on these posts and report a sighting. When they do, we instantly notify you so you can be proactive.
Alongside this, we also:

Provide you with a personal dashboard to monitor the search and manage sightings

Provide you with personal emotional support, advice, and guidance

List your missing cat on our website

Provide you with a free downloadable missing cat poster

Image of a map on a phone showing how PetRadar targets your neighbors about your lost cat

Use familiar sounds

When my beloved orange kitty went missing, we decided to use familiar sounds to try and attract them. They had escaped from their carrier at the vets and ran away.
We recorded the noise of our backdoor opening because he associated the sound with dinner time. We then sat in the fields near the vet and played the sound over and over again. It worked! Our furry friend was attracted to the sound and was able to locate us.
Cats have incredible hearing and the ability to learn and remember specific sounds - even vocal patterns! This means tapping tins of food, shaking treat bags, and calling their name are all effective ways to lure them out of hiding.

"Cats have incredible hearing and the ability to learn and remember specific sounds - even vocal patterns!"

Image of a lost cat responding to familiar sounds or calling techniques

Use familiar smells

We all know we can wake our cats from the deepest sleep by holding a treat near their nose. However, their sense of smell goes a lot further than that! In fact, cats can detect a scent from up to 4 miles away (6.5km)!
This is an important sense to use when trying to lure your cat back home. As well as food, they will be able to smell the scent of their owners and their territory from far away. Be sure to:

Leave strong-smelling food outside, like tuna or chicken

Leave their favorite treats outside

Leave blankets, toys, and scratch posts outside

Leave their litter box outside

Expert Insight: Leaving food outside can attract other animals. Set up some digital wildlife cameras to see whether you're efforts are doing more harm than good.
Image of a cat sniffing the air, illustrating their strong sense of smell

Why pet owners should microchip their cats

So, why is it important to get your cat microchipped? Well, there are a number of reasons that all pet parents should know. Even if you own an indoor cat, your pet owner information should always be accessible in case they escape.

Pet theft

Microchipping will make it a lot more difficult for a thief to sell the pet they have stolen. If the seller can't provide the buyer with the microchip details, alarm bells should start to ring.
This will hopefully lead to more reporting of thieves and less theft in general because it is more difficult to make a profit from the stolen animal.
Police officer taking a report of a stolen cat


If your pet is microchipped, they are recognized as accounted for. This means if your cat is injured and taken to the vets, the owner's contact information will be available so they can be made aware of their beloved pet.
It also means that the cat is not the responsibility of the shelter or the vet. Both organizations are often busy, overpopulated, and underfunded. So, you can do your bit by making sure your cat is chipped.
Happy cat owner looking at a picture of their cat

Preventing euthanasia at shelters

Unfortunately, animals that are found by the public and are handed in to local animal shelters are often euthanized. This is because many shelters cannot afford to keep pets or have enough space to home them.
In America, the average time between a cat being handed in to a shelter and them being euthanized is only 3-4 business days.
However, they will always scan animals for microchips before making this decision. This means you can be notified of where your kitty is and go and pick them up.
A vet comforting a missing cat after it being handed in


Can you track a microchipped cat?

A microchip does not contain a GPS tracker, so you cannot track a microchipped cat.

How can I track my lost cat?

If you haven't got a GPS tracker on your cat's collar, then you cannot track their movements. However, you can search outside and look for signs of your cat, like fur and paw prints.

Is there an app to see if a cat is microchipped?

Yes, there is an app to see if a cat is microchipped. PetScanner can be downloaded on iOS and Android, and it can be used to scan animals to see their microchip details.

How do I find my lost cat?

To find a lost cat, follow these steps:

Search your home thoroughly before checking outside

Physically search your and your neighbor's gardens

Contact local shelters and vets

Take steps to lure your cat back home[[/faq-answer]]

Can you GPS track a cat?

Yes, you can GPS track a cat. Products like Tractive allow you to attach a GPS tracker to your cat's collar so you can keep an eye on their movements.

How far will my lost cat go?

Most lost cats will not go far. If your cat is used to the indoors only, they will likely be hiding close by. However, if your lost cat is more of a natural adventurer, then they may travel further. Although they are only likely to wander around 0.2 miles.

How far can cats go when they're lost?

If a cat is lost, they can travel far. If they are disoriented and outside of their territory, they may keep traveling to try and find home again. However, many cats tend to go into hiding nearby.

How do you attract a cat back home?

To attract a cat back home, do the following:

Leave strong-smelling food outside, like tuna and chicken

Leave toys, blankets, and scratch posts outside so they can smell their territory

Keep windows and doors open so they can hear familiar sounds[[/faq-answer]]

Reunited cat owner holding their lost cat

Final thoughts

Although finding a microchipped cat is much like finding any other lost cat, it's still essential for your kitty to have a chip.
Sometimes, it's just not possible for us to call and check every single animal shelter, especially if our cats are adventurers and may have traveled far. To avoid unnecessary heartbreak, be sure to have your contact details regularly updated on the chip!
If you are currently missing a pet, start a PetRadar search to make as many people aware of your missing kitty as possible. We've already reunited 8000+ with their owners, so you know you're in good hands!

Written by

Image of the author
Lauren Jeffries

In this blog, I combine my two areas of expertise: pets and writing. I share my personal experiences alongside plenty of animal behavior research to help owners look after their pets. I have always lived with furry friends and am now a loving cat mum to two orange kitties.

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