The Mystery of the Chipped But Unregistered Stray Cat

What Does It Mean When a Cat is Chipped But Not Registered?

Microchipping is a common practice used to identify pets and help reunite them with their owners if they become lost. A microchip is a small RFID (radio frequency identification) transponder that is implanted under the skin, usually between the shoulder blades. The microchip contains a unique identification number that can be detected by a special scanner.

When the microchip is first implanted, the owner’s contact information is registered with a national database associated with the microchip company. This links the pet to the owner. However, issues can arise if the microchip is not properly registered or the registration information is not kept up-to-date.

If a cat has a microchip implant but the microchip is not registered, it means there is no owner information associated with that cat in the database. This makes it very difficult to identify the owner and reunite them with the cat if it becomes lost. There are a few scenarios where a cat may be chipped but not registered:

  • The owner neglected to properly register the microchip when it was first implanted.
  • The cat was adopted from a shelter but the new owner did not update the registration to their own contact details.
  • The owner’s contact information on file is outdated or no longer valid.
  • The registration expired and was not renewed by the owner.

Proper registration and keeping information up-to-date is crucial for microchips to effectively reunite lost pets. An unregistered microchip severely lowers the chances that a lost cat can find its way back home (, 2023).

How to Identify an Unregistered Microchip

If you find a stray cat, the first step is to check if it has a microchip by taking it to a local animal shelter or veterinarian. Both shelters and veterinary clinics have universal microchip scanners that can detect if a cat has been implanted with a chip.

To scan for a chip, a staff member will pass the scanner over the cat’s shoulder blades where microchips are typically implanted. The scanning process only takes a few seconds and does not harm the cat. If a microchip is detected, the scanner will display the unique identification number associated with that chip.

Once they have the microchip number, the staff will look it up in different microchip registries to try to find the owner’s contact information. However, if the cat is unregistered, the lookup will not provide any owner details. At this point, it will be clear the cat has an unregistered microchip.

Common microchip brands include Avid, HomeAgain, and 24PetWatch. Knowing the brand can help narrow down which database to check, but the microchip number itself is the key identifier. Shelters and veterinarians have access to universal registries that can search all major brand databases for that unique number (1).

Without an owner registered to the microchip, additional steps will need to be taken to identify or contact the cat’s owner.


Steps to Take When You Find an Unregistered Chipped Cat

If you find a stray cat that you suspect may be microchipped, the first step is to take it to a local veterinarian or animal shelter to get it scanned for a microchip. Most veterinary clinics and shelters have microchip scanners they can use to detect if there is a chip present and read the identification number (Took in stray cat with microchip : r/CatAdvice). This will confirm if the cat is indeed microchipped.

Once the microchip is detected, the next step is to contact the microchip company using the identification number to try and obtain the registered owner’s information. Most major microchip companies like HomeAgain and 24PetWatch have databases where they store the registration information associated with each microchip. You can call the company or look up the chip ID number on their website to check if there is any information linked to that cat’s microchip and try to find the registered owner (Microchipping FAQ).

If the microchip company does not have any registration information for the cat’s chip or the information is out of date, the next recommended step is to post “found pet” ads and check lost pet ads and listings. Place ads online on sites like Craigslist, Nextdoor, and Facebook groups to try and connect with the missing cat’s owner. Also browse lost pet ads and listings in your local area in case someone is searching for the cat you found.

Registering an Unregistered Microchip

If you find a cat with an unregistered microchip, you will need to register the microchip in your name in order to identify the cat and try to reunite it with its owner. Here are the steps for registering an unregistered microchip:

1. Take the cat to a veterinarian or animal shelter to get the microchip scanned. They will be able to provide you with the microchip number and manufacturer.

2. Contact the microchip manufacturer and explain that you found a cat with an unregistered chip. Provide them with the microchip number. Many manufacturers have online forms or toll-free numbers to assist with transferring microchips (

3. Complete the registration process and paperwork required by the manufacturer. This usually involves providing your contact details so you can be reached if an owner comes looking for the cat. There is typically a registration fee that ranges from $15-30.

4. Once the transfer is complete, you will officially be listed as the registered owner on file for that microchip number. Some registration services also allow you to upload a photo of the cat and description to make it easier to identify the animal if the original owner comes forward.

Registering the microchip is an important step to getting a found cat back home. While it takes a little legwork, it activates the microchip so shelters and vets can contact you if someone reports the cat missing. Just be sure to keep your contact info up-to-date in case the original owner is eventually located.

Reuniting the Cat with Its Owner

If you find a chipped but unregistered cat, it’s important to make reasonable efforts to find the original owner before assuming ownership. The microchip likely contains information about the original owner, so the first step should be to contact the microchip company to get the owner’s info.

If the microchip company doesn’t have the owner’s up-to-date contact information, you can still try to locate them through other means. Hang “found cat” flyers in the neighborhood where you found the cat with a description and photo. Post about the found cat on neighborhood social media groups and lost pet databases like Finding Rover. Bring the cat to local veterinarian offices and animal shelters in case the owner filed a lost pet report.

If an extensive search doesn’t locate the original owner, then you may legally assume ownership after a certain period of time, which varies by location. But it’s still a good idea to have the cat’s microchip changed to your information so that you can be contacted if the original owner comes looking one day. Make reasonable efforts, but don’t let an unregistered microchip prevent a healthy cat from finding a new forever home.


Microchip Helps Reunite Owner with Missing Cat

What to Do If Owner Can’t Be Found

If you are unable to locate the cat’s owner after making reasonable efforts, you have a few options:

One option is to bring the cat to your local animal shelter or humane society, preferably a no-kill shelter. Shelters can scan for a microchip, post photos online, and try to match the cat with potential owners. If no owner comes forward, they will put the cat up for adoption so it can find a new loving home. Be sure to ask about their no-kill policies before surrendering an animal.

Another option is to foster or adopt the cat yourself. If you decide to keep the cat, it’s important to schedule a vet appointment right away. The vet will check for a microchip, scan for diseases, vaccinate the cat, and spay/neuter if needed. Cats should receive regular preventative care including vaccines, deworming, and flea/tick medication. Providing proper food, water, shelter, vet care, and affection will help transition a stray cat into a happy pet.

Some animal shelters may even allow you to foster the cat temporarily while trying to locate its owner. This allows the cat to live in a home while still giving the original owner more time to be found. Check with local rescues to see if this is an option.

While finding the cat’s family is ideal, adopting or fostering a stray yourself can be very rewarding. With proper care and time, frightened strays can transform into loving companions. Just be sure any found pet is checked for a microchip first to confirm it doesn’t already have an owner searching for it. For more information on pet adoption, visit How to Adopt a Pet – The Humane Society.

Microchip Registration Laws and Resources

Microchips provide permanent identification for cats and other pets, but in order for them to be effective, the microchip must be registered to the owner’s contact information in a pet recovery database. While microchipping pets is standard practice today, laws regarding registration vary between states and municipalities.

In general, most areas require pets adopted from shelters and rescues to be microchipped and registered to the adopter before leaving the facility. However, laws for private owners and breeders range from no requirements to mandates to register new microchips within a certain timeframe after implantation.

Some nationwide resources for looking up microchip company and registration information include:

  • 24PetWatch: Database from the American Kennel Club that stores microchip IDs and owner contact info
  • Found Animals Registry: Nonprofit database that works with microchip companies to reunite lost pets
  • HomeAgain: Microchip ID and registration database from Merck Animal Health
  • Avid Microchip ID: Lookup tool for Avid brand microchip IDs and registration

Most microchip manufacturers make their registries searchable online if you have the microchip number, so checking multiple databases can help identify an unregistered chip. Knowing your local laws ensures proper registration if you find a chipped stray cat.

Importance of Keeping Your Pet’s Microchip Up to Date

It is crucial to keep your pet’s microchip registration information current in case your pet ever gets lost or separated from you. If your contact details in the microchip registry are not up to date, it becomes far more difficult or even impossible for you to be reunited with your pet if it ends up at an animal shelter or vet’s office. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, only 58% of stray pets taken to shelters are ever reunited with their owners. Having correct microchip info can greatly increase those chances.

Be sure to update your address, phone number, and email anytime you move or get a new phone number. You should also set reminders to renew your pet’s annual microchip registration, which is often needed to keep the contact info active. HomeAgain ( and Avid Identification Systems ( are two major microchip registries that require renewals. Neglecting these renewals can lead to your contact info expiring in the database.

While microchipping is an excellent safeguard for pets, keeping that registration current is just as essential. Stay on top of any address or contact changes you have, and set calendar reminders for renewal deadlines. With up-to-date microchip information, you have the peace of mind of knowing you can be swiftly reunited if your pet ever goes missing.

Microchipping Your Own Cat

Microchipping your cat provides many important benefits. A microchip is a small electronic chip enclosed in a glass capsule that is injected under the skin, usually between the shoulder blades. The microchip contains a unique identification number that can be detected by a special scanner. If your lost cat ends up at an animal shelter or vet clinic, they will scan it for a microchip to identify the owner and contact you. Microchipping greatly increases the chances your lost cat will be returned to you.

Other benefits of microchipping your cat include:

  • Permanent ID – The microchip number will stay with your cat for life.
  • Proof of ownership – The microchip links your cat to your contact information.
  • Safety precaution – Can prevent your cat from being mistakenly euthanized as a stray.

The process for getting your cat microchipped is quick and simple. Most veterinarian offices provide microchipping services. The vet will scan for an existing chip, then inject a new chip under the skin using a specialized applicator. The injection is no more painful than a routine shot. The cost typically ranges from $25 to $60 depending on your geographic location. Many low cost clinics and shelters also offer affordable microchipping services.

Be sure to promptly register your cat’s microchip with your current contact information. This connects your cat to you in the microchip registry database. Regularly update your info if you move or change phone numbers. Taking this important step will ensure you can be contacted if your lost cat turns up at a shelter.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some common questions and answers about what to do when you find a cat with an unregistered microchip:

What should I do if I find a cat with an unregistered microchip?

If you find a cat with a microchip that is not registered, the first step is to take the cat to a local veterinarian or animal shelter to scan the microchip and confirm it is unregistered. They may be able to identify the microchip manufacturer and contact them to get information about where the chip was originally implanted. You can also report the found pet on sites like Found Animals.

What happens if the microchip company doesn’t have owner information?

If the microchip company doesn’t have any owner information linked to the chip, try contacting local vets and shelters yourself to see if they recognize the cat or have records of implanting that chip. Post about the found cat online and check lost pet sites and databases. Be sure to follow local laws about taking in a stray cat while attempting to locate the owner.

What if I can’t find the cat’s owner?

If the owner cannot be located after reasonable effort, you may be able to register the microchip yourself and officially adopt the cat. Check your local laws, as some places require making significant efforts to find the owner over a period of time before assuming ownership. You can consult animal control or a lawyer for guidance. Some microchip companies also have procedures for transferring unregistered chips into a new owner’s name.

Where can I get help tracing an unregistered microchip?

If you hit a dead end, try contacting organizations like Lost Dogs of America for assistance. They have volunteers who can help with tracing chips, contacting vets/shelters, and posting info about found pets online. You can also check with local animal shelters, rescues, pet detectives, and animal welfare groups, as many have experience helping locate owners of unregistered chipped pets.

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