When the Bogush family cat, Sparky, went missing, they searched for weeks. When the family found no sign of their missing pet, they were forced to assume the worst. The area in Tampa where the family lived had a known bobcat population.
Five years passed before the family received a call from Kelly Harrison, a clinical instructor with UF’s Veterinary Community Outreach program. She had scanned the microchip of an affectionate gray and white cat, and was testing the third of the three numbers listed.
When the third went to voicemail, she started to leave a message, but John Bogush picked up.
“He said, ‘Well, we’re missing a gray and white cat from five-plus years ago, and I’m almost positive my wife will want it back,’” Harrison said.
Bogush, his wife, Jennifer and their daughter, Sophia, drove up to Levy County the next day to retrieve their cat, Sparky, who is about 12 years old now.
“When Dr. Harrison asked if we’d be interested in picking Sparky up, I said, ‘can we come tomorrow’ and she paused,” Bogush said. “Then she said, ‘Oh my, I’m so glad to hear that.’ I could tell it affected her.”
Kelly Harrison, clinical instructor, UF’s Veterinary Community Outreach program
Overwhelmingly, microchip calls usually result in dead ends — outdated contact information, a disconnected phone, even in some cases people uninterested in claiming the animal.
All animals that enter animal shelters are scanned for microchips immediately, sometimes more than once if the chip has migrated from its original location or was missed in a first scan.
Regardless, half of microchipped pets don’t make it back to their families. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 52 percent of microchipped dogs and 39 percent of microchipped cats are returned to their owners. This is an improvement on the 22 percent of un-microchipped dogs and 2 percent of un-microchipped cats that return to their families.
“We were quite flabbergasted,” Bogush said. “Not only did we find out Sparky was still alive, we were able to get him back into our household.”
Sparky has been living with her family for almost a year now and has gained back the weight she lost in her five-year disappearance. Sparky also reunited with and befriended the Bogush family’s golden retriever Jake and settled in with their new cat, Charlie.
“In the United States alone, millions of animals enter shelters every year and only a small percentage of lost pets are reunited with their families. Microchip technology greatly increases a pet’s chance of making it back home if he or she ever gets lost,” Harrison explained.
Sparky’s return to a loving family is a testament to the importance and value of microchipping a pet and keeping that information up-to-date. Luckily, microchipping is quick and easy and can be performed by your veterinarian while you wait.
Shelters always check for microchips, but a chip is useless unless the information is up-to-date.
Keep microchips registered and up-to-date.
All microchips must be registered. Unfortunately, some microchips are never registered in the first place or the information associated with them is not kept current. This often results in a dead end. Making sure microchips are registered and up-to-date is crucial to their success.
How often should the information on a microchip be updated?
A pet’s microchip registration should be updated every time there is a change to the owner’s contact information, including address, phone number and/or alternate phone numbers. Additionally, I recommend that a pet’s microchip be checked at least once a year during their annual veterinary exam. This is also a good time for owners to check their registry information and make sure it is complete and accurate.
Is there a proper age at which to microchip your pet?
Not necessarily. In my field, it is very common to microchip puppies and kittens at the time
of spay/neuter surgery. With that said, an animal is never too old to receive a microchip.
In addition to microchips, what else can a person do if their pet gets lost?
Post signs in the area where the animal was lost. Contact local animal shelters, veterinary clinics and emergency clinics with your pet’s information. Also, check your local animal shelters as often as possible — daily is best. Social media can also be a great resource to get the word out about your lost pet. — Kelly Harrison, UF Veterinary Community Outreach
Microchip information can also be updated online on most manufacturer websites or on larger registry databases, such as foundanimals.org/microchip-register. Another good resource for looking up chip information is petmicrochiplookup.org.