Cat owners must microchip their pets or face a £500 fine, under new government rules unveiled on Saturday.
Ministers have approved proposals, first set out in the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto, to require cats to be chipped before they reach 20 weeks.
The move will cover up to 2.8 million unchipped cats in the UK, about a quarter of the nation’s 10.8 million cats. This is to ensure they can easily be reunited with their owners if they are lost, or stolen and resold.
Cats Protection, the UK’s largest feline welfare charity, reported that 80 per cent of stray cats arriving at its centres are not microchipped. The problem may have become more acute as cat ownership has increased during the pandemic, soaring by 600,000 last year.
Pet theft has also surged during the Covid crisis, with the number of cats being stolen rising by 12.3 per cent in the year to this April, and up three-fold in the past five years as the value of the most expensive breeds rose to £2,000.
Bengal, Siamese, British shorthair and Maine Coon are the most commonly stolen cats in Britain. They are targeted for breeding or resale, with pedigree kittens selling for £500 each.
Under the Government’s plans, which were backed by 99 per cent of respondents to a Whitehall consultation, owners must chip their cats and ensure their contact details are stored and kept up-to-date in a pet microchipping database.