ID Tattooing

Tattoos may help a shelter identify your lost cat. Learn how this program can put your pet back in your arms.

Tattoos may help a shelter identify your lost cat. Learn how this program can put your pet back in your arms.

Cat hiding in a boxAction 81 Inc., a nonprofit foundation in Virginia that operates a national network to prevent, monitor and publicize theft of dogs and cats owned as pets, recommends that owners have their pets tattooed with a social security number, a state identification number or the tattoo agency’s special form of identification.

A cat with a tattoo has a better chance of being reunited with its family than one without, said Carolyn Bishop, founder and president of Panhandle Action for Animals in West Virginia. A tattooed cat also is less appealing to pet thieves. In Virginia, being in possession of a tattooed cat that is not yours can bring a fine of $1000 or a year in jail.

Tattoos can run from $10 to $20 depending on who does them-a pet tattoo service or professional or a veterinarian. To facilitate the return of a lost pet to its owner, each tattoo should be registered with a national tattoo service, such as the National Pet Registry, ID Pet, National Dog Registry or Tattoo-a-Pet. You may find numerous local registries, but if you move or if your cat is found far from home, registration with a local service may not help.

Over the past 21 years, Nancy Mantlo of Virginia has tattooed more than 800,000 pets in Virginia, North and South Carolina and Washington, D.C. About 25 percent of those have been cats. She says it takes about two minutes to do the procedure, which results in a tattoo measuring less than 1 inch by ¼ inch.

The drawback to tattooing cats is that shelter workers and people who find pets don’t often look for tattoos, and thick fur or the cat’s skin coloration often makes reading tattoos difficult. For this reason, experts often recommend the owner keep the fur trimmed in that area. A third disadvantage is that even if someone finds a tattoo on a cat, he or she might not know where to call to locate the owner.

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