Who owns who?

Externship Project

An important part of veterinary medicine from a more legal aspect is ownership of a pet. Who owns those dairy cows? Well the farmer of course. Who owns those horses? Well it might be a group of owners in the case of racehorses. Who owns a dog, normally a whole family. Who owns a cat… no one, the cat owns you.

The case of ownership can sometimes be more difficult to discern though. What about the stray cats that frequent multiple households? In the country it can be very common for there to be feral cats who have a large territory which they inhabit. This may or may not include someone’s backyard. It can be confusing to figure out if a cat is indeed ‘wild’ or actually owned by someone.

One such “unclaimed” cat was found by a friend of the clinic. She had been periodically wandering around her house and ate food that was put out for her. Eventually she was brought in to the clinic for a wellness exam. A thorough physical exam of all animals involves looking in their ears for any redness, discharge or growths. What I saw instead was an ear tattoo. A tattoo is one of the two main methods of permanently identifying an animal. The other, more widely performed method, which is available at veterinary clinics, is microchipping. So out came the microchip scanner and lo and behold under the skin over her shoulders the cat also had a microchip.

Microchips are small (about the size of a grain of rice) circuits that use radio frequency identification. Each one has a unique number that is registered nationally, and directly correlates to a pet and owner. They are placed using a special syringe, which can be done during a regular wellness exam.

After reading the chip we were able to contact the owner and let her know that her cat had been found and was waiting safely at the clinic. Needless to say she was very happy to have her pet back. She also bought her cat a collar she can affix a tag to so that it will be even more obvious she has an owner.  


(Photo: a radiograph showing a SQ microchip.)