Pets & Animal Pets Cats

All Cats Need an Identity

There are a number of means available to kitty caretakers for identifying their beloved furballs, from the traditional collar or harness with engraved tags to the newer high tech devices such as microchips. We'll explore them all here with the pros and cons of each.
Collars and Tags

Collars come in a wide variety of colors, materials and styles, as do the associated identification tags they hold. In municipalities requiring registration or licensing, collars and tags may be mandatory, as well as areas which have mandatory rabies vaccination for cats.

ID tags should contain, at the minimum, the owner's name and phone number as well as that of your veterinarian.
  • Pros and Cons:
  • Inexpensive and readily available. Do not have to be installed by a professional.
  • Limited to the amount of information they can contain.
  • Easily removed by someone with theft in mind.
  • Collars can break, wear out, or agile cats can slip out of them.
  • Must be replaced as the cat grows, or the collar wears out.
  • Some cats do not tolerate collars well.
  • Collars can cause matting in fur of longhaired cats.


Tattoos can be placed either on the inner leg of the cat, which requires shaving, or inside the outer ear. Tattoing is usually associated with some sort of registry which assigns a number and keeps the information on file for the cat associated with that number. Obviously, the person who finds a lost cat with a tattoo must know which phone number to call, as there are several of these registries. Tattooing must be done by a veterinarian or a trained specialist.

  • Pros and Cons:
  • Fairly permanent.
  • Quick--only takes a couple of minutes.
  • Tattoo registries don't move (sometimes owners do, making tags obsolete)
  • May lessen the possibility of theft. (In Virginia, being in possession of a tattooed cat that is not yours can bring a fine of $1,000 or a year in jail.)
  • Can be altered by someone really intent on theft.
  • May fade over time to become illegible.
  • If done on a kitten, will "grow" as the kitten does, and become illegible.
  • Many people who find a lost cat may not think to look for a tattoo, nor know what to do if they find one.
  • Usually requires anesthesia, which adds to the hazards in older or chronically ill cats as well as the cost of the procedure.
  • Thick fur or skin coloration may make a tattoo difficult to read.
  • Multiple registries make locating the owner more difficult.

Next >Microchipping: The Ultimate ID

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