Cat mircochipping to become compulsory with owners being given until June 2024 to chip their pets or face a fine
Cat owners must microchip their pets or face a fine under new rules being introduced.
The compulsory microchipping of felines will make it easier, say animal charities, for lost or stray animals to be reunited with their owners and returned home safely.
Owners are being given until June 10, 2024 to microchip their cat or face a fine of up to £500 under the government's new animal law.
There are over nine million pet cats in England, with as many as 2.3 million estimated to currently be unchipped.
The new microchipping rules, laid out in parliament on Monday, follow a government consultation which ministers say received overwhelming support.
Microchipping a dog or cat means inserting a chip, generally around the size of a grain of rice, under the skin of a pet.
The microchip has a unique serial number that the owner then registers on a database along with their contact details, so that when an animal is found, the microchip can be read with a scanner, the keeper identified and the pet quickly reunited with its owner.
The new rules mean kittens must be implanted with a microchip before they reach 20 weeks of age and their owner's contact details should be stored and kept up to date in a pet microchipping database.
All existing owners must have their animal microchipped by next June, after which those found not to have microchipped their cat will have 21 days to have one implanted before facing a fine.
Those already with a cat who is chipped are being asked to ensure that their stored contact details are up-to-date.
Environment secretary Thérèse Coffey said: "Cats and kittens are treasured members of the family, and it can be devasting for owners when they are lost or stolen.
"Legislating for compulsory microchipping of cats will give comfort to families by increasing the likelihood that lost or stray pets can be reunited with their owners."
It will not be compulsory for cats who live with little or no human interaction such as farm, feral or community cats.
The new rules are being welcomed by charities, which insist microchipping is the best chance animals often stand of getting home.
Madison Rogers from Cats Protection, said: "Cats Protection is delighted that pet cats in England will be given the same protection as dogs when it comes to microchipping. The charity regularly reunites owners with their much-loved cats, and in most cases this is only possible thanks to microchips.
"No matter how far from home they are found, or how long they have been missing, if a cat has a microchip there is a good chance that a lost cat will be swiftly returned home."