Research: Pet lessons from the fiery Fourth

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I wish I’d written this six years ago.

If we’d been better informed, little Liebling the cat would still be scampering about the house. Cuddling at bedtime. Playfully getting underfoot.

July is Lost Pet Prevention Month.

And that, we learned the hard way, is aptly timed with the Fourth.

Like most pets, Liebling (German for sweetheart) was terrified of fireworks. Stupidly we let her out on July 3, 2013 — thinking she’d come back soon and stay in until the big booms were over.

Dumb move. We never saw her again. So if you’re a pet lover and haven’t already, consider these microchipping basics from

What’s a microchip?

Microchips are tiny transponders about the size of a grain of rice, implanted under the skin.

How does it work?

Each chip has a unique ID number that identifies your pet when read with a scanner (stocked by shelters and most veterinarians). The vet or shelter worker checks the microchip’s database registry and contacts the owner. So to work as intended, you have to register the microchip and keep the contact information current.

Does a microchip hurt?

Microchips are placed under the pet’s skin with a thin needle. It’s a lot like getting a routine vaccine and is soon forgotten. Most animals tolerate implantation extremely well (my other cat didn’t even flinch).

What’s the cost?

It varies of course, but around $50, sometimes less. That includes registration.

Do they cause cancer?

This is one of those urban legends. There’s no credible evidence that microchips cause cancer in dogs or cats.

With a collar and ID tag, does he still need a microchip?

Collars come off. Microchips can’t.

Yes, indoor pets too.

Vets strongly recommend that every pet wear a collar with ID tags and be microchipped. One open door or window for a few seconds is all it takes. Why risk it?

What if I move, or my pet is re-homed?

Just call or update the microchip company online with the new contact information. A microchip is essentially useless unless it’s kept current and accurate.

Where do I get a microchip?

Vets, shelters, and some pet stores. Most shelters microchip their animals when adopted, so if yours is a shelter animal, odds are she already has a microchip.

Finally, don’t do what we did — not just forgetting to microchip, but risking your pet this week. The Fourth is fun for humans, but a nightmare for pets.

And if you play with fireworks, please, please clean it up right away. Fireworks debris is poison to animals. Let’s ensure a safe Fourth for man and beast!


Today’s weird word is “gargouillade” (gahr-goo-yahd) – a catlike forward leap, performed by a human.


Sholeh Patrick is a reformed microchipper and columnist for the Hagadone News Network who couldn’t do a gargouillade to save her life. Contact her at

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