There is a common misconception about the difference between a microchip and a GPS tracker and whether or not one is better than the other. Before diving into the specific advantages and disadvantages of both, let’s first explore what the individual devices are.
A microchip is a tiny electronic circuit (usually integrated on a piece of silicon) that goes beneath the skin and contains a restricted amount of information about your pet that can only be accessed by a specific reader. In order for your lost pet to be found with a microchip, someone with the reader would have to find your pet, scan the microchip, and then contact you based on the information provided on the chip.
Now it may seem like the chances of this happening are slim, but according to the RSPCA, a microchip implant and ID database service, one-third of pets become lost during their lifetime. Furthermore, the chances of a pet being returned once it has been found by a shelter are shockingly low: only 22% of dogs and less than 2% of cats. However, over half the dogs (52%) equipped with a microchip implant successfully make it home, as well as 38% of cats, a huge improvement in return rates.
A GPS tracker is quite different from a microchip but equally important. It uses satellites to pinpoint the exact location of the object it is tracking in real-time, anywhere in the world. The major difference is that GPS trackers are battery powered and thus external to your animal. The best trackers use several different technologies in addition to GPS tracking to monitor the location of the thing it is tracking, specifically your cat or dog.
Now that you are familiar with the basic differences between the two, let’s dive into the specifics in order for you to make the best decision for your pet’s safety.
Microchip implants are radio frequency identification (RFID) tags that various animal control agencies inject into animals in order to store pet owner information. The information is stored on a tiny chip enclosed in a glass pill that is injected between the shoulder blades of the animal. The procedure is short, safe, and painless for your animal. In order to keep the device as small as possible, the tag doesn’t even have an onboard battery. Instead, the RFID scanner, used to read the implant, releases a powerful radio wave during the scan, which induces a small current in the chip. This allows the implant to broadcast its unique ID to the scanner.
The most common use for microchips are to identify pets that have gone missing. If your pet goes missing and is taken to a shelter, the shelter can scan your pet for a microchip. If they find one, they are able to search for the pet owner’s ID information in a database. Once the owner’s information is found, they are contacted and, ideally, their missing pet is returned. Microchips work better than collars because they are not able to be removed or broken once implanted. In order for microchip implants to be effective, however, you must be sure to register their pet’s unique ID in a database, along with your personal information; otherwise, there is no way for the shelter to reconnect you and your pet.
In other words, a microchip does not allow you to track your pet if it goes missing. It simply provides the pet owner’s contact information if the missing pet is found, taken to a shelter, scanned, and registered in a database.
In contrast, with a GPS tracker, you are able to get real-time updates of the location of your pet no matter how far away from home you or your pet are.
Global Positioning System (GPS) trackers use satellites to give a constant real-time location of your pet or the object you are tracking. This location can be accessed through a phone or computer at any time, from anywhere in order for you to know where your pet has gone if they go missing.
Although there are pros and cons to both devices, it is best to have both to ensure the safety of your pet. GPS devices are exclusively an external device on animals which can make it vulnerable to damage or misplacement. Trackers are also battery powered so if you are unable to find your pet before the battery dies, then your pet could have moved somewhere else and become increasingly harder to find.
On the other hand, microchipping is crucial to your pets safety because it is impossible for the microchip to fall or break off of your bet. Microchipping is considered so essential that is has become compulsory in over 75 countries!
So which device is better for you and your pet? We say both! Ideally a pet owner would opt for the microchip and the GPS tracker to increase the chances of their pet being found should it ever go missing or in the event that either one of these devices fail. Having both the GPS tracker and the microchip will increase your chances of finding your pet rather than having just one or the other.