BEING owned by a cat is a two-way partnership.

Here's the deal - you supply meals; you allow puss to sharpen its claws on the furniture or your limbs; your moggie is allowed its festive fun climbing the Christmas tree; the boss can sleep wherever it wants without being disturbed throughout the day; you must respond to its cries to be let out into the garden at the very moment the killer is about to be revealed in Midsomer Murders; you must readmit it to the house at 2am when it wakes you up wailing outside; you demonstrate your unconditional love only when it suits your feline.

In return the cat will graciously agree to use the neighbour's garden as a toilet - it's just a shame the neighbour's cat has a reciprocal agreement to deposit its business on your lawn; you'll be provided with the odd treat - near-dead birds and mice in the spring, slugs and daddy long legs at other times. But love you? Don't even think about it.

Cats have it all worked out - or so it would seem. But there is a chink in their armour.

Coupled with an at times poor sense of direction and an incurable curiosity, it is not unusual for them to disappear. There is even a register where people can upload details of their missing cats.

Add to that an increase in cat thefts - up 12 per cent in 2020 compared to the previous year, according to police figures - and it became clear that something had to be done

That's why the Government is introducing a new law making it compulsory to microchip all pet cats by 2023.

Kittens will need to be chipped by the age of 20 weeks.

Anyone failing to do so would be committing a criminal offence and could be fined up to £500.

It is estimated that around a quarter of the nation's 10.8million pet cats are currently unchipped, making it difficult to reunite them with their human underlings.

Inserting the implants, which are the size of a grain of rice and have a unique serial number, is painless and costs between £15 and £30.

The number can be read by a scanner and checked against a database to help get lost pets back with their registered keeper more quickly.

Animal welfare minister Lord Goldsmith: "Cats are much-loved parts of our families and making sure that they're microchipped is the best possible way of making sure that you are reunited with them if they are ever lost or stolen."

Figures from Cats Protection, which has long lobbied for compulsory microchipping of cats, show eight out of ten cats arriving at its centres are not microchipped.

Jacqui Cuff, the charity's head of advocacy and government relations, said: "Every day, we see how important microchipping is for cats and for the people who love them, whether it's reuniting a lost cat with their owner, identifying an injured cat or helping to ensure an owner can be informed in the sad event that their cat has been hit and killed by a car.

"Microchipping is by far the most effective and quickest way of identifying lost cats and can help ease the pressure on rescue charities like Cats Protection.

"Without a microchip, a lost cat will most likely end up being rehomed as there is often no trace of their original owner."

A spokesperson for the CatsMatter group said it was "absolutely thrilled" by the new law.

They said: "Microchipping is a cat's only voice when they leave the safety of their own four walls, and now thousands of cats will be easily identifiable and be able to be returned to their family should they get lost."

The spokesperson added: "Microchipping ensures that owners can be contacted and treatment given to the cat, which could be the difference between life and death.

"We tragically hear often how cats have been euthanised, with very treatable injuries, simply because no owner could be located either due to no microchip or the details on a microchip being incorrect.

"The very best way to ensure your cat receives every chance of survival in the event of an accident, is to microchip and keep details up to date.

"The Government have ensured many lives will be saved as a result of this legislation."

Meanwhile, a study from the University of Washington has concluded there is an "obesity crisis" among pet dogs, who should only be fed once a day.

Apparently, that reduces the risk of pooches suffering a host of age-related health problems such as a decline in cognitive thinking, gastrointestinal and orthopaedic disorders, urinary or kidney issues, dental problems and disorders of the liver and pancreas.

The issues were more apparent in dogs fed two or three times a day or whose bowls were kept permanently filled.