Should Cats Wear Collars? The Pros and Cons
Walk through your local pet store, and you will likely see a small assortment of cat collars, including many different colours, styles, materials, and sizes. But do cats really need to wear a collar? Should cats wear collars, or are they more of a fashion statement?
There are both benefits and potential challenges to introducing a collar to your cat.
It’s a conversation that isn’t discussed often enough in the pet space. After all, how are you supposed to make an educated decision if you don’t have the information? But don’t worry, we have you covered! In this article, you’ll find both the benefits and risks of cats wearing collars for both indoor and outdoor cats. Plus, we’ll help you find the best collar for your cat (if you choose to use one).
Let’s get started…
Benefits of a Collar for Your Cat
Just like with dogs, there are many benefits to encouraging your cat to wear a collar. First, and most obviously, is the ability to add identification if your cat ever gets lost. While most experts encourage cats to be microchipped, an identification tag can speed up the process of someone identifying your cat and reaching out to you if they are found. This may not be relevant if you are caring for an outdoor community cat. But there’s a good possibility that not all your neighbours will be familiar with your indoor cat if they wander onto their property.
Another benefit directly related to that situation is the ability to identify that a cat has an owner waiting for them at home. With the growing number of stray cats in most towns and cities, your missing kitty can easily be mistaken for another street cat and be overlooked. Unfortunately, indoor cats don’t possess the same level of survival skills outdoors that a cat raised living outdoors will have. The longer they are outdoors trying to fend for themselves, the greater the risk of something tragic. However, if someone spots a cat with a collar, they look out of place, drawing attention to them.
Many collars incorporate reflective elements. If your cat spends time outdoors regularly, a collar may provide much-needed visibility at night to help reduce the risk of being hit by a vehicle.
Finally, as we learn more about the impact of outdoor cats (whether living outdoors full-time or spending time outdoors), we have discovered that cats can have a significantly negative effect on the biodiversity in an area. Why? By killing off birds and small animals, like mice and squirrels, they upset the balance in that ecosystem. Placing a bell on your cat’s collar will warn potential prey that your cat is coming. This also means your cat is less likely to catch and ingest the animal, reducing the risk of parasites or diseases.
Are There Risks to Wearing a Collar?
There are risks to consider when it comes to putting a collar on your cat BUT these risks are primarily caused by a collar that isn’t fit properly or using a collar that lacks the necessary safety measures to make it cat-friendly.
If your cat’s collar is too tight, it can cause chaffing and irritation. The discomfort of the collar putting pressure on their neck due to its size may also encourage your cat to paw at or scratch at the collar, increasing the risk of getting their nails snagged in the collar’s fabric or even their entire foot caught under the collar. Like fitting a collar to a dog, you should always ensure you can fit two fingers inside the collar when it is fastened on your cat’s neck.
They can also get the collar stuck around their lower jaw, especially if it is too large, preventing them from closing their mouths. This can lead to the cat experiencing extreme stress or anxiety as they try to free themselves from it, causing an injury during the struggle.
Many well-meaning cat owners will grab a small dog collar for use on their cat, but these collars are missing the critical safety feature that sets a cat collar apart – the breakaway mechanism. If your cat gets their collar stuck on an object like a fence post or furniture in your home, they may strangle themselves trying to escape. As cats often wander unsupervised away from us, indoors or out, and tend to hide, they are far more likely to get snagged somewhere without us realizing it.
However, purchasing a properly fitting cat-specific collar with a breakaway mechanism can significantly reduce or eliminate these risks.
Should Indoor Cats Wear Collars?
Yes! As a cat parent, you can take all the precautions possible, and a cat can still escape or get loose. Accidents happen – that’s why they are called accidents. While your cat may not need that collar indoors, it could make all the difference in bringing your beloved kitty back home. You may even find that having a bell on your indoor cat is helpful as it can make finding your cat around the house easier.
Should I Take My Cat’s Collar Off at Night?
If you ensure your cat wears a comfortable and properly fitting collar, there is no reason to remove it at night. This is especially important if you or anyone in your home may be coming and going later in the night. For example, if you take your cat’s collar off before going to sleep and your spouse comes home from working a late shift, the cat may escape without a collar on, leaving them without the safety benefits a collar would offer. It is recommended to keep your cat’s collar on 24/7, except during bathtime.
When Should Cats Start Wearing Collars?
The earlier you familiarize your cat with their collar, the better. This will allow them to become familiar with and comfortable wearing it, eliminating the stress of introducing a collar to an adult cat that has never seen one before. Kittens are often more flexible and open to new experiences like this. But you will likely have to purchase a special smaller collar for your cat if they are still a young kitten. Pay careful attention as your kitten grows so that you know when that collar needs to be sized up or replaced with a larger option.
Choosing the Safest Collar for Your Cat
If, after reading all that information, you have decided that the best choice for your cat is to introduce them to a collar, the next step is finding the “right” option. Like with dogs, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The best collar for your cat may be completely different from the one for my cats. So, how did I choose a collar? Here are a few important factors to consider:
Best Material for Your Cat’s Collar
There are several different material options for you to consider, each with benefits depending on your cat’s personality and lifestyle. The most common options include the following:
- Nylon: The most common and cost-effective, nylon cat collars are available in most pet stores. There are many colours and patterns to choose from. However, they get dirty easily, can be torn apart by a cat that tends to scratch at their neck and can pick up unwanted smells, like that lovely litterbox smell, carrying it within them for you to enjoy during your next cuddle session.
- Leather: While leather collars are much more durable, they are still susceptible to water damage. They also come with a much higher price tag and can be heavy, making them uncomfortable for some cats.
- Biothane: This is our collar material of choice. Biothane looks like leather but is available in many more colors. They are waterproof, stink-proof, and easy to clean. Collars made from this material generally cost more than nylon, but they also tend to last longer, meaning they don’t need to be replaced as often.
Find a Collar with a Breakaway Mechanism
Whatever material you choose, ensure the collar is outfitted with a breakaway mechanism. These quick-release features are designed to snap open when met with any tension. This means if the collar is snagged on something, the cat pulling against it will cause it to open and release them before there is any risk of strangulation.
Some collars will incorporate an elastic portion instead of a breakaway, making it easier for the cat to free their head if caught. However, this may not be enough to save your cat if they are not in a position to back out of the collar or if they are snagged in such a way that they are hanging from the collar.
Adding Bells or Tags
If your collar doesn’t come with a bell, you can also purchase and add one separately if desired. Just ensure that the collar offers a small d-link where they can be attached. This will be the same attachment point for identification tags.
Basic engraved identification tags can be purchased at most larger pet retail stores. If you are looking for something a little more unique or personalized, there are many vendors available online that create unique, one-of-a-kind tags, including engraved tags, stamped metal tags, resin tags, and more.
Customization and Personalization
There may be options to customize your cat’s collar, depending on the material it is made from and the vendor you are working with. Nylon collars can be embroidered, adding fun patterns, designs, sayings, or even your contact information directly on the collar where it can’t be lost (like a tag can). Using leather stamping tools, this can also be done with some leather or Biothane collars.
Some brands or small businesses will include options like adding braiding to the collar for a change in appearance or incorporating multiple colors. This is a great way to not only showcase your cat’s personality, but also your own.
Specialized Types of Cat Collars
Some specialized cat collars serve a very specific purpose. This includes tracking collars that offer GPS tracking to make it easier to locate your cat outdoors, like Tractive. These collars may not be necessary for your cat to wear 24/7, but instead be used only when your cat is at an increased risk of getting loose. For example, our cats always wear standard Biothane collars, but we add a tractive collar when adventuring outdoors.
Another type of specialized collar that some cat parents will use is the flea collar. This collar incorporates flea-repellent chemicals that keep these unwanted pests at bay. There is some debate surrounding the safety of flea collars, both for cats and humans. If this is an option you are considering, we recommend contacting your veterinarian to discuss the risks and benefits so that you can make an educated decision on what is best for you and your kitty.
How to Get a Cat to Wear a Collar
If this is your first time introducing your cat to a collar, they may find the concept stressful or undesirable. Just slapping the collar on your cat and hoping for the best can cause severe anxiety and turn your cat off ever being comfortable with a collar on. Instead, you should introduce the collar slowly while focusing on creating a positive association.
- Place the cat’s collar on the ground in a commonly trafficked place in your home, like the living room. Allow your cat to smell or paw at it, allowing them to recognize that it does not pose a risk.
- If your cat is uncomfortable with the collar and refuses even to accept it on the floor, try rubbing it against an item with a familiar smell, like their bed or favorite blanket.
- When you can see that your cat doesn’t find the collar to be a cause of concern just lying in the home, try placing it on your cat’s neck, offering praise and rewards. Start just setting it on the back of the neck for a moment before removing it and praising your cat, not even fastening the collar.
- Try fastening the collar for a very short second before removing it and praising your cat. Fastening the collar can make a significant difference in comfort level for some cats, so don’t rush this process and don’t leave the collar on long the first few times.
- Slowly work up the length of time little by little, continuing to offer praise and plenty of treats until you reach the point that your cat no longer seems bothered by the collar’s presence.
Don’t rush this process. Working through the steps slowly may take a while, but by doing this right the first time, you are setting yourself up for long-term success.
Note: If you are introducing a new collar that is different in any way, like a GPS tracking collar that may have greater weight than their regular collar, you may have to go through some of these steps again. The good news is that you will generally be able to move through them much faster the second time.
Final Thoughts: Should Cats Wear Collars?
Collars offer many benefits to both indoor and outdoor cats. Most importantly, they help to keep our cats safe, reducing the risk of injuries and increasing the likelihood that they will be brought home if they are ever missing or lost. But ensure that your cat’s collar is properly fit and includes a breakaway mechanism to prevent unwanted complications. When introducing the collar, start early (if possible). Introduce it slowly using plenty of praise and your cat’s favorite treats to create a positive association. Before you know it, your cat won’t even notice they are wearing it – but your peace of mind will!
Britt Kascjak is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her “pack” which includes her husband John, their 3 dogs – Daviana, Indiana, and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.
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