Should Cats Wear Collars? Choosing the Right One for Your Kitten
Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on March 16, 2019
Posted in Parent Help
It’s not uncommon to see a dog wearing a collar around its neck for both leash and identification purposes, but it appears different when it comes to cats. Not only are cats more finnicky when it comes to things around their necks, but many cat owners mistakenly believe their cat doesn’t need a collar because it stays inside.
Understanding the benefits of cat collars and how to choose the right one can actually help keep your cat safe from harm.
Why your cat needs to wear a collar
The major reason cats should wear collars is because they help identify them if they somehow get away from home. A collar and ID tag combination is the fastest way for a stranger to identify your cat and contact you so you can bring it home safely.
Collars are practically a necessity for cats that roam both inside and outside, since it is easy for them to wander out of the back yard or get lost. However, cats who stay inside almost all of the time can benefit from a collar, too. There is always the possibility that your cat will dart out the door and wander away from home; if your cat isn’t wearing a collar and tag, it could be extremely difficult to find it.
Collars can also serve functional purposes beyond identification. Some cat collars have bells attached, which help pet parents find their kitten when it is hiding or can indicate if it has gotten into trouble.
Collars with reflective or glow-in-the-dark surfaces can be useful for outdoor cats so that they can be seen at nighttime. These reflective surfaces make cats safer if they are near roads, since drivers will be more likely to see them.
The concern about collars
While cat collars are certainly useful, it’s also important to understand their potential dangers. Many cat owners are uneasy about putting a collar on their cats because they believe it is easy for collars to get stuck on something and be strangled.
For this reason, many vets recommend using quick-release or breakaway collars. These collars are ideal for cats—especially ones that go outside and like to climb things.
Breakaway collars are designed in a way that allows their quick release should the collar become stuck on something, such as a tree branch. When pressure is put on the collar, it can snap away so your cat can be freed. This is extremely important so that the cat does not choke if the collar gets snagged and won’t come loose.
Another danger is having a collar be too tight. Tight collars, as well as those made of thick, low-quality and non-breathable materials, can dig into the skin and cause your cat pain. This can also lead to infections of the skin over time.
Collars can absolutely become dangerous to cats if they are not made of high-quality materials, do not have a quick release snap or are improperly fitted. It’s crucial that you stay aware of these hazards and find the perfect-fitting, quality collar for your cat to keep it safe.
Choosing a collar for your new kitten or cat
When it comes to collars for cats, there are many options on the market to choose from. It is up to you to choose the one that is the safest and most comfortable for your cat to wear on a daily basis.
Aside from finding a collar with a quick release system, you absolutely need to pay attention to the collar’s size. The collar should not be so loose that your cat can easily slip out of it. However, you should be able to slip two fingers in between the collar and your cat’s neck at all times—this ensures the collar is loose fitting enough to be comfortable.
As your cat grows, you should constantly be checking on the size and fit of the collar so the cat does not become uncomfortably trapped in one that is too tight. You will probably need to purchase multiple new collars (or adjust them) over the course of your cat’s life to ensure a proper fit.
When purchasing a collar, always test the collar in the store before you buy it to see how easily the buckle releases (if it’s a quick-release collar) and how secure it is.
Once you purchase the collar, always test it at home with your cat by putting it on them and supervising them. Never put a new collar onto your cat and leave them alone. You want to make sure your cat cannot manipulate the collar up toward its jaw or escape it.
Cat and collar safety are critical
Putting a collar on your cat can be instrumental in identifying it if it gets lost, but you need to make sure you’re using collars that are appropriate for your cat’s size and needs. Without considering these things, you cat might not feel comfortable and may even get hurt.
Some cats will absolutely not tolerate the feeling of a collar, no matter how much patience, training and treat-giving is put into the process. If your cat will not wear its collar, consider getting it microchipped by a veterinarian so you can identify it if it were to get lost.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan