For some cats, collars are a beautiful accessory that accentuates their personality, while for adventurous cats they’re there to keep them safe from getting lost.
But if we take aside the reasons we might have our cats wear collars, there is another question we need to explore first.
Do cats actually like collars? Some cats might not tolerate wearing collars, especially if they weren’t trained to wear them as kittens. With a little work and some patience, the majority of cats will eventually get used to wearing a collar.
If you want to know more about the relationship between cats and collars and explore what’s the best and safest option for your cat, then keep on reading!
Do Cats Like Collars?
There’s no simple answer on whether cats like collars because there are multiple factors at play. All cats are unique in their own way and their preferences may differ according to their personality, on how well-fitting a collar is, and how young they were introduced to collars.
A study conducted by the Ohio State University, done on 506 cats that were consistently wearing collars for six months, suggested that “most cats will tolerate a collar even if their owners are skeptical about its success. In fact, in almost 60 percent of cases, the animals’ tolerance of collars exceeded owners’ expectations that their cat would keep the collar on without much trouble.”
By looking at this study we could also assume that previously the decision for a cat to wear or not to wear a collar, had an immediate connection to how the owners felt about the use of collars overall, and not about how their cats actually felt about them themselves.
After the study was finished the researchers were impressed that “the owners of 90 percent of the cats told researchers they planned to keep the collars on their cats after completion of the study.”
In other words, the majority of cat owners overestimated how much their cats would resist the collars and were pleasantly surprised to find that most felines were fine (at least after a while) with the collar!
Should Cats Wear Collars?
Even if cats are more tolerant of collars than we might expect, does that mean they should be wearing one all the time?
Collars are mostly seen on dogs, and they have multiple uses, some of which include an identification tag, and connecting the leash.
But the majority of cats don’t lead the same lives with their canine friends, so how can a collar benefit them?
Let’s break down the pros and cons of cat collars.
The main benefit to having a cat wear a collar is instant identification under different circumstances. If you have a group of kittens that look similar you can easily tell them apart with the help of collars and their tags.
A lost cat has more chances to be spotted if they wear a collar. Whether a passerby finds them, a neighbor or a shelter the information with your details attached to the collar will help bring the poor little fluffball back home. While a cat without a collar will most likely be perceived as a stray, especially if you’re from a country like Greece where stray cats are a common occurrence!
As I mentioned collars offer instant visual identification, and while microchips are extremely beneficial, you need a special microchip scanner in order to find the owner. So, it’s most likely that cats spotted on the street without a collar will most likely be ignored, or even taken by someone who thinks they’re saving a kitten from a harsh life.
While collars can greatly benefit your cat, there are also some drawbacks that a cat parent must consider. Among veterinarians, the discussion over collar safety has shown the good and the bad sides of these tools. It’s true that collars can get stuck on objects and harm a cat that is trying to break free, but these days you can find collars with a breakaway mechanism. But this also means that the collar isn’t always reliable.
Cats that are unfamiliar with collars or simply don’t like them can also get their paw or mouth stuck on it as they try to remove it. This might not worry you too much if you have an indoor kitty that you can keep an eye on, but if that happens outdoors, then it can easily turn into an unwanted accident.
One study from the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association found that out of 538 cats studies 3.3% of them (18 total) got their collar stuck on a paw, in their mouth, or on an object. While another study published by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare which conducted interviews with one hundred and seven veterinarians, ” indicated an average rate of one collar injury observed per 2.3 years of veterinary practice.”
As well as “at one practice, over three years, only 0.33% of 4,460 cat cases were collar injuries, while 180 cat cases at four clinics during August and November 2011 included none.” It also revealed that catfighting and road accidents were a greater hazard than collars. But it’s important to emphasize that while it won’t happen to every cat, and the fatality rate is low, injuries aren’t an unrealistic concern.
Collar injuries can also be blamed on poor fitting or low manufacturing quality. Especially when it comes to flea collars, owners should be extra careful, and check their cats regularly for a reaction to the chemicals that could lead to a rash.
How To Know If Your Cat doesn’t Like Wearing A Collar?
I think the signs of a cat that hates wearing a collar are pretty obvious. You can expect your cat to shake their head this way and that, and they most likely will start scratching at this new item attached to their neck. Basically, they’ll do anything in order to take the collar off.
It’s also useful to consider the reasons behind such a negative reaction. Sure. it could simply be hate and frustration or this might be the initial reaction to something that a cat has never experience before, especially if it’s an older cat that has lived most of his kittenhood and adult life collar-free.
The bell on a collar could also trick their minds into thinking that there’s a toy nearby and add to that frustration, but as long as the collar is properly fitted, with room for two fingers between the neck and the collar, then it’s possible that they’ll get used to it.
Just like this beautiful, bobtailed kitty, that forgot about his collar the moment his owner started playing with him!
How To Pick The Perfect Collar For Your Cat?
When choosing a collar for your kitty their comfort and safety are the two things you should be prioritizing.
The cat market is full of choices and I’d suggest avoiding the collars that serve mainly a decorative purpose. Don’t forget that cats grow, and they grow fast, so the collar you bought them when they were a kitten will most likely need to be changed frequently. Once they reach their full-size potential, you’ll be able to finally settle on the one that works best for both of you!
As we will discuss in more detail later on, bells can also be a great addition for both indoor and outdoor cats. The bell can help you detect your cat inside your home, and avoid accidents, while outdoor cats will have a hard time catching any birds and bringing them to you!
Best Elastic Strap Cat Collar
You can go for collars with an elastic insert like this CollarDirect Leather Cat Collar that will stretch enough for your cat to free themselves if they’re ever stuck. As you can see the design is minimalistic and elegant, it’s also carefully hand stitched to ensure you’re getting a long-lasting good quality product. And let’s not forget that genuine leather should be great for cats and kittens with sensitive skin.
It also has a bell, and if you enjoy taking your kitty on walks you could look into getting a matching leash!
Best Personalized Breakaway Cat Collar
This collar is my favorite, not only it has a quick-release mechanism, but you can customize it by of course adding your kitty’s name and your phone number which will be permanently stitched into the nylon webbing.
The size offered, 3/8 inches wide (1cm) and completely adjustable from 8-12″ inches in length (20cm-30cm), should work perfectly with most feline companions out there.
Best Reflective Cat Collar
Cats that venture outside freely will also need a collar like the Tafeiya Reflective Cat Collar made of reflective material to increase their visibility. This is especially important for those of you who have darker-colored cats. This can help reduce accidents on the road, and dog owners will be quick to spot a cat wearing such a collar and restrict them.
This Reflective Cat Collar also has a safety buckle, which can easily and quickly be opened and they also have a bell that can keep any small animal or bird safe from your superb hunter!
What Are The Alternatives To Collars?
As I’ve mentioned above the positive aspect of a collar is its visibility, so you won’t find similar alternatives to this item. There is of course a less visible but effective way to keep a tag on your cat, and that’s microchipping.
A microchip is a small electronic chip, it’s about the same size as a grain of rice, and it’s usually placed in the subcutaneous tissue between the shoulder blades. This chip doesn’t have any batteries and only a specialized scanner can activate it. They don’t work as a GPS and only if your kitty is picked up by a rescue shelter they will be able to scan the chip and find the identification number of your registered kitty.
A study showed that “cats without microchips were reunited with their owners only 1.8% of the time, whereas microchipped cats went back home 38.5% of the time.” On the other hand, less than 2% of cats without microchips were returned their home.
If you use collars to protect your outdoor cat from fleas you might want to reconsider. According to Ernest Ward, DVM, “flea collars may seem convenient but most do not work well (the exception is flea collars that contain an IGR) and are not generally recommended. Flea collars, especially ones with a strong pesticide smell, may be harmful to some cats, or may cause a skin reaction or rash.” Instead of a flea collar, a monthly spot-on flea treatment recommended by your veterinarian should be a better choice.
So, as you can see there are alternatives to collars, but this doesn’t mean that a collar doesn’t have its own benefits especially when a cats gets lost or runs away from home. Imagine if you didn’t use microchipping as an alternative, but combined it with a collar. How secure would your kitty be from getting lost?
Should Cats Wear Bells On Their Collars?
As you look for the perfect collar for your kitty you will surely see the option of a bell. This simple addition isn’t just a decoration, but a way of preventing your cat from catching smaller prey. Cats are known for their great hunting skills and you might’ve witnessed this side of them by stepping out on your porch and finding small tokens of their love in the form of dead bugs, rats, or birds.
Despite the endearing message behind those gifts, hunting by domestic cats is affecting ecosystems around the world, pushing some species to extinction. An experiment done in New Zealand studied the success of cats hunting while wearing belled collars for 6 weeks and the results showed that “the predation of birds and rodents was reduced by 50% and 61%, respectively.”
If you live in an area that has big bird populations, especially if some of them are endangered, then you could also look into a special cover for collars designed by Birdsbesafe. The rainbow colors of the cover help warn birds that a predator is nearby.
If you have an indoor cat you could skip the bell, even though it could still prove beneficial. For example, if you have kittens at home, the bell can let you know where they are and prevent accidents like stepping on them.
You could also remove the belled collar or any collar for that matter when you go to bed if you’re afraid that the sound will keep you awake.
Should Indoor Cats Wear Collars?
It’s completely logical for cat owners to think that only outdoor cats are in need of a collar since they’re at a higher risk of getting lost, or hunt for prey. But as I know from firsthand experience, accidents can happen, and you might find your indoor cat missing.
The one time I lost my cat was when he fell from the balcony, lucky for him and me I lived on the first floor, so there were no injuries. I was also fortunate enough because I did manage to find him in the next couple of days. I can’t stress enough how lucky I was that he didn’t wander off because my cat didn’t have a collar on, so people would naturally presume he is a stray instead of contacting me.
Most often cats that are lost and scared can wander further away from home, and without a collar, the chances of finding your kitty will lessen. The missing animal response network states that “The median distance found (how far the cats traveled) for missing outdoor-access cats was 315 meters (344 yards). This is roughly a 17-house radius from their owner’s home.”
As for the indoor cats, “the median distance found (how far the cats traveled) for displaced/escaped was much less—it was only 50 meters (54 yards) which is roughly a 2 ½ house radius from their owner’s home.” But this can also depend on what area you live in if it’s busy if there are any hiding places they can immediately find, which can make the search much harder.
For owners whose cats don’t have a special characteristic, something that sets them apart from other cats, collars can make them more identifiable. You can think of the collar on your indoor cat as an insurance plan. You might hope you never need it, but when you do, you’ll be happy it’s there.
Another small tip would be to add the “I’m Lost” sentence on your cat’s collar information, so if anyone finds them they’ll know that they’re not just an outdoor kitty wearing a fancy collar.
How To Train Your Cat To Wear A Collar?
For some cat parents, it can be challenging to place the first collar on their kitty, especially if they have never worn one. But there are a few steps you can take that can make this process more pleasant, and successful, since as we mentioned in the study at the very beginning cats can successfully tolerate collars.
The best thing you can do is start young, and get your cat used to wearing a collar while they’re still a kitten. But I understand that a lot of us adopt cats that are much older, and while training them might take more time it’s definitely possible!
Your best chance of getting your cat to accept collars no matter what stage of their life they’re in is with reward-based positive reinforcement. As stated by a Journal of Veterinary Behavior, “Positive reinforcement training with cats is a useful tool for improving the human-animal bond, treating behavior problems, and teaching novel tasks.”
If you see a negative reaction to the collar try changing their association to the collar altogether. Make sure your body language is relaxed and not intimidating. Use treats and give them a toy anytime they try to pull it off. If they succeed simply place the collar back without shouting at them or showing frustration.
Remember to pet them when they’re doing well, and give them a slow blink to let them know you’re not angry. Since constant treats are not the healthiest lifestyle for a cat, listen to this great veterinarian advice, “gradually wean her off the food rewards and make her settle for emotional ones such as a “good kitty,” a toss of her fuzzy ball, or a scratch under the chin.”
This process might take a day or even a month, and you can expect setbacks. What is definitely crucial is that the collar fits perfectly, and it sits comfortably around your cat’s neck. Check their neck frequently for scratch marks, since they can get infected. Look for any other behavioral changes and any other alarming signs like an allergic reaction to the collar’s material. In any of those cases, you need to immediately contact your veterinarian, and see if it’s the collar’s fault or something else.
Last but not least, avoid forcing your cat if they absolutely can’t stand wearing a collar. For cats that go outdoors or for barn cats this can be an important item, but if you own an indoor cat, simply make sure that they are chipped and that they have their spot-on flea treatment, and let them decide.
To wear a collar or not to wear? That is the question!
Now that you’re equipped with the necessary knowledge about cat collars, I think it’s time to decide what option will suit your kitty and their lifestyle best.
And as always don’t forget to consider your cat’s opinion on the matter, and if they’re up for it then get them the most (safest!) fabulous cat collar there is!
Let us know do your cats like their collars and how long did it take them to accept their new neck accessory if of course they ever did?