Are cat collars safe? The pros and cons

There are several reasons why you might want to get a collar for your cat. These include for identification purposes, to warn birds and other wildlife that your cat is coming, and to make your cat more visible at night.

However, whilst a collar is a helpful accessory for a dog, on cats they can be problematic and may not be the best option for your beloved pet. We look at some of the common reasons for fitting cats with a collar, and what you need to consider before you do…

Identification collars

As cats wander, they can sometimes become lost or get injured. If your cat is wearing a collar with your details on it, this can ensure that you and your four-legged friend are reunited sooner rather than later.

Unfortunately, cats can entangle themselves in their own collars. For example, they can get their front legs caught through them when trying to remove them, typically because the collar has been incorrectly fitted or has become loose. Alternatively, they can become caught or trapped on fences, gate posts or branches – which can lead to your cat being unable to escape or potentially choking.

With the increasing trend for more elaborate collars, such as those that feature decorations like sequins or diamantes, the risk of incidences are even greater.

Therefore, when selecting a collar, you should select a quick-release collar. These are fitted with a catch that releases when slight force is placed on the collar. Quick-release collars allow your pet to break free if they become trapped. Make sure you test the quick-release mechanism before you put the collar on your cat. It should open under a light amount of pressure. If the quick-release collar won’t come apart at all, then it can be dangerous. If it’s too loose, then your cat will regularly lose it or could become entangled in it.

Microchipping helps you to be reunited with your cat should it become lost. The procedure is relatively cheap, starting from as little as £15. It is available from your vet, your local authority or animal welfare charities. The government has announced plans to introduce compulsory microchipping for cats. Under the proposed rules, which are expected to take effect by early 2023, owners will need to ensure their cat is microchipped before they reach the age of 20 weeks or face a possible fine.

A microchip is around the size of a grain of rice and is injected underneath your cat’s skin, between the shoulder blades. It’s quick and no more painful than an injection, and your cat won’t feel it at all once it’s in. The microchip lasts for the cat’s lifetime, and if your pet was to get lost or injured, and was taken to a vet or animal charity, they would be automatically scanned and identified. As the microchip will bring up your contact details on the microchip database, make sure your phone numbers and address details are always kept up to date.

An advantage of microchips is that they can be used with special microchip cat flaps. These perform a similar function to electromagnetic cat flaps by allowing access to your house for only your cat – meaning there is very little need to fit your cat with a collar at all.

Protecting birds

Some owners fit their cat with a collar and bell to reduce the cat’s chances of catching birds and wildlife.

However, bells, discs and other bits hanging from the collar can be hazardous, posing a greater risk of your cat becoming entangled in things or get their claws caught in the bell.

Have a look at the type of bell on your cat’s collar – make sure it is one that is completely enclosed, or has a wide groove in it, so that your cat’s claws can’t become trapped.

Reflective collars

Many cat owners who live beside busy roads fit their cats with reflective collars to make them more visible to cars at night.

When selecting a reflective collar, apply the same principles as you would when choosing an identification collar or a collar with a bell.

Fitting your cat’s collar

Your cat’s collar needs to be firmly fitted; as a rule of thumb, you should only be able to get 1-2 fingers underneath it. If the collar is too loose, your cat may be able to get their leg through it. When you first fit the collar, your cat may tense their neck muscles, so recheck the fit a few minutes later.

It is inadvisable to place collars on young kittens. However, if you do choose to fit your kitten with a collar, bear in mind that young cats grow very quickly and you’ll need to check the collar every few weeks to ensure it’s not too tight. 

Do you have any tips, opinions or advice about putting collars on cats? Share your experiences with us on social media using the tag #PethoodStories

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