Let’s take a moment to be honest with ourselves. Cats do not necessarily love cat collars. In fact, some cats positively despise cat collars. They’ve never asked to wear one, and they often run away when you try to put one on. If you have a cat that has a particular disliking for them, they might try to physically fight any attempt to get one around their neck! As adorable as they might look wearing a miniature bow tie, we’re pretty sure that if cats would talk, their response to being offered a cat collar would be ‘no, thanks’. But that’s not why we make them wear them. The cuteness is just a bonus!
Normally when we do these articles, we go straight into the range of products available, and the benefits of them. We will do that, but first, let’s look at the reasons why we buy cat collars at all. There are people who say they’re unnecessary, especially for house cats. The people of New Zealand in particular don’t feel they’re necessary, as they confirmed to this research study in 2016. Are they right?
Why Wear Cat Collars At All?
Well, there’s a number of reasons, but lets break them down into pros and cons.
- Security. Cat collars allow us to attach contact details to our cats so someone can help them to find their way home if they’re lost or hurt.
- Identification. A cat collar identifies a cat as belonging to us. A cat wearing a collar is not a stray can, and so isn’t at risk of being impounded.
- Safety. A cat collar with bell, or a reflective cat collar, can alert people and cars to the presence of a cat.
- Convenience. We can fit microchips or infra red tags to cat collars to help them use cat flaps and cat feeders, which is 21st Century pet technology at its best! If you want more information on those features, check out our cat flaps guide, and our cat feeders guide and find out all about them.
- Catch/strangle risk. A cat who dislikes cat collars may decide to try removing it themselves. They can get their paws or entire legs caught in the process of doing so. Collars can also snag on branches, fences, pipes, and anything with jagged edges. Your cat can therefore be left trapped, or choking.
- The above issue is doubled by having attachments to the collar, for example bells, tags, or fashion accessories.
- The ‘identification’ issue isn’t as strong an argument as it was ten years ago. More and more cats are microchipped, which is a more permanent way of storing their identity, and the contact details of their owner.
Whilst we appreciate there is a risk of even high quality cat collars being caught, with potentially hazardous outcomes for your cat, we still believe it’s best practice for cats to wear collars. The average person who finds your lost cat isn’t going to have a scanner to check them for microchips with, and taking them to a vet may seem like too much effort. If your phone number is right there on a tag, they’re much more likely to get in touch. Also, microchips don’t improve visibility to cars. Even if you have a house cat, you’ll be glad of it having visible identification if it shoots off out of the front door one day! So let’s look at the types of collar available, and what can be done to make them safe to use.
Types Of Cat Collar
1. Buckle Cat Collars
Description: Probably the oldest types of cat collars, these are basically little belts your cat wears around its neck. They do up with a buckle, and there’s usually space to attach bells, tags or other ornaments to them.
Pros: They’re adjustable to the size of your cat’s neck, and they’re easy to fit ID information to. You can get variants of them, such as flea collars which emit a chemical designed to help with keeping your cat clear of flea infestations (although you should be careful to verify the quality of the flea collar you’re buying; studies are done all the time and not all of them are equal!) There are also reflective versions which are designed to appear more easily to headlights (or torchlight if your cat is hiding in the garden when it’s bed time!)
Cons: Buckle cat collars are more likely to snag than any other type. Because they’re buckled in, there’s no extra stretch or give if they do snag, meaning your cat won’t be able to free itself. Whilst buckle collars often look the most ornate, they’re also the most dangerous.
Typical price: $5-$10, depending on whether you want extra decorations and ornamentation. They’re fairly cheap cat collars.
2. Stretch Cat Collars
Description: They’re not exactly like pieces of elastic, but the principle is the same. These collars slip over your cat’s head and, using elasticity, fit snugly around the neck.
Pros: The risk of catching and snagging is massively reduced. Because they fit tightly to your cat, it’s very difficult for anything to get underneath them and pull. They’re safer than buckle cat collars.
Cons: For a lot of cats, they’re uncomfortable. They attach very tightly around the cat’s neck, and they can feel restrictive. For the same reason, attaching anything to them – for example an ID tag – is difficult. Even if you can manage to attach something, the pressure of the collar presses it against your cat’s skin.
Typical price: $5-$10 is about right for these models as well; they’re also pretty cheap cat collars!
3. Breakaway Cat Collars
Description: These are collars that have been designed with cat safety in mind. They’re similar in appearance to buckle cat collars, but they have a vital difference. Breakaway cat collars – which are sometimes called “quick release” collars or “snap” collars, are designed to give way when sharp pressure is applied. If your cat does find its collar snagged or caught on something, it will be able to free itself by pulling away from it. They’re made specifically to be safe cat collars.
Pros: Exactly as we described above. Breakaway cat collars are by far and away the safest option for your cat. You get the benefit of being able to fit tags and other accessories to the collar, without the drawback of your cat becoming trapped and choked by anything the collar snags on. Because they’re adjustable, they shouldn’t feel as uncomfortable to wear for your cat to wear.
Cons: You might need to buy a few of them! The obvious drawback of having a collar that your cat can escape from is that, well, your cat can escape from it! This is a great feature for keeping them out of harm’s way, but it also means a determined cat can soon rid itself of an unwanted collar if it wants to. As soon as the cat realises that the collar gives way if it finds something to pull it against, it might just repeat the trick whenever it feels like it. That doesn’t just mean replacing the collar, but anything you had hanging from it, too. That’s annoying when it’s an ID tag. If it’s an infrared tag or a tracker, it’s also expensive.
Typical price: $10 and upwards, depending on the material you want them made from, plus any accessories.
4. Illuminated Cat Collars, AKA Cat Safety Collars
Description: Collars that make your cat look like it’s heading out to party! Really designed with the outdoor cat in mind, these collars are powered by a mini battery which illuminated LED lights within the collar itself. They shine brightly, and they’re available in any colour you can think of.
Pros: You can get buckle or breakaway variants of this collar type, so all the benefits of those also apply here, too. They’ll help locate your cat at night, and should make them safer from traffic if you live near a busy road.
Cons: Because they have to be semi transparent to allow light to shine through, they often have a finish that feels a little plastic. It’s not the most comfortable material for a cat to have against its skin. They also require maintenance; the batteries will last for a maximum of thirty days. You can recharge them, but that means you’re constantly taking your cat’s collar off and then putting it on again. You may not want to fight that battle every month!
Typical price: It depends on whether you want them in breakaway or buckle format. We’ll say $10 just to be safe.
How Do I Persuade My Cat To Wear A Collar?
We’re glad you asked. “My cat won’t wear a collar” is something we hear a lot. As with anything that relates to making a cat do something it doesn’t want to do, this can be difficult. You certainly shouldn’t just grab it and shove the collar on. You’ll have an angry, traumatised cat. Shortly after that you’ll probably have a torn collar. Your cat is also unlikely to let you attempt to try again any time soon! Patience and reassurance are the two skills you’ll need for this task. We’ve broken it down into steps for you.
- Choose Your Moment Wisely. If your cat is charging around your house, this is not a good time. You need a relaxed cat who’s more open to being approached. Mealtimes are a good bet, because they’re distracted! A cat who’s been asleep on your lap for a while is also a good contender. Sleepy cats are passive cats!
- Let Your Cat See The Collar First. Your cat’s first experience with the collar shouldn’t be feeling it around its neck. Cats hate the unknown, and if they have a strange smelling device around their neck that they can’t see, they’re going to panic. Try putting the collar down near an area your cat rests or plays. Near their bed is a good idea. (If you haven’t chosen a bed for your cat yet, perhaps our cat bed guide will help?) Draw their attention to it and offer it to them for a sniff, but don’t force the issue. Let them investigate it and get used to it in their own time. Cats are drawn to anything that smells familiar, so a spray of your own perfume or deodorant might help. Your cat’s own scent works, too – try gently rubbing a cloth around your cat’s mouth, and then applying it to the collar.
- Try To Put The Collar On Your Cat. If your cat is calm, and isn’t spooked by you bringing the collar near, it’s time to give it a go! Talk to your cat and reassure it as you – slowly and gently, might we add – put the collar on. Stroke it, sooth it, give it plenty of love and attention. When the collar is on, give it a treat and let it start to build a positive association between treats and wearing the collar. Don’t leave the collar on for very long the first time – your cat shouldn’t go from ‘never’ to ‘always’ straight away. If they try to chew or scratch at it, don’t worry. That’s normal in the short term. Each day, leave the collar on for a little bit longer. Reward good behaviour – i.e. allowing the collar to be put on without resistance. Do not in any way reward bad behaviour – i.e. give them a treat to calm them down if they’re annoyed with the collar! In the end, your cat will accept the collar being on permanently, without expecting to be rewarded. Be aware that every cat is different, and this might take time.
- Check That The Collar Fits. Everything you’ve just read about the dangers of ill fitting or snagging cat collars comes down to this. The fit has to be right. You should be able to get somewhere between two and two and a half fingers between the collar and your cat’s skin. Any less and it’s too tight. Any more and it’s too loose. Your cat may tense its neck to resist the collar the first time you put it on, so double check a little later on when it’s more used to wearing it. Make adjustments accordingly. This is an ongoing process, by the way! Cats, like people, gain and lose weight periodically. If your cat has put on a little extra around the middle, it may also have done so around the neck. Check that the collar hasn’t become too tight! Equally, if they’ve lost weight, it may have become too loose. And don’t forget that young cats are still growing. Cat collars for kittens and young cats will need checking regularly to ensure they don’t get too tight as the cat gets older.
What About Cat Leads?
When we think about leads for four legged friends, we’re usually thinking about dogs. However leads or leashes for cats do exist, and they’re becoming an increasingly more common sight, especially in inner city areas where people are more likely to live in apartments than houses. Cats don’t need assistance to roam anywhere, and as flight-or-fight animals they won’t necessarily appreciate being deprived of the ability to run away if they feel like it, so why would anyone want to attach a lead to them? There are actually several good reasons.
- Cats with health conditions that can be aggravated by the outdoor world could benefit from being walked on a lead. They get to go outside and breathe the air, and you can keep them away from anything that could harm them.
- Some breeds of cat have physical or personality traits that mean that going outdoors unsupervised isn’t a great idea for them. With you there to manage them, they get to play outdoors without risk.
- For cat owners who live in apartments, it’s impossible to just open the door and let your cat out to run. You can, however, take them out for a walk with a lead, and then safely bring them back home again.
- Home owners who live in built up areas, or close to busy roads, may not want their cats roaming free because of the danger from traffic. Again, taking them out for a walk on a lead gives them the benefits of a trip outside without the danger of being involved in an accident.
- A cat on a lead can be walked beyond their usual ‘familiar’ range. Cats usually only roam as far as they’re comfortable with, within easy range of their homes, so they can always run back quickly if they need to. If you have a trip to the vet planned, or just want or need to take your cat somewhere beyond its familiar surroundings, a lead means they can walk side by side with you to wherever they need to go.
Leashes for cats come in two distinct varieties:-
1. Cat Leads
Description: These will arrive in one of two forms. One is a lead that clips on to your cat’s collar. The other is a lead with a collar attachment, which replaces your regular cat collar. The appearance and process is exactly as it is for a dog leash.
Pros: Your cat is now on a lead! They can come in a variety of lengths, and they’re often adjustable. The clip-on versions are particularly easy to use. Your cat, so long as it’s willing, can now be directed wherever you want it to go.
Cons: You don’t actually have that much control, and trying to force it can be dangerous. All the pressure is on your cat’s neck, and so if you pull it, you risk choking them. That’s if you can keep them on it in the first place! A collar with pressure applied to it can easily break. As we’ve already covered, breakaway collars are designed specially to release if sharp pressure is applied. One wrong tug and you have an escaped cat on your hands.
Typical price: Somewhere around the $10 mark.
2. Cat Harnesses
Description: Like a baby harness, but for cats! Think of them as an adorable little jacket for your cat, with an attachment on the back to clip the lead to.
Pros: You have much better control of your cat. The harness covers most of their upper body, and incorporates the front legs, so it’s easier to guide them. There’s also far less pressure on the cat’s neck, because the weight is distributed more evenly across their torso. This is a much easier choice for you, and a safer choice for your cat.
Cons: You’ve probably had some great times trying to wrestle your cat into accepting a collar. Now imagine trying to persuade it to put a harness on. For a cat harness to work, your cat needs to be accepting of the process. And there’s no guarantee that just because it was happy to let you do it once, it’ll do so the next time.
Typical price: $20 and up, often depending on the size, thickness and material of the harness.
So, what did we learn during this article? We now know the best way to get a collar onto a cat. We’ve discussed the types of cat collars available. We’ve talked about what the pros and cons of putting a collar on your cat are. We even looked at practical ways you could take your cat for a walk in the local park. So let’s try to draw some conclusions.
Should My Cat Wear A Collar?
We believe the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. In fact, the safety benefits of the best cat collars have been scientifically studied, and proven.We think a cat with a collar is safer, and easier to identify. We’re not suggesting that people should use cat collars instead of microchips, but there’s certainly no harm in doing both. Just because a cat doesn’t immediately love wearing a collar doesn’t mean they don’t get used to them. So long as you’ve found a collar made from a material your cat likes, and it’s a good fit, they’ll accept wearing it. Like we said, there are even practical benefits when it comes to using things like cat flaps and automatic feeders.
Which Type Of Cat Collar Is Best?
You should make judgements based on your own cat’s personality and preferences. Having said that, we do have an opinion, and here it is. We’re a big believer in safe cat collars. Therefore, we think breakaway options are the best cat collars for the vast majority of cats. Stretch cat collars are too restrictive, and buckle collars can snag. That makes breakaway cat collars the winners by default. The extra expense of having to replace them every time your cat performs a Houdini trick is worth it for the security of knowing your cat isn’t going to get snagged or choked by its own collar. For extra security, why not get one with a reflective strip to keep your pet safe at night?
Should I Take My Cat For Walks On A Leash?
Only if it doesn’t, or can’t, go for walks itself. A cat that’s had the freedom of roaming around gardens of its own accord shouldn’t suddenly have that freedom taken away from it. Cats like to be in control of what they do and where they go. They also have a strong sense of independence. As much as you love being close to them, and they love to be close to you, they like to choose when ‘together’ time should be. You should only attach a leash or harness – and we’d strongly advise you to go with a harness instead of a leash – if your cat has no other means of seeing the outside world.
You’ve read the information, you’ve heard our opinions, now it’s time to make your own mind up. There’s no reason why a cat can’t be stylish and safe at the same time, just remember not to go overboard on hanging accessories and you’ll be fine. You can find a cat collar solution that doesn’t make your cat hate you!