My Cat Won’t Wear a Cone! – Catmart
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My Cat Won't...

My Cat Won’t Wear a Cone!

When your cat is sick, or recovering from an accident, it may have to wear a cat cone. These are like big, plastic collars that stop your cat from being able to bite its wounds. But not all cats like them.

What can you do if your cat won’t wear a cone? Try tying the cone to their collar, so it won’t come off. Check that it is the right fit, because your cat may be uncomfortable in its cone. Offer your cat treats to lift its mood. Make sure your cat can walk around comfortably without banging into things. Above all, be patient.

Don’t threaten your cat or lose your temper. Cats don’t understand punishments, so punishing your cat won’t achieve anything. Instead, try to help your cat as much as you can.

My Cat Won’t Wear a Cone!

The dreaded cat cone – it makes humans giggle and animals cringe! We’ve all seen the dog or cat that walks out of the vet. They’re angry with the world for their newest accessory. So if your cat won’t wear a pet cone, you’re far from alone. In fact, most cat owners have the same issue.

Unfortunately, a cat cone collar is an essential cat health product and can protect your cat from harming themselves. Today we will talk more about how you can get your cat to wear a cat cone. We will also discuss some alternatives to cones that you may want to consider.

What Is A Cat Cone?

Before we talk more about how you can get your cat to wear a pet cone, let’s start by discussing what a cat cone actually is. If your cat could talk, they would probably tell you that the cat cone collar is some sort of modern day torture device. But despite what your cat may think, cones are there to protect them – not hurt them.

Cat cones are sometimes referred to as the “Elizabethan collar”. This name comes from the high collars worn in the Elizabethan era in merry old England. You may also hear them referred to as “dunce caps”, “cones of shame”, “lamp shades” or “satellite dishes”. But despite their many silly and playful names, cones actually have a very serious role. Their job is to protect animals from licking, biting, scratching, or wounding themselves after an injury or surgery. In other words, the pet cone acts as a barrier between the animal and a sore spot. It’s essential for your cat’s health.

Cat won’t wear cone? The good news is that cones come in a variety of different materials. This means if your cat hates one, it might do better with another. Cones can come in soft plastic materials, or even soft cloth materials depending on personal preference. They can be clear or shaded, and can even be custom fit to your pet.

cat cone
Image courtesy of alljengi, modified and shared under CC 2.0.

How Will My Cat React To A Cat Cone/Elizabethan Collar?

…And should I consider alternatives to cat cones?

To answer the first question, every cat will react differently to the cat cone collar. As a cat parent, do not be shocked, as some reactions can be quite dramatic. As a reaction to a pet cone your cat may:

  • Hang their heads (as if they are in shame).
  • Shake their heads to try to remove the cone.
  • Smash their heads on walls, furniture, or floors in attempt to remove the cone.
  • Jump around or contort their bodies to remove the cone.
  • Act as though they cannot eat or drink with the cone on.

If your cat starts acting like this, don’t panic. It is more normal than you may think. It’s not unusual cat behavior to not want something so big and clunky around their neck! Cats will do anything to get their cone off, including making you feel guilty. In such a situation, it’s okay to give your cat some snuggles and reassurance. With that said, it’s also time for some tough love. Remember, this is for the greater good of your cat.

Should I Consider Alternatives To A Cat Cone Collar?

Well, there are plenty of different kinds. Here are the best we could find:

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If your cat freaks out when their Elizabethan collar is first put on, there’s no need to panic. Sometimes they just need time to adapt. But if your cat just won’t settle for wearing the collar, than yes, you may want to consider some alternatives. But before jumping into alternative options, there are some things that you can try to help your cat adapt to their new way of life.

1) Tie the cone to their collar.

If you look at the bottom of the cat cone, you will notice a series of holes or openings. What many pet owners don’t realize is that these openings actually serve a purpose. They are designed to allow the owner to tie some gauze or a piece of fabric in, and tie it to their cat collar. This will prevent the cone from immediately falling off anytime your cat hits their head or scratches at it.

2) Ensure that the cone is a proper fit.

Cat won’t wear cone? Cones are annoying enough as it is for animals, but add in a cone that is too small or too big, and now you have an even larger issue. A cone that is too large will be easier to get off. A cone that is too small gives your cat the ability to reach their wounds, and may contribute to feline stress. Here’s how to ensure your cone fits properly:

Step 1: Measure the neck size of your cat.

To do this, all you need is a flexible measuring tape. Alternatively, you can use a regular cat collar to measure the circumference of your cat’s neck. Put the collar on, and ensure that you can fit 1-2 fingers between the collar and your cat’s neck. Then, measure the length of the collar. This will give you the size of your cat’s neck.

Step 2: Putting the cone on.

The same rule applies to cat cones as it does to collars. Once the cone is on, you should be able to comfortably fit 1-2 fingers in between the cone and your cats neck. If you can’t, the cone is too tight. If you can fit more than 2 fingers, the cone is too loose. If you need some advice on helping your cat wear a cone, some of the advice on what to do if your cat won’t wear a collar applies here too.

Step 3: The length of the cone.

cat cone
The unmistakable sight of a human being judged sourly for introducing a cat cone. Image from Public Domain Pictures.

Generally speaking, a cone should extend just slightly past the tip of your cat’s nose. With that being said, some vets may recommend shorter or longer cones depending on what area of the body you are trying to protect. For example, areas near the tail or feet are easier for a cat to reach with their mouths. In return, they may require slightly longer cones. Head wounds, which aren’t so easily reached, may not require the cone to be as long.

If you are unsure, ask your vet to size the cone for you. First sizing should always be done by a veterinarian anyways.

3) Move your furniture.

Before considering alternatives to cat cones, it’s important that we try everything in our power to make our cat comfortable in a cone. One thing that can make your cat more comfortable is space. While adapting to their new cone, it is almost inevitable that your cat will bump into things. Cones can make it very difficult to see and navigate. Obviously, this can be extremely frustrating for your cat, and will make them want their collar off all the more.

To make things easier on your cat, try moving some things around in your home. Obviously, you don’t want to tear apart your house. With that said, you can move things around that you know are in your cats way. If you cat likes to lay under the table, move the chairs out. If they frequent a space  in your bedroom, remove as many obstacles as possible.

4) Monitor your cat.

A cat cone is a commitment on behalf of the owner. No matter how many things you try, it’s almost inevitable that your cat is going to try to get their cat cone collar off at some point in time. Unfortunately, if your cat succeeds, they could be at risk of causing harm to themselves. As such, it’s important that you monitor them at all times. When your cat tries to get the cone off, stop them in their tracks. Eventually your cat will learn that they cannot get away with pawing at their cone while you are around. In such a case, they may try to stray to other places within the home to try to get it off. Don’t let them do this.

When wearing a cone, keep your cat as close to you as possible so you can monitor their behaviour and keep them safe. Remember, your cat doesn’t understand the importance of the Elizabethan collar, but you do. Keeping it on is your responsibility, not theirs.

5) Help your cat to navigate.

As we said above, it’s inevitable that your cat will run into walls, doors, and other things around your home when wearing a cone. To help reduce their frustration, help your cat navigate around the home. During this time, your cat won’t be able to see very well, so you need to be their eyes for them. Doors and stairways can be especially difficult with a cat collar on, so give a little extra assistance when they’re attempting to navigate through.

6) Praise for good behavior.

Cat won’t wear cone? Maybe they just need a little praise for some good cat behavior. Anytime your cat is not pawing at or attempting to remove the cat collar, give them a treat. It may take a while to train your cat to deal with the collar, but eventually you will no longer need to give treats to get the same behavior – it will just happen naturally.

7) Keep the cone on.

While your cat is wearing the dreaded cone, they’re going to do everything they can to make you feel guilty. Whatever you do, don’t take the cone off. The longer you keep the cone on, the quicker your cat will adapt. Every time you take it off, even if for a few minutes, you set back your cat’s progress. So don’t fall for those precious kitty cat eyes, it will only make things harder on both you and your cat.

8) Only remove for meals if necessary.

This sort of relates to tip #7. While in most cases it is possible for your cat to eat their cat food with the cone on, sometimes it can be extremely difficult. If they seem to be having trouble eating, try picking up the cat bowl for them. Alternatively, you can try hand feeding them. And if you still have no luck, it is okay to take the cone off, but ONLY while the cat is eating. Put it back on as soon as they are finished. If you take the cone off, make sure you monitor your cat the entire time to ensure they don’t scratch at or bite their sore spot.

9) Never leave your pet alone for long periods of time.

You may think that your cat is adapting well to their cone, but they could have you fooled! Remember, the cone is a commitment, and it’s your job to keep your cat safe. Don’t leave them alone long enough to get the cone off.

Monitoring is also important because at some point, your cat is going to need help moving and navigating around the home. Keep them safe by keeping a close eye on them, and help them out when needed.

10) Be patient!

Cat won’t wear cone? Most people wouldn’t want to wear a huge cone around their head, so we can’t expect that our cats would either.  The key to adapting your cat to a new cat cone collar is patience. Give your cats lots of love and praise when they ignore the collar. And don’t forget to keep a close eye on them at all times.

And P.S. – don’t feel guilty! Dogs may know how to give puppy dog eyes, but cats can definitely play up the kitten eyes too. Remember, this is for the overall benefit and safety of your cat. You should never feel guilty about keeping your cat safe.

How long does my cat have to wear a cat cone?

For those who are lucky, your cat will only have to wear a cone for a few days. Having said that, the majority of cases, such as neutering, require your cat to wear a cone for up to two weeks. The length of time your cat has to wear a cone will depend on the severity of the injury, or the length of time sutures need to stay in. You should keep the cone on your cat until they are fully healed. Ask your veterinarian for more details on this subject. Some types of collar and cone can be detrimental to cats, so the period advised will always be the minimum required.

How long will it take my cat to adapt to a cone?

Some cats adapt to cones in as little as 24 hours. For others, they may never adapt. If you have tried everything listed above, and still to no avail, it may be time to consider some alternatives to cat cones.

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Cat cone alternatives:

1) Neck brace collars.

Neck brace collars for cats look somewhat the same as neck braces for humans. They are smaller and more comfortable than a cat cone, but still keep your cat from moving their head or neck too much. Neck braces do not have the same cone shape as the regular cones, and therefore allow your cat to see better. In return, it prevents your cat from bumping into walls and other household objects.

Neck brace collars are generally made from a flexible plastic and foam material, and are much easier to adapt to. With that being said, neck brace collars are not recommended for all injuries. When wearing a brace, your cat may still be able to reach areas like their tail and feet. In return, it’s best used for upper extremity issues.

2) Soft collar cones.

Soft collar cones resemble that of a plastic cone, but are softer, more flexible, and more comfortable for your pet. Most soft collars are machine-washable and simply slide on over your cats neck.

3) Inflatable collar cones.

Inflatable collars fit somewhere between a cat cone collar and a neck brace. They are thicker than a neck brace, but much smaller and less invasive than a cone. When compared to regular cat cones, inflatables can help to improve both comfort and visibility. The downfall is that inflatable collars have the potential to pop. As such, they should not be used on aggressive animals, or cats with sharp claws.

4) Small dog sweaters.

Cat won’t wear cone? One major benefit of cats is that most of them are the same size as small dogs (like chihuahuas). As such, most cats can fit into dog clothes. If nothing else seems to be working for your cat, small dog sweaters may be an option. Be sure to find one that is relatively tight, and that has a high collar. This will help to prevent your cat from moving it’s neck around too much.

Keep in mind that we do not recommend dog sweaters as alternatives to cat cones. Please use them only as a last resort.

5) Onesies.

cat cone
Seriously, give it a go. See what I do. Image courtesy of Pexels.

Just as cats can fit into many small dog outfits, they can also fit into baby outfits. I think this has to go down in history as one of the cutest ideas ever.

Again, this isn’t our most highly recommended option, but if all else fails, it is there. When dressing your cat in a baby onesie, make sure that it is a onesie that covers the feet. This will prevent your cat from being able to use their claws to scratch at their sore spot. I think I’m about to explode from how cute this is.

What happens if my cat escapes their cone?

As long as you are monitoring them, a cat that escapes the cone is not a big deal. Do not yell at your cat for taking the cone off. This will only frighten them, and make them hate the cone all the more. Rather, calmly pick up the cone and put it back on your cat. You may need to do this several times before your cat starts reacting differently. Remember, persistence is the key here.

Having said that, if you are not monitoring your cat and they do get the cone off, you could be asking for problems. If a cat scratches, bites, or rubs against their stitches or injured area, they could cause more damage. Even worse, it could case infection.

Please do your diligence and be prepared to monitor your cat 24/7 while they are wearing the cone. Yes, this will tiring and frustrating, but it will also prevent a great deal of further issues. If your cat won’t wear cone no matter what you do, you may want to think about considering alternatives to cat cones. The cat cone collar is the option most recommended by veterinarians, but is not the only option available to you. And if all else fails, just remember that this is only a temporary inconvenience – it will all be over soon!

Hi! My name is Jamie Fallon. I run Catmart, an online cat health and cat behavior resource. If I'm not sat in front of my PC—and I usually am—then I'm either spending time with my cats or my other half... Whoever jumps on me or asks me for food first!

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