Walk into any pet shop or even supermarket, and you will see a variety of different collars for cats – from reflective to diamante, leather to fabric and, of course, some flea collars too. This can make it confusing and difficult to know what type of collar to buy your cat, so we have compiled some information and advice on cat collars, looking at if your cat really needs one, what injuries they can potentially cause and which collars are the safest option for cats.
Does my cat need a collar?
Owners put collars on their cats for a variety of reasons:
Although microchipping is the safest and most permanent method of identification, some owners use collars and tags as a means to visibly show that a cat has an owner. Tags are used to list the owner’s details – some owners worry that if the cat was lost or injured, that the cat would not be checked for a microchip, so the tag gives a quick easy way to contact the owner.
Cat flap activation
Until recently the only way to make a cat flap selective (so that only your cat could open it and no intruder cats could enter ) was to use a magnetic or electronic key attached to its collar. Now there are cat flaps which are activated by the cat’s microchip, allowing selective entry and negating the need to wear a collar.
Some owners also want to minimise the number of birds and other wildlife their cats catch and work done by the RSPB has shown that attaching a tinkly bell to the cat’s collar can reduce the number of birds which cats catch. Using a bell may not entirely stop cats catching wildlife, but in some cases, it can be an option.
Many flea collars available through pet shops or supermarkets contain permethrin or organophosphates. Although the concentration of these chemicals is low and the collars are licensed for use on cats, in principle, International Cat Care would not recommend putting permethrin or organophosphates on a cat. There are now many new flea products which use alternative chemicals which are safer and more effective. Many can be applied as spot-ons – small volumes of liquid put onto the skin after parting the hair at the back of the neck. They are highly effective and usually last for a month. For more information on flea control, please click here.
Collars with reflective strips can help cats that are out in the dark be seen, especially if they are crossing a road.
International Cat Care does not agree with collars for cats which are purely for adornment – there is no added benefit and the risks are still there. Besides, cats are beautiful enough!
What injuries can collars cause?
- Minor problems, such as hair loss due to rubbing or a reaction to a chemical in a flea collar
- Injuries caused by the cat getting the collar caught around its jaw
- Injuries caused by the cat getting one front leg stuck through the collar (this allows the collar to cut into the skin, resulting in a serious and painful injury that is also particularly challenging to treat)
- Strangulation by becoming hooked on something and the collar not coming off or breaking open
- Problems cause by attachments (bells, discs etc) or poor stitching.
Why do injuries occur?
Problems occur with cats and collars for a variety of reasons:
The collar is fitted poorly
A collar that is too loose can allow the cat to get its leg or jaw stuck through Collars that are too tight can also cause injury, so owners should be aware of how to fit a collar correctly.
Collars with elastic inserts
Collars that have a length of elastic as part of the design (allowing them to expand) can also cause serious injuries. While, many years ago, this was thought to be a safety feature that would allow the cat to wriggle out of the collar should it become hooked on something, in fact what happened was that there was enough ‘give’ for cats to get one leg through the collar and then get stuck, causing serious injuries. Collars also got caught around cats’ jaws. International Cat Care would advise never to put a collar with an elastic section on your cat.
Poor quality collars
The stitching on poor quality collars can become loose. This can then be swallowed or become wrapped around the cat’s tongue, which is dangerous.
Bells and bits
Bells, discs and other bits hanging from the collar can also be hazardous – the cat can either become caught on something by one of these attachments or get claws caught in the bell.
What can owners do to help keep cats safe?
Choose the right collar
If you have decided that you do want or need your cat to wear a collar, ensure you pick a collar with a ‘snap open’ mechanism – a plastic buckle (see image) which comes apart and releases the cat if it becomes trapped. Owners of adventurous cats may lose a few collars but will keep their cats! Some snap open fastenings open more easily than others, so try them out and choose one that doesn’t require excessive force to open.
Fit the collar properly
Knowing how to fit a collar correctly is important. Collars do actually need to be quite firmly fitted – you should only be able to get 1-2 fingers underneath. If too loose then the cat can gets its leg through. When you first fit the collar your cat may tense its neck muscles so always re-check the fit after a few minutes and adjust if necessary.
Get used to a collar
As with many things, getting your cat used to wearing a collar as a kitten is much easier than putting one on an adult cat for the first time.
Collars can cause injury to cats, but if your cat needs to wear a collar, then a snap-open one (which will release quickly if your cat becomes stuck) is best. International Cat Care also recommends getting your cat microchipped as this is permanent and cannot be lost.