We all love to pamper our cats. Accessorising our feline friends with a beautiful cat collar can be a lot of fun, particularly as there is so much choice available. However, before you decide whether a collar is right for your cat, or which collar you should choose, it is worth considering the benefits and risks.
Unlike dogs, there is no legal requirement for cats to wear a collar with their owner's identification. Microchips are the best way to have your cat carry identifying information. Collars are never a substitute for an identification microchip.
If you choose to place a collar on your cat always ensure it is a safety collar that will release if your cat were to become entangled. A 'snap closed' mechanism that comes apart and releases under pressure is best. When selecting a collar try pulling the safety catch apart to ensure there is an appropriate fast release.
Collars can get snagged on fences or branches when your cat is adventuring. Safety breakaway collars are designed to prevent your cat from getting trapped or strangulated if this were to happen. Be prepared to lose a few collars if your cat likes to explore, but this is better than the potential hazards.
Never buy a collar with an elastic insert. Elastic has been used in the past to allow cats to escape should their collar get caught.
However, vets have seen horrible injuries caused by cats getting a front leg trapped under these collars. Cats have been trapped like this for weeks, and it can cause deep lacerations to the armpit (axilla) region.
A correctly fitting collar should allow two fingers to slide between the cat's neck and the collar. Too tight and a collar can cause pain, hair loss and damage to the neck. Too loose and a front leg could potentially become trapped. Check the fit of your cat's collar regularly, particularly in growing kittens.
Wearing a collar does have benefits. A collar signals ownership, a cat with a collar is perhaps less likely to be 'adopted' by a kindly neighbour. Collars can also be helpful to convey messages, a cat on a special veterinary diet may wear a collar asking neighbours 'please don't feed me'. This message worked well on one particularly charming Burmese patient of mine, Bob. Bob had a food allergy and his owner was being very careful to only feed an expensive hypoallergenic diet, then unknown to her he would leap over the fence and feast on a range treats next door. Soon after the collar message Bob's symptoms disappeared and a rather sheepish neighbour came round to apologise.
If your cat is an avid hunter, a collar bell can almost half the number of birds they catch, according to research performed by the RSPB. Bells also reduced the numbers of voles and mice brought home, which is welcome news to cat owners as well as the rodent community.
Finally, dawn and dusk are the most likely times for a cat to be involved in a road traffic accident. A collar with a reflective stripe can improve your cat's visibility to motorists and potentially avoid a collision.
At Protect My Pet we are committed to keeping pets happy and healthy. If you do choose for your cat to wear a collar, just remember the two most important points, that they have a good-quality safety release and that the collar is correctly fitted and frequently checked.
Written by Lindsay Rose MA VetMB CertAVP CertVBM MRCVS