There are several reasons that as owners, we might want to put collars on our cats. From identification purposes, making sure that they don’t go missing, or helping to protect the local wildlife or just because they can look nice, however, a collar isn’t always the best option for your cat as they can be a choking risk. Even collars that have safety releases can fail or may not function in all situations, and there are little regulations for safety measures in pet products.
We understand that you might be worried about your cat getting out and going missing, especially if they are an indoor cat - and a collar probably seems like the right way to help them get back to you if they get lost. Whilst this can help, there are a few dangers that come with collars to consider.
The dangers of collars
Your cat could get stuck somewhere because of their collar. As we all know, cats are naturally very curious animals, and they enjoy exploration. This could involve climbing, or squeezing themselves through things such as fences, gates, hedges etc., meaning that your cat could very easily become stuck by catching their collar on a loose nail, a bit of wood, branch and become stuck which renders them trapped in an uncomfortable (or dangerous) position and location. Even if your cat does manage to wriggle their way to freedom, they may end up hurting themselves, especially if they begin to panic in their attempt to break free.
It is possible for your cat to get themselves stuck on the collar itself. If the collar your cat is wearing isn’t properly fitted or becomes too loose over time, they can get it stuck in their mouth when grooming themselves, or even get a paw stuck in there. This can easily cause injuries to your cat. Please keep an eye on your cat if they wear a collar, and remember to frequently check whether the fit is correct.
Collars can rub on your cat's skin. If your cat is wearing a collar all the time, and the collar is not fitted properly, it is probably rubbing against your cat’s skin and giving them discomfort. Having a collar on all the time can make your cat’s skin feel very sore, and can result in fur loss around the neck, where their collar would usually sit.
Poorly fitting collars can pose a real danger to your cat’s health and safety. If a collar is too loose, your cat might even be able to get it stuck around their body, which will gradually cut into their skin overtime. If a cat goes missing and gets themselves stuck in this way when there is nobody around to help them, it can become infected and cause them severe problems.
Bells on collars can also be irritating for your cat. They can sometimes cause cats stress and anxiety, especially in cases where your cat is sensitive or timid. The jingling of a bell every time your cat moves can cause a timid cat to feel frightened and make them freeze up, not wanting to move more than they absolutely have to - to try and avoid making the noise causing them stress.
How to make sure a collar is properly fitted
Although we do not recommend using collars for your cats, we want to make sure that you are aware of how to ensure that a collar is properly fitted should you decide that a collar is the best option for you and your cat.
What type of collars to use
There are many collars for sale that simply should not be used. The only type of collar that is suitable for a cat to use, is a breakaway/quick release collar.
A breakaway buckle should have rounded prongs. Using a breakaway collar helps to ensure that if your cat does ever get stuck somewhere, or stuck in their collar, they should be able to pop the buckle open and free themselves.
A breakaway collar will have a buckle that looks like this:
If you are set on having a collar, make sure you do your research and find a collar that specifically says ‘breakaway’, or ‘quick release’.
*Note: The safety of a collar will also depend on the quality of the collar and the situation. As it is very unlikely that you are able to monitor your cat 24/7, if you decide to have a collar for your cat, please proceed with caution.
Do not use a collar that has a buckle and holes for sizing, such as this one:
This is not a safe collar and if your cat gets stuck, they will not be able to free themselves. This can easily result in your cat going into panic mode, and injuring themselves (or worse).
How can I make sure a collar is safe for my cat?
To make sure that the collar you are using for your cat is as safe as possible, we recommend:
Please avoid purchasing a collar that has any studs or glitter as this can rub on your cat’s skin and cause irritation. Although these options may look pretty, they can be itchy and uncomfortable for your cat which may make your cat attempt to remove them, and get the collar stuck in their mouths.
Avoid bells and charms
Although attaching a bell to the collar may make the local wildlife aware of your cat’s presence, and a charm may look pretty, they can be a danger to your cat’s safety. If your cat decides to explore, the bell or charm may actually get them stuck in a fence or gate, or even in a bush and could cause them harm.
Make sure the collar you buy is of good quality. A poor quality collar can fall apart and cause strangulation or even be eaten by curious cats.
Only ever buy a collar that has a quick release buckle. This could save your cat from a situation where they’ve got themselves stuck.
Always make sure that the collar is an appropriate fit for your cat. Anything too loose, or too tight can cause injuries.
Alternatives to collars
The most effective alternative to a collar, is to ensure that your cat is microchipped. (Even if you decide to use a collar, you need to have your cat microchipped).
The most important measure in case your cat gets lost is for your cat to have a microchip. There are over 9 million pet cats in England, with as many as 2.3 million unchipped. This makes it very difficult for cats to be reunited with their owners. Make sure your cat’s microchip details are up to date.
There is a new microchipping law coming into effect in 2024. The new rules mean cats must be implanted with a microchip before they reach the age of 20 weeks and their contact details stored and kept up to date in a pet microchipping database.
We strongly recommend reconsidering whether a collar really is essential for your cat. There are several alternatives, which are actually much safer for your cat. As pretty as collars can be, this is not sufficient reason for your cat to be wearing a collar and we urge you to seriously consider if your cat really needs one.
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Written by Sofi N