Choosing a Collar and Training Your Cat to Wear It - Easy Guide
Cat collars have kept cats safe for years, but as cats have moved from the barn to our homes and become members of our families, many people are now avoiding having their cats wearing a collar.
Some of the main reasons why people don't want to put a collar on their cats:
- Fearing that it will become a choking hazard
- They feel it's impossible to get their cat to keep the collar
- They don't believe cat collars can help keep their cats safe
Believe it or not, 3 out of 4 cats actually don’t mind their collar. Even if you’re skeptical that your cat won’t like it, don't give up without giving them a good try.
Less than 2% of lost cats return to their owners, collars can help change that.
Here, we will provide information to make it easier to train your cat to wear a collar and how they will not only give you peace of mind but also keep your cat safe.
When Should A Cat Wear A Collar?
Even if your cat is spending its time indoors, you might still consider make it wear the collar.
Cats love spending time outdoors and if you live in an area where your cat could be drawn outside by a bird or a little prey animal, they can try to escape (and they are very good at it).
Accidents can happen anytime, and if your cat escapes and becomes lost outside, the harness can help people who find your cat identify them as a pet rather than a stray.
The chances of your cat returning home safely get high if you make your cat wear the collar with an ID tag. You can even attach a GPS tracker or an AirTag! I found my cat once thanks to an AirTag, which is only $30.
The criterion I like using to define if a cat should wear a collar or not is called The Leavers Test. You should ask yourself: Is my cat likely to end up luring outdoors unsupervised? If the answer is yes, your cat should wear a collar.
If you are wondering if the cat should be wearing the collar at night as well, you can use the Leavers Test. Is my cat likely to end up lured outdoors unsupervised at night? and again, if the answer is yes, your cat should wear a collar at night.
Are Collars Cruel?
No, collars are not cruel if chosen correctly and serve their purpose (Identifying your cat in case they got lost).
If your cat "fails" the Leavers Test, meaning that there are no chances of them luring outdoors unsupervised, then the need for a collar is doubtful and it becomes a decorative garment.
Decoration (particularly when the cat does not appreciate it) could be considered cruelty. If your cat won't be outdoors unsupervised, they don't need a collar. Don't make them wear one! :)
Something many owners forget is to loosen your kitten's collar. Kittens grow extremely fast. Until they’re adult sized, you should be checking every week if the size of your cat's collar is still appropriate. If not closely monitored, the collar could lead to serious injuries, one of them being damaged skin.
Are Collars Safe?
Getting the right cat collar is key. It should always be a breakaway collar.
What's a Breakaway Collar?
A breakaway collar is a collar that will open if pressure is applied. This is particularly important because cats can get tangled in a tree or a bush and if the collar does not open, could cause suffocation.
Dogs do not squeeze into uncomfortable environments or climb trees as cats do so their collars don’t snap open in emergencies. Cat collars are specifically designed considering the adventures cats like to go on. Using a dog collar on a cat is not safe.
What makes a cat collar breakaway are usually the buckles. Soft-cornered buckles are going to snap open if enough pressure is applied, while hard-cornered buckles won't. I encourage you to check your cat's collars right now and make sure they are breakaway.
Here's the breakaway cat collar that I use with my cat Mia.
Putting a collar on correctly is also important. You should be able to fit no more or no less than 2 fingers in the collar. If too tight, it can hurt your cat's skin around the neck and cause hair loss from the collar constantly rubbing against it. If too lose your cat can get a leg tangled in it or manage to get it off.
Should Cats Wear Bells On Their Collars?
The idea of cats wearing bells can make a lot of sense for two reasons:
- To protect local fauna
- To locate your cat at night
While it makes a lot of sense, there are studies that have proven that wearing bells in their collars can be detrimental for a cats' health.
Therefore, there I'll share with you alternatives to achieve the same results as with a bell.
Protecting Wildlife from Your Cat
When it comes to protecting wildlife the alternative to using a collar with a bell is walking your cat on a leash. It will give them outdoor exposure while protecting your cat and the fauna around them.
Locating Your Cat at Night
If you want to know where your cat is near you, your Bluetooth can reach almost as far as a small bell's sound. I use the Apple AirTag to locate my cat at night, I have a full article talking about finding a cat using an AirTag.
Despite I do not recommend the bell on cats, I have not seen any articles that research the effect bells have on cats' wellbeing, if you know of any, please let me know!!
At What Age Can Cats Start Wearing Collars?
Kittens can start wearing collars as soon as they have all their vaccinations and start passing the Leavers Test. Early collar use can be harmful to very young kittens, try to postpone it at least until they are 4 weeks old.
Choosing a collar for your cat is more important than you might expect. If your cat rejects the collar after a while of trying to get it to wear one it might be because they simply don't like that specific collar. Here are some things that you need to consider before getting your cat a collar:
Choosing a Collar:
- A collar can easily get caught on something and can injure your cat or get it stuck. This is why when choosing a collar it MUST be a breakaway/quick-release collar. Also, collars with little add-ons are safer for your cat.
- If you live near a busy street, reflective collars are a safer option for a cat that likes to roam at night. This way, drivers will see your cat on the road, preventing any accidents. (But my ultimate recommendation would be to not let the car roam unsupervised if that's the case). The life expectancy of indoor-outdoor cats is 2 to 5 years compared to 15-17 for indoor cats. I talk more about this in this article about indoor vs. outdoor cats.
How To Get A Cat To Wear A Collar?
When introducing the collar to your cat for the first time, pick a peaceful time. Your cat may resist having the collar if you attempt to do so when they are already anxious.
Assuming you’ve gotten a suitable collar. Here is a step-by-step on how to get your cat to wear the collar and maybe even like it.
Step 1. Recognizing its scent:
Start off by leaving the new collar near places where your cat is like their bed. This way, the collar can catch your cat's scent. This will help your cat get used to the collar faster.
Step 2. Getting your cat used to the collars weight:
Put the collar hanging over your cat's neck unclipped. If they respond well and don't mind it, offer your cat a treat. Treats should be a reward rather than a distraction. This will make your cat like the collar more when it recognizes that the collar means receiving a treat (positive reinforcement).
Step 3. Putting it on during feeding time:
This is a great way to get a stubborn cat used to the collar. Take out their favorite canned food or favorite treats in their bowl. When they're eating, gently slip it on. Your cat will most likely leave it alone while they're eating. This helps them grow comfortable with it.
Hold the collar's ends in each hand, and move the collar under your cat's chin, then clip the collar.
Tip: Giving your cat lots of attention may also work in the same way. You’re making your cat grow used to the feeling of the collar by forgetting it's even there.
If your cat rejects the collar for more than a week. It’s time to get a new one (yes. If they don’t like the specific collar. They won’t wear it.), but if they enjoy it…you can make it a fashion statement and get a collar that really brings out your cat's personality!
How Tight Should a Cat Collar Be?
Cat collars must be firmly adjusted. The rule of thumb is to be able to fit at least 1 finger between the cat and the collar and 2 fingers max.
It is dangerous to leave a loose collar on a cat. Some cats can get their paws tangled in it while trying to remove it. In other cases, the cat's mouth gets stuck in the collar while trying to bite it. Getting the cat´s bottom jaw stuck in the collar is particularly dangerous if the cat doesn't have the strength to open the breakaway buckle, particularly if this happens while they are outdoors.
From a safety point of view, it's best to leave the collar tighter than not.
Do Cats Feel Comfortable With Collars?
Some cats, especially those who have never worn a collar, may feel uncomfortable and scratch it too. They may have a hard time putting on their first collar. If the collar is the right size (about 1/2 inch) and it's properly fit (you can slip 1 or 2 fingers between collar and cat) your cat should not be too comfortable wearing it.
How Long Does It Take For A Cat To Get Used To Wearing A Collar?
Your cat might initially scratch at the collar because it feels new, but with some patience, it will get used to it. Try to divert your cat's attention away from the collar, give it a treat or a toy. The cat might have forgotten entirely about the collar by the time it eats the treat.
If they don't stop scratching after a short while, take the collar out and try again in a few hours always rewarding after the collar is on, to create a positive association.
A cat may need up to one week to become familiar with wearing a collar. Some cats can get used to it much more quickly than others, such as in less than 24 hours, but these are unusual cases.
However, if your kitty is still not getting used to it even after a week, consider loosening it a little bit or even trying a different collar.
Should You Take A Cat's Collar Off At Night?
No, you should not remove the collar off your cat at night. If the collar fits perfectly and makes them happy, then there is no need to remove it. It indicates that your cat enjoys wearing its collar throughout the day and will feel at ease while sleeping.
Can You Walk A Cat By Its Collar?
As mentioned before, cat collars should be breakaway so a cat collar would not be very safe, righ?
The alternative is a dog collar but that's not safe, for 2 reasons:
- Cats can slip out of collars. Cats are simple to wriggle out of their collars, and if they manage to escape and get tangled, they risk choking.
- If the collar is not breakaway, you can accidentally end up strangling your feline friend with the collar if they got stuck or fell off a tree.
Using a cat harness to walk your cat is key.
How to Choose the Best Cat Harness?
There's a broad range of cat harnesses and they can be quite different from each other. These are the properties you should look for in a cat harness:
- Escape Proof Ability
- Easy to Put On
Consider reading this article to learn how to choose the right harness for your cat.
Stay Wild, Stay Safe and I'll see you outdoors!
Albert & Mia
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