Cat collars – yes or no?
When it comes to deciding whether or not your cat should wear a collar, it’s down to personal choice. There are all sorts of reasons why cat guardians feel that their feline companion would benefit from wearing a collar. However, it always helps to make an informed decision. We take a look at what feline experts from charities Cats Protection, PDSA and International Cat Care have to say on the matter.
Cats Protection does not advocate collars for cats, stating: “We have seen too many injuries caused by collars, where cats have got themselves caught up while playing, hunting or even trying to escape from danger.”
PDSA agrees: “We recommend leaving your cat collarless – it’s usually safer and much more comfortable for them. It’s natural to want to protect your cat and make sure they can find their way back to you if they get lost. That’s why a lot of cat owners choose to buy a collar for their pet. Sadly, collars can actually be more of a hindrance than a help. Our feline friends are usually very adventurous and a collar can get caught on something while they’re out exploring or scrapping with neighbours.”
What can I use instead of a collar?
PDSA says: “There are lots of reasons why you might think about buying a collar for your cat – from protecting against fleas to making your cat look ‘owned’ and well looked after. However, there are often better ways to tackle these issues.” So, what are the alternatives?
According to Cats Protection, International Cat Care and PDSA, collars are no longer needed for identification because you can now get your cat microchipped. Once your cat’s microchip has been fitted by your vet, all you’ll need to do is keep your contact details up-to-date with the microchip database company. Unlike dogs, microchipping pet cats is not compulsory. However, many animal welfare organisations are pushing for this to be made law. Find out more about microchipping your cat here >>
Traditional flea collars are not recommended as the best way to protect felines against parasites. International Cat Care warns: “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.”
PDSA agrees, stating: “The chemicals in some flea collars, especially those purchased over-the-counter, can be too harsh for some cats. This can lead to hair-loss around the neck and red and irritated skin. All flea collars stop working after a while, which can vary from days to months depending on the product. If you forget to replace the collar, then your cat could be left unprotected from these troublesome parasites. It’s best to get these from a vet as some over-the-counter products aren’t as strong or are only mild repellents and will not kill or keep fleas away. Spot-ons from your vet are very safe to use on your cat because they have been rigorously tested.”
DID YOU KNOW?
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.
Source: International Cat Care
Some owners 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. However, Cats Protection advises:” While you might want to attach a dangling item, like a bell or ID tag, this isn't advised. Cats are at risk of trapping small items in fences or small areas, often resulting in injury.”
International Cat Care agrees: “Bells, discs and other bits hanging from the collar can be hazardous – the cat can either become caught on something by one of these attachments or get claws caught in the bell.”
PDSA adds: “If your cat is a stealthy hunter then you might think putting a bell on their collar will help wildlife like garden birds, mice and shrews hear when your cat is coming. But many cats are too clever for this to work for long and will learn to move to keep the bell quiet and still manage to bring you ‘presents’. Other steps you can take to keep wildlife safe include making sure any bird feeders aren’t surrounded by trees or bushes – birds will be able to see your cat coming. Raise feeders or birdhouses on metal poles as cats can’t climb these. Keep your cats inside when birds and wildlife are more active – an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset.”
“Ensure you pick a collar with a ‘snap open’ mechanism 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.”
International Cat Care
Choosing a safer collar
If you decide that you want or need your cat to wear a collar – for example, one with reflective strips can help cats that are out in the dark be seen – all the feline charities recommend choosing a ‘quick release’ or snap opening collar. Your cat is less likely to be trapped should the collar become caught or tangled, keeping them safe from harm. International Cat Care advises: “Ensure you pick a collar with a ‘snap open’ mechanism – a plastic buckle 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.”
- Find out more about snap-release collars here >>
Correctly fitting a collar is important too. International Cat Care recommends that they need to be quite firmly fitted: “You should only be able to get one to two fingers underneath. If too loose then the cat can get 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.”
Cats Protection adds: “You'll need to keep an eye on your cat's collar to ensure it hasn't been damaged in any way that might harm or injure your cat or other cats. Any damaged collars should be replaced immediately.”
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Sources: icatcare.org, cats.org.uk, pdsa.org.uk