Tips on choosing and fitting a collar

Opinions vary as to whether cats should have collars, and both sides have a point. Unless trained to collars from kittenhood, most cats bitterly resent having to wear one, but it is indeed true that a cat with a collar is a safer cat.

In the past, collars had a bad reputation and a number of accidents left cats injured or suffocated after a collar became entangled in a tree branch or other obstacle. Cats love to sneak through small spaces, and there is nothing that they would naturally get caught on, so they fail to realise the risk of their collar hooking them up. Also, because they are not fond of collars, some cats attempt to remove them, ending in severe difficulty with a leg trapped between neck and collar. Nevertheless, when one compares the number of cats which are lost every year with the number of cats which sustain injuries from the collar, the overwhelming answer has to be that collars save pets.

Choosing a collar

The market is flooded with cat collars of different shapes, designs and colours. There are standard buckled-on collars which are easy to put on, elasticised collars which slip over the head and adjust, and reflective collars to make a cat more visible in the dark.

Although for you the design and colour may be important, the primary consideration for your cat is a good fit. If the collar is too tight, at best it will be uncomfortable, and at worst it can cut off the cat’s blood and air supply. If too loose, it is more likely to get caught on tree branches or fences. Loose collars are also easier for cats to get out of.

Collars come in different sizes and are usually adjustable. This is particularly relevant when buying for kittens since they grow out of each setting quickly and collars need to be regularly let out.

Many cat collars these days come with breakaway panels or buckles that will immediately free a cat which gets snagged on something. This is a very important feature and these safety collars are strongly recommended. If you can’t buy a safety cat collar, at the very least choose one made with fabric which can be easily cut through should the cat get into trouble.

The collar should be snug enough not to pull over the cat’s head easily, but loose enough for you to fit two fingers between it and the cat’s neck. Cut off long collar ends after fitting it.

Identify yourself

Many cats get lost and the main purpose of the collar is to carry information about the cat’s identity and the human’s contact information. A clearly written phone number will help, but for security reasons never put a full address. There are various types of tags available that you can engrave with your contact details. Reflective collars have a fluorescent strip which shines in the light and these are particularly useful on a cat which tends to go out in the evening. Road traffic is by far the biggest danger for a free-roaming cat, as cats tend to be suicidally stupid when it comes to cars, so the reflective collar can help drivers to see a cat on the road and avoid it. Collars should not be used to walk a cat on a leash – rather use a harness for greater security.

Training your cat to wear the collar

Your cat might not appreciate a collar at first, but with patience and consistency you can teach it to accept a collar. Choose a calm time for your cat’s first introduction to the collar. If you attempt to put it on your cat when the animal is already stressed, you’re likely to have problems.

First place the collar on the ground so the cat can investigate and play with it. Spray with Feliway if you have some. Another technique is to rub a facecloth gently around the cat’s mouth to get some of the cat’s own odours, then rub the collar with the cloth so that the collar smells familiar. Rubbing the collar on the cat’s bedding may also prove effective.

Put the collar on the cat after plenty of cuddles and play, and fit it with a two-finger space as described above. Once it is on, make sure you use reassuring words and plenty of treats to reward your cat, and let him or her get used to it for a little while before taking it off. You should aim to do this daily inside the house for gradually increasing lengths of time, until it seems your cat is getting more and more comfortable with wearing the collar.

In the first few weeks you may discover that your cat becomes clever at slipping the collar off. Whenever this happens, simply replace it and give rewards and play. Check that it is fitted properly. Eventually most cats will get used to wearing a collar.

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