When choosing a collar for your cat there are some important safety tips you should keep in mind.
Does my cat even need a collar?
We’ve all been there – you go to Kmart or a pet store and see a ridiculously cute cat collar on special.. You might think the only thing you need to consider is how pissed off this collar will make your cat! However choosing a collar for your cat is something you should really put some thought into. Not all collars are created equal – and some are actually very dangerous.
The two main reasons people put collars on their cats are:
a) For identification, and
b) To stop the cat catching birds.
The best identification for your cat is to be microchipped. Collars can fall off, or be removed by people up to no good.
You may still want your cat to wear a collar so that others can see it is not homeless, from a distance. One example of why this could be useful is if you have a cat that looks in poor health – such as a very elderly cat. Well meaning neighbours could think your cat is a starving stray and take it to a vet or the SPCA (which is a wonderful thought and very caring of them, however quite stressful for your cat).
If you have a kitten (any cat under a year old), please resist the urge to get it the sparkliest, cutest collar you can find. Collars are generally made for adult cats and any safety features such as the “quick release” buckle (that prevents cats being caught by their collar on things and being strangled) are designed for an adult cats weight. A kitten will not weigh enough to trigger the quick release.
Which sort of collar is the safest?
The collars that are all stretchy or made of mostly elastic – are very dangerous. These collars are commonly sold as “one size fits all” as they don’t have eyelets for the collar buckle to fit into at set intervals. Because these collars can stretch and do not have a safety release mechanism on them, they are very dangerous.
Your cat can get this type of collar stuck under its legs or inside its mouth which can cause terrible wounds. There is no protection from the cat becoming ensnared in a tree and the collar strangling them.
Safety Release Collars
Collars that have a safety release buckle are the best choice. Sometimes these collars have a few cm of elastic section in them – and this small amount of stretchy section is fine.
These collars can have some quite stiff safety buckles on them, so before you buy one make sure to test how easily the buckle comes undone. Obviously if you have a large or heavy cat, the buckle can be a little harder to trigger than usual.
Leather collars may last almost forever, and often come with cool diamante or studs – but they are a bit inflexible and heavy. Many cats will not want something as heavy and stiff as leather around their necks and the extra weight can actually affect your cats fur growth. Your cat could end up with a bald ring around their neck if you are not careful (like when your work boots make your leg hair stop growing in certain places).
There are light reflecting collars available on the market. These use the same type of reflective material that you can find on a tradies Fluro vest. These collars are particularly good at showing up in car headlights from far away at night. If you are worried your cat might be hit by a car then these can go a little way to preventing that. (I am working on a road safety article and will link this soon.)
These fancy collars are for locating either where your cat is, or where your cat has been. GPS collars can fall into two categories:
- Collars that have to be plugged into a computer in order to see where the cat has been.
- Collars whose location can be seen “live” either on a computer or smartphone.
As technology improves, location tracking collars for cats are becoming smaller and their battery life is getting longer. They are generally quite pricey and some even require a subscription to be paid once a month to access the location data! Bluetooth tracking collars also exist. These generally work over smaller distances and often rely on you getting close enough to your cat for your phone Bluetooth to pick up the device. Bluetooth collar technology is still fairly new so watch this space!
Bird Deterrent Collar
Most cat collars come with a bell on them. The theory behind this is that birds will hear your cat “jingling” and fly away..
The reality however, is that I have seen a cat with 15 bells attached to their collar move silently..! The cats of New Zealand are not to be outdone by a few bells!!
Fear not – help is at hand for the humans of a prolific hunter! There are now collars designed to “flap and move” as the cat tries sneaking. They look a little bit like something an ol’timey clown would wear around their neck – but they do work! Most of the ones I have seen have been hand made and there are a few people out there offering to custom make these for your cat. Made with soft fabric – often brightly coloured to help them stand out, they are similar to the soft style of “Elizabethan Collar” pets commonly wear after surgery.
You can make these yourself and they make a great rainy day activity for the kids!
Do you “Need” a collar or just “want” a collar
Have a really hard think about if your cat really does need a collar. The only totally safe collar is no collar at all.
Go for function over style
Even the cutest collar in the world is worthless if it does not keep your cat safe! Look for safety release buckles and added safety technology such as reflective strips.
Get the right size
You should be able to slide two fingers between your cats neck and their collar. Too loose and they will loose it, too tight and their fur could stop growing or worse, your cat could have trouble breathing, swallowing and eating.
Try before your buy
Try out the safety release buckle in the store. Some are very stiff and some are quite easy to trigger. If you have trouble pulling the buckle apart (as if it were stuck on a branch) then this might not be the collar for your cat. I always check how sensitive the safety buckle is because if I have trouble triggering it then it is too stiff to work in an emergency!
Wait until your kitten has reached adulthood before giving it a collar. We want the cat to be heavy enough to trigger the safety release buckle in an emergency.