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Are collars safe for cats?

Posted by Jennifer on January 28th, 2013

Did you know that a properly tested cat collar can be a life-saver? We have the three important cat collar tests that will keep your cat or kitten safe and happy in their collar! Everyone who knows how many cats are unclaimed in shelters (up to 95% in many areas) can understand the importance of ID tags and microchips for every pet. A microchip is a critical form of ID for any pet since it can’t be removed.  But collars and tags are important too. People who find pets without a collar and ID often mistakenly think a pet has been abandoned, when in fact they may have just escaped or gone accidentally astray.  But what about the risks that collars pose to cats? New cat owners or cat owners who are trying a collar on their cat for the first time need may not know about collar and tag dangers – and how to avoid them. That’s why this article is here to help!

Test that safety collar!

1. Test the buckle.

Most cat collars now come with a safety feature built in – either a “breakaway” buckle, elastic stretching portion, or an entire collar made of elastic material.  These designs are intended to allow a cat who is caught on an object to twist and safely slide out of the collar. However, it is important to test the collar you purchase. How easily does the buckle come undone? If your cat gets caught and hangs, will it function as it should?

For collars that stretch, is it enough of a stretch that it will easily slide off over your cats head but — and this is SO IMPORTANT — can also be tight enough so your cat can not get his/her lower jaw under the collar, and get stuck? See step #2 for how to reduce this risk!

2. Test the fit

The rule of thumb – or fingers really – is snug enough so you can just slide two fingers under the collar. Too loose and it is too easy for a cat to get their mouth under the collar. And we have seen cats that have gotten their jaw stuck who panicked and severely mangled their face with their front and back claws drying to “escape” from a collar that was partially choking them! Cats – especially kittens – are amazingly flexible. That is why step #3 is so important too.

3. Test your cat

Please, please, please, do not put a collar on a cat and leave them unsupervised. Even if the cat seems fine at first and ignores the collar, as they move around, try to eat or drink, lie down, or play, they may suddenly become bothered by this new thing around their neck and try to get it off. WATCH YOUR CAT CLOSELY FOR THE FIRST HOUR and then if you can no longer have your eyes on your cat, take the collar off. Put it back on only when you’ll be able to see immediately if your cat gets his jaw stuck or goes into a panic to get the collar off. Gradually build up the amount of time your cat spends in the collar. If you notice your cat still trying to chew on or get his/her jaw under the collar, even after several days of building up how long he/she has been wearing it, your cat may be one of the few cats who can not safely wear a collar.

Most cats do adjust to happily and safely wear a collar! In a 6-month-long cat collar study done by Ohio State University, 90% of cat owners said they planned to keep the collars on their cats after the study was completed.

Tags that don’t hang

For cats, the safest type of tag is one that is attached to or clips on to the collar.  There are many types of tag designs that avoid the dangers of a hanging tag. A hanging tag ring or hook can get caught and defeat the function of a safety collar.  You can search online for a CollarTag for one that clips on to a cat collar.

So why not just leave off a collar? The dangers of a cat escaping and not being returned to their owner are much greater than the  risk of a cat getting a collar caught. Life is never risk-free. Limit the collar risks by properly purchasing, fitting, and monitoring your cat’s collar, and you’ll greatly reduce the risks of loosing your cat too.
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