According to Vets, Your Cat Probably Should Wear a Collar (Even If They Stay Indoors)

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Before owners bring home a new pup, one of the first things they do is pick out a collar for the pooch. Yet when many owners adopt a cat, they often skip over this step. For a long time, there has been a debate of whether cats should wear collars. On one hand, if your kitty escapes or wanders off, it may be their ticket home. “In the long run, a collar can make a big difference in your cat’s safety,” Megan McCorkel, DVM, a veterinary writer and adviser for Better With Cats, told POPSUGAR. Yet on the other hand, putting a collar on your cat may also pose several dangers. One study from the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association found that 3.3 percent of 538 cats got their collar stuck on a paw, in their mouth, or on an object. To help us figure out whether your cat needs a collar, POPSUGAR turned to the experts.

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Does My Outdoor Cat Need a Collar?

Collars make outdoor cats easily identifiable as owned pets rather than strays, Alycia Washington, DVM, told POPSUGAR. “If a cat gets out, this may increase the chances that they are returned home safely.” Specific types of cat collars can also provide protection. For example, reflective collars help to make cats more visible outside at night, especially to drivers, and collars with bells help to prevent predation of wildlife like songbirds, Dr. Washington explained. Additionally, a collar will discourage well-intentioned cat-lovers from bringing your furry friend home with them, especially if your cat is extremely friendly and affectionate, Dr. McCorkel said.

That said, because outdoor cats spend so much time unsupervised, they’re also at the greatest risk of a collar-related injury, increasing the risk of choking or strangulation. Collars can get caught around cats’ jaws or arms as well as on structures in the environment, Dr. Washington said. “It is because of these risks that breakaway collars are recommended for any cat wearing a collar,” she advised.

Does My Indoor Cat Need a Collar?

While it might not seem as necessary to put a collar on an indoor cat as an outdoor cat, accidents can still happen, Dr. McCorkel said. Even indoor-only cats can venture out of the house unexpectedly. However, because indoor-only cats don’t have the street savviness of outdoor felines, they might be in a bit of panic when they first get out, she explained. Luckily, a collar helps people realize that your stressed-out kitty doesn’t belong outside, prompting them to return your lost cat home safely and quickly. “I think of a collar on an indoor cat like an insurance plan,” Dr. McCorkel said. “I hope I don’t need it, but when I do, I’ll be glad it’s there.”

Does My Microchipped Cat Need a Collar?

Although a microchip helps your cat get home safely, it does so in a different way than a collar, Dr. McCorkel explained. A microchip requires a scanner to identify the cat’s owner. Therefore, if people stumble upon a lost kitty with only a microchip, they must drive to their local animal shelter or veterinarian to gain access to a microchip scanner. “A collar and tag simplify the entire process and lets people know exactly who to call without any extra steps,” she said.

How Can I Make My Cat Wear a Collar?

While many cats instantly accept wearing a collar, some cats resist, Dr. McCorkel said. If this is the case, you should expect it to take a few tries over several days or weeks for your cat to accept the collar. “Stick with it, and eventually your cat will learn to accept it,” she said. “Your two best tools for the job are going to be patience and positive reinforcement.” Dr. McCorkel suggests distracting your cat with their favorite treat or toy to get their mind off the collar. You should never yell at or punish your cat for removing the collar.

You should also closely monitor your sassy furball to ensure the collar fits appropriately, Dr. Washington said. If your cat is gaining weight, the collar may become ill-fitting and embedded in their skin, and if your cat is losing weight, the collar may become too loose-fitting and get caught on something.

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