16 facts about cat restraining collars

Here are 16 facts about cat restraining collars which may be useful to cat caregivers. They are an essential item of post-operative cat care on many occasions but also guaranteed to cause distress and irritation for the cat. It seems that the caregiver needs to provide a substantial amount of input and be self-disciplined enough to leave the device on for the required time.

Soft Elizabethan collar
Soft Elizabethan collar. Image: Amazon.co.uk.
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  1. The classic cat restraining collar is the Elizabethan collar named after the high neck ruff which was popular during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England. The softer version as seen in the photo above will be easier to use but possibly less effective. It will depend on the determination of the cat to circumvent its protective qualities.
  2. This is sometimes called the “cone of shame”. I don’t know where the shame comes from 😢. There are a number of alternatives such as the BiteNot collar and the ProCollar Protective Inflatable collar. The former is a high-neck collar which prevents a cat from turning his head to bite. The inflatable collar acts like the cone but it softer and perhaps more manageable (see video). A good fit is important for the BiteNot, and the collar should be just as long as the cat’s neck.
  3. A further alternative will appear to be a home-made variety which is a wide collar made of flexible cardboard taped around the neck. The collar should be 2 or 3 inches wide. It should be comfortable but prevent the cat from bending his head and neck all the way down. It should be padded around the neck to prevent sores and irritation.
  4. A further alternative would be a cat recovery suit which protects the wound of female cats after the spaying operation for instance. These appear to be more popular than cones. The most popular item among recovery collars and cones on Amazon UK is a pink pyjama suit which may interest people (see photo below). It would seem to be highly suitable for female cats that have been spayed. But is it as protective as a collar? Beware of that.
  5. Cats can’t drink, or they won’t drink water or eat food from a bowl wearing any type of restraining collar. Clearly, the problem is a combination of physical access to the food plus the cat’s mentality. The solution is to either hand feed by raising the bowl up to the cat or temporarily removing the device and then replacing it or employ a raised platform containing the water and food in respect of the Elizabethan collar to allow the cat access to the food and water.
  6. After a neutering operation, male cats do not automatically need to wear an Elizabethan collar. They only tend to need one if they are licking their wounds a lot. The veterinarian will assess this I presume after the operation and supply the collar if it is needed. My cat did not wear a protective collar after his neutering operation. Female cats will need to wear one as the spraying operation is much more severe.
  7. If a male cat does need to wear a cone it should be worn for between 5-7 days after neutering to stop them licking the wound.
  8. Elizabethan collars and other devices like them can make cats miserable. A study investigated their impact on the lives of cats and dogs. 434 companion animals participated. Quality-of-life score decreased significantly because of the irritation of wearing the device and the inability to drink, eat or play. Many owners are reluctant to keep the device on. The study was conducted by researchers at the Sydney School of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney. The lead author was Yustina Shenoda. It is published in the journal Animals.
  9. The problems included: difficulty in drinking (60.2% of animals), inability to play (57.5%), injuries and itching and irritation due to wearing the collar including psychological distress (25%).
  10. Some cats can have difficulty toileting and of course grooming. They will have difficulty going through a cat or dog door, or generally navigating indoors without bashing into objects and doorways (10% of the participating cats and dogs).
  11. The study found that “Elizabethan collars have the potential to cause distress in animals, which in turn caused distress to owners. Some animals found ingenious ways to remove the collar themselves, for example running under furniture at speed, but damaged or poorly fitted Elizabethan collars could increase the risk of injury to animals.”
  12. One quote from a cat owner is as follows: “Made the cat thoroughly miserable but he had licked himself a huge ulcer and the collar was the only way to get it healed. The collar interfered with virtually all aspects of his life; he hated it but fortunately was too stupid to figure-out how to get it off.”
  13. The alternatives mentioned above at 2 are probably better because they are narrower and are less likely to interfere with general movement in walking around the home.
  14. Some cat and dog owners might consider purchasing anti-itching medication, painkillers and/or topical anaesthetics or sedatives to make wearing of these devices more acceptable for their cat or dog.
  15. Veterinarians should provide advice and tips to assist cat and dog owners in managing their companion animal while they wear these devices. They might provide a brochure which they can take home.
  16. It is probable that a number of pet owners remove the collar too soon having observed the distress that it causes. This is probably a mistake as the downside may well be greater than leaving it on.
Pink pyjamas to protect the female cat post-spaying operation
Pink pyjamas to protect the female cat post-spaying operation. Image: Amazon. This is a popular item, more so than the alternatives.

Cat with Elizabethan collar tries to revive owner with torn jeans

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