This is a complicated subject because there are, indeed, pros and cons. Perhaps it comes down to personal choice at the end of the day and the specific purpose. However, a study by the Ohio State University in 2010 strongly concluded that cat collars are useful. An advocate of cat collars, Linda Lord DVM PhD, Assistant Professor of veterinary preventative medicine at the university believes that the cat collar with an ID tag is a great way to reunite a lost cat with their owner. This is the strongest reason why cat collars are useful.
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Microchipping trumps collars and tags
However, I’d argue that in 2010 the situation regarding micro-chipping domestic cats was different to today. Microchipping is more commonplace and nowadays you can buy personal microchip scanners from Amazon, online, and check the particulars of a loss cat yourself. Although I admit that not everybody will bother to purchase a private microchip scanner and therefore we have to rely on some other form of identification. Also microchip details can be out of date and sometimes they cause harm themelves.
But, how many people have to take action to reunite a lost cat with their owner or are willing to get involved? How many lost cats are returned home because they wore a cat collar? It an important point because the main reason for the existence of collars is to reunite cat owner and if this rarely happens in practice it undermines the need for them.
Injuries too common?
The disadvantages of a cat collar are well known. In the UK, Sarah Elliott, a Cats Protection central veterinary officer stated that she had seen too many injuries caused by collars. She said that a cat’s leg might get caught in an elasticated or ill fitting collar which can cause serious injury.
She was referring to her personal experiences and in particular a cat whose name is Louise (18 months of age), who was found in Wisbech, UK with her front leg trapped under her colllar. This caused a deep wound which became infected. It was touch and go as to whether she would lose her leg. She required urgent veterinary attention. Although she’d be left with her trapped leg for a long time.
“We have seen too many injuries caused by collars, where cats have got caught while playing, hunting or trying to escape from danger. A cat’s leg or jaw may become caught in an elasticated or ill-fitting collar and this can result in serious injury.” – Sarah Elliott
Cats Protection state that the preferred method of identifying a cat is an implanted microchip as it is permanent and safe. If a collar is to be fitted it should be a quick release or snap-open, not an elasticated one. In essence, however, this large cat rescue organisation appears to be rejecting the need for an identification collar nowadays because the downside, in their eyes, outweighs the upside.
And this is certainly a balancing act between the functionality of a cat wearing a collar allowing them to be identified and rehomed set against the inherent dangers in wearing a collar. Also, some cats might find it difficult to adapt to wearing a collar.
Once used cat owners like them
However, in the study referred to it was found that 90% of the owners in the research project planned to keep collars on their cat after the completion of the study. This strongly indicates that people who have been instructed about the use of cat collars and successfully used them, find them useful.
Although some cat owners may have discovered that their cat dislikes wearing a collar and have given up on the idea. Also, perhaps they may have tried but found that it fell off or was lost resulting in being demotived to use one.
Product quality, poor fitting?
Quick release collars don’t always work it seems to me. The Cat Protection veterinarian is against collars. If there is a possibility of harm then it would seem sensible to remove that possibility if the benefits are doubtful. There issues too with ill-fitting collars causing injury as the cat grows up and it becomes too tight.
Some people even recommend collars for indoor cats. I can’t understand it but perhaps it is a precaution if the cat escapes the home and becomes lost. And others say that when a cat is inside the home the collar should not be taken off, perhaps for the same reason. However, there will be a danger of injury albeit slight even inside the home.
Dressing the cat
It is clear that a lot of cat owners simply like to decorate their cat with a fancy collar. For them the utilitarian aspect of the product is secondary. Under these circumstances the collar can’t be justified.
GPS and radio collars
There are GPS collars which are very useful for tracking your outside cat movements. And there are radio collars which use radio waves to locate your cat. I have one of these. I recommend them as a way of understanding where your indoor/outdoor cat goes to. You can use them temporarily for these sole purposes.
There are also birdsafe cat collars to protect birds from cat predation; also highly recommended if you are very concerned about this aspect of feline behavior.
What is the conclusion? For GPS, radio and birdsafe collars they are recommended. For the standard collar and tag, I think it is a 50:50 call and down to each person’s personal preferences. My cat has a collar but I stopped using it because it was clear that he strongly diliked it.
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