Ask ms. kitty: should i collar my cat?

By Melissa Shandley

Dear Ms. Kitty: I see posters for missing cats and worry about losing mine. My Lucy is an indoor cat, but she gets curious about the outdoors, and I worry she’ll slip out the door. Would it be smart to put a collar and tags on her? Signed, Concerned in Cragmor

Dear Concerned: A collar and tag on Lucy might help identify her if someone sees her outside. While most cats hide from strangers, if Lucy is found and taken into a house or to a local shelter, a tag with contact information would help. 

In addition to identification, here are more ways cat collars come in handy:

  • Attached RFID tags can open a cat flap or a feeding dish
  • Attached bells or brightly colored tubes announce the cat to other animals, birds and wildlife
  • Attached current rabies tags assure finders that records are up to date
  • They can carry and dispense calming pheromones or natural pest control

If you’re concerned about Lucy getting out, you may want to train her not to door dart. You can teach her to wait on a designated spot, away from the door, with clicker training. Or, reward her for staying out of the doorway by placing a container of treats or toys near the door and tossing them across the room to distract her when you’re coming and going.

Harness training is a safe way to satisfy Lucy’s curiosity about the outdoors. When taught properly, the harness-trained cat will wait to be invited or carried across the threshold and not dash outside.

If you decide to place a collar on Lucy, you want one that will be comfortable and designed to release if she gets it caught on something to avoid choking. Some collars are stretchy, while others have closure devices that will release with moderate pressure. The collar should fit snugly but also allow you to place two fingers underneath for comfort. 

If she initially reacts by acting fearful of, or biting the collar, use a lightweight training collar. These are made with very thin but strong climbing rope with breakaway clasps. Once she adjusts, you can graduate to a wider collar.

It’s important to supervise her after fitting with a collar to reassure her and observe any problems. Check the fit of the collar frequently, especially for growing kittens.

If you decide to add tags, make sure they’re small and do not hinder her. I like tags made from lightweight plastic or rubber so they won’t clank against her bowl.

Collars can fall off, so be sure that Lucy is microchipped and your contact information is current with the microchip company. Many lost cats are reunited with their humans when their implanted microchip is scanned by a local veterinarian or shelter.

Please make sure to microchip Lucy first. Then you can decide if a collar is right for her and you.

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