According to Dr. Linda Lord, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at The Ohio State University, who led a study on the issue of cats and collars:
"The return-to-owner rate is abysmal for cats. Fewer than 2 percent of lost cats are returned to their owners. If we could get cat owners to try using a collar with identification, it would be a big deal."
And per DVM Newsmagazine:
In one community, 40 percent of lost cats were indoor-only cats. Also free-roaming cats without collars are likely to be fed by strangers, thereby reducing the likelihood that they will return home, or ignored as strays, the university reports.
If you’re owned by a cat and just assume Fluffy will have nothing to do with wearing a collar, I think you might find some of the results from Dr. Lord’s study interesting:
- Almost 75 percent of the cats in the study wore their collars for the entire six-month study.
- Of the cats that didn’t wear collars for the full six months, the top two reasons given by owners were that the cats lost the collars or they scratched excessively at them.
- Over half the cat owners said their kitties tolerated the collars better than expected.
- A full 90 percent of cat owners said they planned to keep the collars on their cats after the study was completed.
Indoor Cats DO Get Outdoors
Even if your kitty lives entirely indoors, there’s always a chance he might wind up outside somehow.
All cats are curious, and since your indoor feline has explored every inch of your home, a door to the outside standing open will peak his interest right away.
Most indoor kitties, if they get outside, will bolt at the first unfamiliar sound.
Too often, they run away from the open door or window instead of back through it. Or the door has been inadvertently closed behind them, and they can’t get back in.
I have personally experienced the anguish of losing a cat this way.
My first cat, Jerry, was a rescue. His curiosity about going outside escalated the entire second year he was in my home.
One night I came in my front door with both arms full of groceries. Before the screen door automatically closed behind me, Jerry ran out. I was so panicked I dropped the groceries on the counter, and ran out after him. He became so frightened he darted through the neighbor’s yard, and disappeared into the night.
A group of us spent the whole night searching for him, posted REWARD IF FOUND signs all over town the next day and visited every area animal control weekly for three months. I never saw Jerry again.
Another common way cats wind up outdoors is when the first hint of spring arrives, homeowners fling open their windows and kitties jump up on the sill to investigate the outside world.
Window screens take a beating all year long, especially during winter weather. Many kitties have been known to escape or fall through a hole in a screen or a screen that has come loose from the window frame.
I’ve also seen situations where a housecat, often male, will actually push out a screen in the middle of a warm summer night to mix it up with the neighborhood tomcat.
Any sort of travel with your cat, including vet visits, is another opportunity for him to slip away from you.
It’s not smart to assume your cat won’t ever get outside your house. Even very old and very timid kitties have found their way outdoors and disappeared, never to be seen again by their devastated families.
Collaring Your Kitty
No matter what type of collar you choose for your cat, a proper fit is crucial. You should be able to fit two fingers between your kitty’s neck and the collar.
You should keep a careful watch on your cat the first few days she wears her new collar.
I recommend you pick a weekend or other two to three day stretch you can pretty much dedicate to your cat collar project.
Make sure her ID tag or information is on the collar. You may decide to introduce the collar first, and after your cat gets accustomed to the “jewelry” then add the tags. But don’t forget to add the tag. If you don’t like the sound of tags there are many online retailers that will custom sew your pet’s information right onto the collar itself.
The most important purpose for putting a collar on your kitty is to ensure she can be identified and returned to you if she’s lost.
Put the collar on her on Friday night and keep a close eye on her over the weekend.
You can expect her to be a bit freaked out and annoyed initially -- that’s normal.
What you need to be concerned about is excessive scratching at the collar that doesn’t subside after awhile, or keeps recurring.
Other things to watch for are your kitty getting a paw hung up between the collar and her neck, catching the collar on an object (including her mouth), or the collar falling off repeatedly.
Until you’re comfortable she’s adjusting well, you can remove the collar at bedtime if you choose so you don’t have to worry something will happen while you’re asleep.
Put the collar back on as soon as you get up and continue to observe her. If you need to leave the house for any reason, again, you can remove the collar before you leave and put it back her on when you return.
Continue this on-and-off business until both you and your kitty are comfortable with her new collar.
What Type of Collar Should I Buy?
That’s really up to you and your kitty.
Types of cat collars include:
- Buckle collars, typically made of nylon, leather or fabric
- Reflective collars that can be seen in darkness
- Elastic collars that slip on and off
- Breakaway safety collars designed to allow kitty to get out of the collar if it gets caught or hung up on anything
If you’re not sure what type of collar is right for your pet or want to try a few different ones, shop at retailers with a liberal return policy!
Whatever collar you decide on, don’t forget the all important ID information that will help bring your favorite feline back home if he is ever separated from you.