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Cat Collar Controversy

When making a decision about collars, there are some things to remember.

Should cats wear collars? A debate has been raging for years within the cat owner population and those with an opinion are usually adamant in their beliefs. When making a decision about collars, there are some things to remember.

There are Several Types of Cat Collars on the Market

  • Buckle collars: These are "traditional" type collars and, as the name implies, they buckle
  • Stretch collars: These are elasticized and slip over the head. They are hard to get a correct fit and difficult to secure anything to
  • Breakaway collars: Also known as Snap open or Quick Release, these are designed to release under pressure

A Breakaway Cat Collar is the Only Acceptable Choice to Ensure Your Cat's Safety

No matter what mischief a kitty may find, a breakaway collar will release and not cause any bigger issues, such as getting hung up on a fence or branch. If a cat is outside, adding a reflective element to the collar will add a safety measure once the sun goes down.

Cat Collars Allow for ID Tags

This is especially important for kitties that are indoor/outdoor or spend all of their time outside. If there is ever any question about the identity of the cat is, or if a cat is lost, wearing a collar with an ID tag will put all doubts to rest. An ID tag with the human's correct contact info on it will quickly establish that a "found" cat really does belong to someone. Even cats that have been microchipped need a place to display the tag that comes with the chip so that, hopefully, someone will use that universal reader that is lying around most veterinary clinics, humane societies, and animal shelters. (As a side note: some states require outdoor cats to wear rabies tags.)

Should Indoor-Only Cats Wear Collars?

Even for an indoor cat, a collar is still a great idea just in case that wily feline decides the outside looks better than the inside. However, make sure that an ID tag with the proper contact information for the human is present.

There Are Several Options Available for Providing Cats with an ID. These include:

  • ID tags: ID tags can be purchased at most pet supply stores, many veterinary hospitals, and on-line. These tags can be plastic or metal and any color of the rainbow. They can be covered in as much bling as one desires or they can be the "plain Jane" variety. Whatever your personal tastes (your cat will really not care one way or the other), the tag should have a good phone number or two and the cat's name. Putting the human's name and address may not be the best idea these days because of security reasons. Of course, the big downfall of an ID tag is that if kitty is making mischief and that breakaway collar does its job, then the ID tag is gone as well.
  • Microchips: These are widely available and several companies offer their version. There is now a universal scanner that has the capability to read the information on the chips regardless of the manufacturer. The chip is injected near the shoulder blades. Sometimes a local anesthetic is used if the chip is placed at a veterinary hospital or some people elect to have it inserted when an elective surgery is going to be done. The chip has to be registered at the manufacturer's data bank and the cat's name and owner contact information is stored there. The downfall? Sometimes the microchip will travel from the original injection site. This is not harmful or painful to our furry friends but it can make it difficult to locate the chip. However, most people who have access to the readers know to scan the entire body.
  • GPS Collars: These can be helpful in locating missing or lost kitties. They work like GPS systems in cars. Longitude and latitude information is sent to a base station over cell phone networks and then uploaded to a website. Some of these work with batteries, so if the batteries die while a cat is MIA then the GPS will be of no use. Also, most models are not waterproof although this should not be a big issue with domesticated felines. The biggest downfall? The weight. The collars with all the necessary parts can weigh two to three pounds, which is not recommended for average-sized cats to carry.
  • Radio Collars: Like GPS Collars, these will only help locate a missing or lost cat. They are the older cousin to the GPS Collar. Radio collars operate with a transponder and free radio frequencies and, while they cannot pinpoint an exact location, they can give pretty precise information about the distance and direction our impish friend is headed. The downfall? Again, the size and weight of these can make any cat very unhappy.

Bells on Cat Collars?

There is much contention surrounding this issue.

Because of their diminutive size, kittens are capable of finding hiding and sleeping in places we would never anticipate. A bell attached to that new breakaway collar can really help keep tabs on the kitten's location until it's bigger than an iPad.

Does a bell warn wildlife, especially birds, that a cat is on the prowl? Believe it or not, much research has been done on this subject and several interesting facts have emerged:

  • We already know cats that are extremely intelligent and cunning. We also know that they are born predators. Research has discovered that bells placed on those breakaway collars did not interfere at all with hunting success. Cats adorned with bells learn how to move more stealthily and covertly.
  • Research has also found that the bells most commonly placed on kitty collars are not really loud enough to warn wildlife away. Several would need to be used at one time to be effective.
  • On the flip side, wearing a bell may alert bigger predators, such as coyotes, to the fact that kitties are nearby and then our predators may become prey.

There really is no clear-cut resolution to the cat collar controversy. Making an informed, intelligent decision based on your cat's situation is the best thing that you can do for your cat.

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Microchipping Your Cat

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