Collars are just as important for cats as they are for dogs and other pets. Even if your cat lives completely indoors, a collar can help others identify them and bring them home if they ever escape or get lost. Collars also have many safety benefits like night visibility.
While new microchip technology can help with finding lost pets, opening cat flaps and doors, and other solutions, cat collars can add extra protection and security for your cat.
What Kind of Collar Is Right for Your Cat?
If you’ve decided to get a cat collar, make an educated choice by learning about the different types on the market.
Breakaway collars. A breakaway collar has a closure buckle that unfastens when something pulls against it. This type of collar helps prevent injury or choking if your cat gets the collar stuck on a branch or other object, or gets their arms or legs stuck underneath the collar. Any amount of force will release it.
Flea collars. These contain chemicals that kill fleas (tiny bugs that feed on blood) in your cat’s fur. Many cat owners choose flea collars because they’re simple and cause less hassle than creams or other treatments, and they usually cost less and last longer than other medications. They kill the most fleas closest to the head and neck, but can be less effective for other areas of the body. Flea collars can also cause skin irritation and can be dangerous if your cat manages to swallow a piece. If you use a flea collar on your cat, you will want to ensure it has a breakaway closure.
Traditional/buckle collars. This type of collar has a closure buckle that sometimes looks similar to breakaway collars, but does not release upon being pulled — the owner must unbuckle it. Traditional buckle collars are common for dogs and other pets you take on walks or supervise outside, but usually aren’t a good choice for cats. If your cat is wearing a buckle collar outside and gets it caught on an object, they could get stuck or injured while trying to escape.
Reflective collars. Many pet collars either have patches or are completely made of reflective fabric. This fabric reflects bright light, such as headlights from a car. If your cat is on a street at night, a collar with reflective material will help drivers notice them, preventing potential accidents.
Decorative collars. Many cat owners wish to add a personalized touch to their collars. Decorative or luxury collars can have detailed and festive patterns, woven designs, bow ties, rhinestones, gold and silver accents, and other features. You can find decorative collars made of materials from nylon to leather. Keep in mind that some decorative collars lack important features like breakaway closures, and some materials like rhinestones could end up injuring your cat.
Elastic or stretch collars. Some cat collars are made partially or entirely of elastic. Like a breakaway collar, this design is meant to help a cat slip out of the collar if needed, but they are less safe. Elastic collars can still get stuck on a cat’s arm, leg, or mouth if they try to take them off, which can lead to injury.
Bell collars. Collars with bells alert surrounding wildlife that a cat is nearby. Outdoor cat owners may opt for these, since they help prevent the cat from hunting and killing wildlife that could be infected with harmful diseases, or are at risk of extinction.
GPS collars. Many pet collars include GPS (Global Positioning System) technology, similar to navigation software like map applications on your phone. You’ll likely receive additional equipment, like an application or website, that communicates with the collar’s GPS tracker to show its location. The GPS may not work if the cat is in a remote location or area with a different cellular network, like a foreign country.
Tips for Choosing Cat Collars
Make sure it’s a good fit. You should be able to fit no more than three fingers under the collar. Any looser than that and your cat has a higher risk of getting a leg stuck underneath, or having it slip over their head. If you get a collar while the cat is not yet fully grown, check and adjust the fit weekly. Check it regularly once the cat reaches adulthood, as weight gain or loss may also require an adjustment.
Safety over cost. Poorly-made collars can irritate your cat’s skin if they’re made from cheap materials or have threads poking out. Pay for collars that are high-quality and comfortable. Breakaway collars may need occasional replacements since they can more easily fall off and get lost, but the cost of a new collar is worth your cat’s safety.
Include identification information. Having your name and phone number on the collar makes it easier for someone to contact you if they find your cat where they’re not supposed to be.