The hidden dangers of cat collars

Should cats wear collars?

From getting stuck in trees or fences to choking and strangulation – cats can end up in serious problems due to wearing a collar

It’s very important that cats wear the right type of collar as not doing so can lead to severe injuries and can even be fatal.  Cat owners should only use quick-release collars as other collars can be lethal.

The PDSA recommends leaving cats collarless for complete safety.  What alternatives are available to avoid risking your cat?

Should Cats Wear Collars?

Should Cats Wear Collars?

Various Cats Protection associations have first hand experience and warn of the dangers and have a clear answer to the question Should Cats Wear Collars?

In their January 2021 report, the RSPCA warns:  “Last year, we saw more than 60 reports of cats who had been injured by their collars coming through to our helpline. All too often we get called to cats that have become injured due to a collar as there are too many dangerous collars on sale. We would strongly advise against purchasing a collar with buckles that don’t snap open, or collars made from elastic. Cat owners should only use quick release collars on their pets as other collars can be lethal.”

The PDSA agrees: “We recommend leaving your cat collarless – it’s usually safer and much more comfortable for them. It’s natural to want to protect your cat and make sure they can find their way back to you if they get lost. That’s why a lot of cat owners choose to buy a collar for their pet. Sadly, collars can be more of a hindrance than a help. Our feline friends are usually very adventurous and a collar can get caught on something while they’re out exploring or scrapping with neighbours.”

Cats Protection does not advocate collars for cats, stating: “We have seen too many injuries caused by collars, where cats have got themselves caught up while playing, hunting or even trying to escape from danger.”

A study by the American Veterinary Medical Association followed 538 cats for six months, and 18 (3.3%) cats caught a forelimb in their collar or caught their collar on an object or in their mouth.

Should Cats Wear Collars and have the Risk of becoming trapped or stuck

Although it may seem like a harmless way to contain your pet and keep them safe, putting a collar on your cat is linked to injuries and even fatalities. Cats are natural hunters and curious explorers and enjoy pushing through tight spots.  Typically, climbing or squeezing their way through hedges and undergrowth, when they could easily catch their collar on a branch or get hooked on fencing, and become trapped.  These situations can be deadly, causing your cat to choke, strangle, accidentally hang itself, or get mauled by a larger animal.

The main argument against cats wearing collars is the risk of strangulation if the collar becomes caught on something and doesn’t break or slip off.  Even if they manage to get free, it’s very easy for them to hurt themselves if they panic, or as they struggle to get loose.

Limbs trapped under the collar

They could get stuck on the collar itself.  Elasticated collars or collars with buckles which don’t release without human help, can leave cats struggling to free themselves when their legs or jaw trap under the collar – often causing horrific and fatal injuries.  Innumerable cats have had their legs amputated, after becoming stuck under their collar for days on end.  Collars can slip behind the shoulders, causing serious organ damage as they cut the cat in half and causing fatal injury.

Stretch collars with elastic inserts are not safe and can also cause serious injury.  Like a traditional collar, a stretch collar can cause the same dangerous and deadly entanglements.

Should Cats Wear Collars for Nighttime safety

Some owners feel that they must put a collar on their cat, for example with reflective material for protection at night.  Breakaway collars also known as quick release collars have 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 fence, or gets a limb caught.  Any amount of force will release it.

International Cat Care advises: “Ensure you pick a collar with a ‘snap open’ mechanism – a plastic buckle which comes apart and releases the cat if it becomes trapped. Owners of adventurous cats may lose a few collars but will keep their cats.”

Fitting the collar is important.  A loose collar is more likely to get caught on objects, and if cats catch their foot or lower jaw beneath the collar, it can give rise to dangerous situations. 

Check the fit by slipping two fingers between the collar and your cat’s neck to make sure it is not too tight.  As your cat grows , you will want to check the fit regularly to make sure it is not too tight around their neck.  You may find that your cat tenses the neck muscles during fitting, so make sure to check the fit shortly afterwards, and adjust if necessary.

Before fitting, check that the quick release is working and does easily come apart.  The quick release mechanism should be checked regularly as it may block with grease and grime and no longer open easily.

It should be emphasized that no collar is completely safe, even breakaway collars may fail to work, and cat protection agencies agree that cats are safer without collars.

Bells and discs hanging from collars can get caught on objects, and cats can get claws caught in them resulting in serious injuries.  Cats have even choked after ingesting bells and discs.

Should Cats Wear Collars and Skin irritation

Collars can rub and be uncomfortable for cats. Wearing a collar all the time, especially if it’s not fitted properly, could rub against your cat’s skin, causing soreness and fur loss around their neck.

What can I use instead of a collar?  Various alternatives are available which keep your cat safe.

Finding your cat if it strays

Collars have traditionally been used to attach ID tags or even GPS tracking devices.  You want to make sure your cat is safe and can find their way back to you if they get lost, without endangering them with a collar.

Even house cats can become lost, and most vets recommend microchips for identification.  Once your cat’s microchip has been fitted by your vet, all you need to do is keep your contact details updated with the microchip database company.  Any change of telephone number or address should be notified to them.

Microchips are a permanent way of making sure anyone who finds your cat can bring them safely home.  Many countries have now made it obligatory to microchip cats.

Cat Flaps

There are now cat flaps activated by your cat’s microchip, allowing entry only for your cat and  preventing neighbours’ cats finding their way in. 

Flea collars

Many flea collars are not particularly effective, and their medicinal benefits can be short-lived.  Flea and tick collars may also pose health risks associated with certain chemical treatments, such as permethrin or organophosphates.  Although the concentration is low these chemicals are potentially harmful and too harsh for cats with sensitive skin.  Problems include redness, irritation and fur loss.

Spot on treatments and tablets providing comprehensive protection can be purchased from vets.

Wildlife safety

Many owners place bells on cats’ collars with a view to protecting wildlife.  However, Cats Protection advises:” While you might want to attach a dangling item, like a bell or ID tag, this isn’t advised. Cats are at risk of trapping small items in fences or small areas, often resulting in injury.”

Many safer alternative methods to protect wildlife include :

Position bird feeders and birdhouses in open areas away from trees or bushes, allowing birds to spot your cat approaching.

Install bird feeders or birdhouses on metal poles, as cats are unable to climb these structures, reducing the risk to birds.

During periods of increased wildlife activity, such as an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset, it is advisable to keep your cats indoors to protect birds and other wildlife.

Conclusion Should Cats Wear Collars

The answer to the question Should Cats Wear Collars is a decision that is ultimately made by you, the cat owner. However, it is important to remember that cats are safer without collars, and even breakaway collars may fail to work or cause injury. Furthermore, flea collars may have health risks associated with certain chemical treatments, such as permethrin or organophosphates.

There are safer alternatives available, such as microchips and spot-on treatments that can be purchased from vets. Positioning bird feeders and birdhouses in open areas away from trees or bushes, or installing them on metal poles can also help protect wildlife. Ultimately, it is important to evaluate the risk a collar may pose to your cat before deciding if they should wear one.

Scroll to Top