Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Choosing a collar for your outdoor cat: How to balance safety with security

Beorn the outdoor cat in a reflective collar
Beorn's collar is reflective, which is why it seems to glow here.
Over the weekend, my outdoor cats Beorn and Jasper were fitted with collars. I knew it was something I had to do. But I'll admit that I was a little worried about the whole thing.

You see, these cats are old and set in their ways. And they've never worn collars before.

I was afraid they'd spend all day shredding the collars until they got them off. Or, I thought they'd just run away from me and my domestication preferences. Either scenario is bad.

But as it turns out, both cats adapted to these collars beautifully. That might be due, in part, to the thought I put into collar selection.

The collars I chose are specifically designed for cats. Where dog collars are designed to hold up to pulling and tugging, so you can clip the collar to the leash without worry, cat collars are designed to spring open and fall off at a big tug. Cats like to cram themselves into tight spaces and climb things. Collars that don't fall away when cats are doing these things could strangle a cat. And cats that are unaccustomed to collars might panic when they realize the collars don't come off. Breakaway collars are a better choice. Once these cats broke out of them once, they were much more relaxed about wearing them.

These collars also have very big, very loud bells on them. Beorn and Jasper have killed at least one bird in the past year, and that's one bird too many for me to deal with. Bells give the birds a fighting chance to get away before the cats pounce. But loud bells can be hard on a cat's sensitive ears. I chose collars with a bell I could hear from about 10 feet away, and I rejected collars I could hear at 12 feet. It's arbitrary, I know, but it helped.

I also hung their Multnomah County License tags on the collars, so these cats can be reunited with me if they disappear. But I wrapped the edges of those tags with tape, so they wouldn't cause yet more scary noise.

And as a final bonus, these collars have a reflective strip on them. While Beorn and Jasper usually stay in their little cat dorm at night, I'd like for them to be visible to passing cars if they decide to head out to the sidewalk for a midnight stroll. The cats don't mind it, because they can't see it. But the cars sure can.

Collars like this are easy to find, and they make a world of difference to a cat. This is a signal that the kitty is owned and loved, and that could keep it from getting trapped and removed. If your cats will let you, do try to collar them.