I have been an ailurophile for as long as I can remember and I believe that a breakaway collar with identification tags helps protect pet cats, including indoor-only cats.
• Cats can slip out of the house, especially during the busy holiday season! Also, if there’s a house fire or medical emergency or natural disaster, cats can easily slip away unnoticed. Cats can also escape from a car during transport, especially in an accident.
• Cats who spend any time outdoors, even supervised, can go missing if they’re frightened, chased by other animals, or become trapped in a garage, shed or other place.
• Cats, without a collar and ID may be assumed to be lost and then taken away, either to an animal shelter, or home, by a well-meaning good Samaritan.
Providing pet cats with a collar and some form of ID seems like a simple thing, but there are numerous reasons why people don’t provide collars for their cats. Their cat lives indoors, won’t tolerate a collar, can be harmed by a collar, always loses a collar, has a microchip, etc. just to name a few.
Microchips: People without pets may not know about microchips, a permanent form of ID implanted under the skin. Those people may not realize that a cat can be scanned for a microchip by an animal shelter, veterinary clinic, some fire stations, or other facilities that respond to human emergencies to check for an owner. Microchips can be less effective because they need to be registered and kept up to date with pet parent information. They may also require a registration fee, which may be a financial burden to some people. So, although a microchip may be helpful, and I fully recommend one for all pets, a properly fitted breakaway collar with ID is, in my opinion, the best way to clearly indicate that a cat is a pet with an owner. In addition, a collar that’s reflective may provide extra protection at night.
Research has shown that pet parents and cats can be trained to accept collars. Accustom your cat to a collar by putting it on briefly while distracting him with toys, food or treats. Gradually, over a few days, increase the time the collar is on, while always providing positive distractions. During these training sessions, remove the collar only when the cat isn’t fussing over it, or he’ll learn that fussing makes the strange thing on his neck go away.
Observe the cat when first putting on any collar to be sure it isn’t too loose. One that’s too loose may allow the cat to get out of it or get a leg or jaw caught in it.
The collar shouldn’t be too tight, either. Two fingers should fit between the collar and the cat’s neck, and collars should be checked from regularly to be sure they still fit properly, especially on growing kittens.
An engraved ID tag can be attached to the collar. I recommend putting your home and cell phone numbers on one side of the tag and the microchip registry’s phone number and your cat’s microchip number on the opposite side. Make it easy for people to help your cat.
If your cat gets loose or goes missing, it’s important to start searching immediately. Your cat may be trapped somewhere, injured, or worse. If you’re like me, you have lots of photos of your cat, but always try to have a recent, clear, recognizable photo so you can create a lost-cat flyer to provide to local animal shelters, veterinary clinics, neighbors, and to post around your neighborhood. Don’t forget the importance of both word of mouth and social media in your effort to recover your lost cat. If you’re traveling with your pet, it’s a good idea to create a lost-cat flyer ahead of time to take on your trip in the unfortunate event that you need one.
I hope you’re convinced that, along with a microchip, a breakaway collar with ID tags is an important tool in providing your cat the gift of safety.
~ Nancy Peterson , RVT
Nancy Peterson was a registered veterinary technician and the Community Cats Program Manager for The Humane Society of the United States, the nation’s largest animal protection organization. In retirement, she enjoys serving on the boards of the National Kitten Coalition, Neighborhood Cats, and Mama Paka. She loves fostering kittens for her local animal shelter and writing about all aspects of caring for cats.