Why Put a Collar on a Cat? (Spring 2005)

In the last two newsletters we related how two separate cats had been reunited with their owners because they had been microchipped. This time we are highlighting the danger of using collars.

Earlier this year we were asked to help with a stray, longhaired cat in Reading. A couple had been feeding the cat for several weeks and had eventually traced the owners who no longer wanted the cat and were happy to have it taken away. The cat, however, was too frightened to be picked up. As the cat was very hungry we set a trap and quickly caught it. Sue, one of our fosterers, takes up the story.

I was out on the evening of 27 January when a T.V.A.W. colleague delivered a cat to my cat house which had been caught in a trap. It had been reported to T.V.A.W as it was looking scruffy and hungry but was too nervous to approach. On closer examination the next morning I could see lots of mats in its coat and found a collar under the long fur. The cat had put its left front leg right through the collar and an unpleasant smell and discharge came from the cat's "armpit". I took the cat straight to the vet where the collar was removed, the hair clipped back and the wound cleaned. It was evident the cat, a female I called Bessie, had been caught up in the collar for quite a long time and the resulting wound was extensive. She came home on antibiotics and the wound has to be attended to twice a day. The vet tells me it may be 4 months before it is completely healed and she can go outside.

Bessie is a beautiful, young, affectionate cat and I am confident all will be well. But why put a collar on a cat? In Bessie's case it bore no identity tag, was not reflective nor was it a flea collar so it served no useful purpose. It only caused her considerable suffering.

Last year we had a very similar case. The cat eventually required an operation to repair the damage because the wound would not heal. The operation is difficult and not always successful but happily for this cat it did work and the cat has now been rehomed. We hear of several such cases a year.

You may want your cat to wear a collar for identification purposes, rather than just microchipping; to make sure others in the area know your cat is owned or to attach a magnetic or electronic key to operate the cat flap. However, wearing a collar just for ornamentation or even for flea control when there are other, more effective methods available should be considered very carefully. There are potential dangers and few merits. If you decide to put a collar on your cat do make sure that it is a safety collar which will snap open if the cat does get caught in something or manages to get a leg though it. The collars with a small elastic insert should be avoided because they only allow the collar to stretch a small amount - enough for the cat to get a leg through but not to get it out again.