About ready to write on my cat with permanent marker . . .
June 1, 2009 12:43 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend a good cat collar that can break if necessary but is difficult to lose?

Two of my cats wear their collars quite happily and seldom lose or break them. I'm at my wits' end with my other one. And, of course, she's the one that needs it most--she roams the farthest and is the most likely to be affable with people.

If I were tremendously worried about her getting lost, I would microchip her, but we live in a fairly safe suburban area and I know she knows her way around. I'm more interested in putting an immediately visible sign on her so people don't think she's a stray and start feeding her. She has plenty to eat at home--she's just thin because she's very active, and since she's a charmer I suspect she can get handouts very easily.

I already know she can't wear the kind of safety collar that breaks away at the buckle itself (i.e., plastic buckle with little "pinchers" that fit inside) because she'll lose it in an hour. For a while, she was wearing the kind that's made in two pieces with a stretchy elastic in the middle and a buckle like a belt, but she's apparently figured out how to get rid of those too; she lost two within two days. Is there anything else?

It doesn't help that she has a teeny-tiny neck and it's hard to buckle a collar securely on her without much wiggle room. My husband says I'm paranoid about buckling collars too tight as it is, so if anyone can give me a safety standard for fitting cat collars, such as "you should be able to slip a finger under safely," that would be appreciated.
posted by dlugoczaj to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I successfully used these breakaway collars on my cats, but neither had the escape artist tendencies that yours seems to have. I mine at one of the big box pet stores... Petco, maybe?
posted by kimdog at 12:59 PM on June 1, 2009

Have you considered a harness? There isn't really a choking danger with a harness because of how the straps are situated under the "arm pits" if you will, and they are harder to get out of than collars. I have used one successfully on my escape artist kitty when I had to leash her.
posted by shownomercy at 1:38 PM on June 1, 2009

My old cat would lose any safe sort of collar right away unless I removed the bell first. She objected to wearing a bell. If I took the bell off first, she'd happily wear the same collar for months or even years.

Cats should be microchipped, though, whether or not they wear collars. It does not cost much, and even cats who like to wear collars lose them sometimes.
posted by Ery at 1:42 PM on June 1, 2009

N+1 the "microchip her anyway" brigade. It's not just if someone finds her -- what if she's hit by a car and taken to a vet? It's not like she can tell the vet your name and number.

As to collar fitting-guides, my mother is much more 'aggressive' with her collar settings than I am, but her strike rate is a lot better too! She cranks it until she can fit two fingers side-by-side under the collar (if the pads of the fingers are on the puss, not perpendicular). This has even managed to keep a collar on my own wee escape artist for a good few months now!
posted by coriolisdave at 2:09 PM on June 1, 2009

One idea I've seen. Buy a package of elastic at a sewing store. Cut a short piece and stitch it together – experimenting with tightness and length that works. Then take a marker and write your contact info on it.

Inexpensive – so no worries about losing one – just make another.
posted by malchick at 2:28 PM on June 1, 2009

We got this breakaway collar for our cat, and it really does break away easily, but not too easily. Our cat has no problem with it and has never tried to remove it - but we did remove the bell right away (why put yourself or your cat through that?). It's adjustable and can be made quite small - our cat was a 10-week old kitten when we put it on him. Bonus feature: you can personalize it. We put our [somewhat long] cat's name and phone number and it fit just fine.

Highly recommend it.
posted by widdershins at 2:35 PM on June 1, 2009

Go with both the microchip and also a tattoo in the ear (so it's obvious visually to anyone who looks that this cat has someone who takes care of them). I had a cat who lost so many collars I just gave up. Might as well have taken a handful of 5s and twisted them into a friendship bracelet around his neck for all the good it did vs the amount of money it cost..
posted by barc0001 at 3:21 PM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've never been able to keep a break away collar on either of my cats, bells or no bells. They last all of one day and then they are gone forever. In other words, I think you're SOL. Kitty needs a microchip.
posted by dchrssyr at 3:52 PM on June 1, 2009

2nding dchrssyr. The indoor/outdoor cat I had growing up lost every collar we put on him--safety or not. I honestly don't believe there's any collar you can keep around a cat's neck if they're sufficiently determined to get it off.
posted by gueneverey at 4:59 PM on June 1, 2009

> we did remove the bell right away (why put yourself or your cat through that?)

Just as an aside - there are two main reasons. 1) So you don't step on the cat in the house. We had to bell our kitten for this reason. She just really liked to hang around underfoot.

And 2) To offer some protection to the local wildlife. Outdoor cats are very, very destructive, even if they're well-fed at home. Cats have devastated Australian birds and vertebrates. We keep our cats strictly indoor for that reason, but if we ever did want to let them out, I'd strap all the bells I could to the little suckers. It's not perfect, but at least it gives the little birdies *some* warning.
posted by web-goddess at 6:58 PM on June 1, 2009

When my family got our cat, we found that he could easily slip out of collars. What we did was go the pet store and buy a harness that fits around the neck like a collar connects to a loop around the body just behind the cats front legs. It has break away clasps on both the neck loop and body loop and can be sized to fit. I think these are more commonly used for small dogs, but the local pet store also carried a few styles for cats. Our cat was annoyed at first, scratching at it, but he got used to it within a couple weeks.
posted by arcolz at 11:42 PM on June 1, 2009

Response by poster: This is helpful. I'd toyed with the harness idea but wasn't sure it was feasible for safety. I may try that, and I may try the first collar recommended (sorry, widdershins, but we've done SafeCat collars--they don't work on our girl). Collar-sans-bell is an interesting idea, although in a way I hate to do it, since she does hunt birds on occasion.

And, I'm giving second thoughts to microchipping (the tattoo-in-ear idea is great, I didn't know they did that). Honestly, I've wondered how likely it is that people who find a skinny, lovey kitty in their yard, feel sorry for it and start feeding it are then willing to take it to the vet to find the chip (hence, my desire for more immediately visible ID, if we could keep it on her!)--but the part about her getting hit by a car and taken to the vet resonates. We may need to do it.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:34 AM on June 2, 2009

Not sure whether it's because of regulations, but the only reason my cats have ear tats is because they are microchipped. It's part of the procedure, indicating that they actually are chipped. I'm in Melbourne (Australia) so YMMV.
However, the mere fact that a cat has an ear tattoo doesn't indicate to me that it's not lost or abandoned; then again, I wouldn't feed or take in random cats, particularly because I also live in a "in a fairly safe suburban area".
That said, I did -- not so long ago -- get on my knees in the middle of a footpath to peer at the phone number on the collar of this cat that I had encountered for a few days in a row on my way to work and back. He was very affectionate and would accompany me part of the way. After three or four days I really started to worry that he was lost, hence the phone call. Turns out this is his thing, he likes to roam and hang out with strangers. I now know his name so I can address him appropriately whenever we meet and walk down the street together.
So yes, n-thing the harness thing, preferably with a phone number attached to it somehow, and definitely the microchip, just to be safe.
posted by ponystyle at 3:55 AM on June 7, 2009

Not that it makes any difference, but I remembered incorrectly: they got tattoed to indicate that they're spayed. The microchipping happened at the same time.
posted by ponystyle at 6:04 PM on June 7, 2009

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