uncollar'd cats, straying free
November 11, 2006 8:19 PM   Subscribe

A question about a cat who always loses his collar.

I have an outdoor cat who loses his collar about once a month. He brushes against something, he scratches his neck, and off it goes. Usually I can't find it again.

At this rate, he goes through about ten collars a year. Mostly they are the 'cat-safe' kind that give way at the slightest pressure. But when I put on regular buckle collars, everyone chastises me, saying I'm effectively condemning him to death by hanging (which seems unlikely to me). Anyway, he gets those off no problem, too. Finally, I started smearing crazy glue all over the buckle or snap, which seems to hold a little longer, though the only way to take it off is by cutting it off. And the glue grows brittle soon enough due to the cat's rough, rugged, outdoorsy nature.

He is not microchipped, and I know I should do that, but I'm looking for a way of signaling that he has a family and is not a stray. My dream come true would be that he could even have a tag, but I can't visit the engravers' ten times a year.

Any ideas?
posted by baklavabaklava to Pets & Animals (16 answers total)
What about a harness? I imagine it would be a lot harder for the cat to escape from and since it's supporting the cat's midsection as well, I think it would be harder for it to hang itself on.

I've never heard of a harness used this way, so you may want to consult an expert (vet) before you put my theory into practice. It might be a really bad idea, but it also might work great.
posted by quin at 8:31 PM on November 11, 2006

My dream come true would be that he could even have a tag, but I can't visit the engravers' ten times a year.

Our local Petco has an automated tag maker. You tap three lines of info into a touch screen and it spits out a tag. Costs seven bucks to make a cat tag (and I know because the cat that I've had for a year is on collar number 4). If you don't have Petco, surely someone in the area has a similar machine.

On the collar side, we are having better luck with the collars made out strechy material all around instead of the ones with the easy-open buckle. It's still a safety collar, but it stretches instead of pops open. The "pop open" ones are for shit, but not as bad as the variety that has a fragile elastic behind the buckle. The former pops off and might be found again, the latter just break because the cat had an itch. But both are inferior to a stretchy collar.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:46 PM on November 11, 2006

A no-cost alternative to an engraved tag would be to simply write the information on the cat's collar with something like a Sharpie permanent marker.
posted by La Gata at 8:54 PM on November 11, 2006

Our local Petco has an automated tag maker.

Several pet stores in our area have these as well. Our neighbors recently got a collar and tag for their outside cat, to make sure no one would mistake her for a stray. They got one of the break-away collars that aren't permanently damaged when they come off, and had their address engraved on the tag. The cat has broken the collar off twice, and each time someone has found it and (eventually) thrown it on their porch.
posted by dilettante at 9:02 PM on November 11, 2006

Mayor Curley: Theat's what I meant by 'engravers'- still not very excited about buying ten tags a year. I will check out a stretchy collar.

La Gata: that's what I do now, although it fades away after a week or two, and after a few times of going over it it turns into an illegible mess.

spork: yes, I will, after they're finished with your mother.
posted by baklavabaklava at 9:15 PM on November 11, 2006

Harnesses like the one quin suggested above will not stay on your cat any longer than the normal collars do. My cat's an indoors cat, and can strip himself of any harness, even if it's rather tight, within ten minutes.
posted by whatzit at 9:18 PM on November 11, 2006

I've found that having a collar and tag odoesn't necessarily stop nosy neighbours from a) feeding or b) taking to the pound my obviously-pet cats. Hopefully you live in a better neighbourhood than I do.

I also found the stretchy collars ripped all the fur out, leaving my cat with a blad neck (the expanding and contracting caught the hair and pulled it out). That may just have been that particular collar or the way he wore it so ymmv.

What did work was buying a good quality, heavy duty cat collar with a buckle and that elastic insert that was also a little big. Then we made a new hole further in than the last one cut into the collar, bascially by showing the metal pin forceably through the material. This way the hole for the buckle would be tight and small rather than the roomy, precut ones in there. This made the buckle less likely to come undone. Then we did up the buckle, fed it through the loop on the collar then tied the end down with a rubber bad. Cut the band open, wrapped it around several times tightly and tied it down. This removes the flapping around end and makes it much harder for the buckle to work open.

I found that the elastic breaking wasn't the problem (assuming it's a good quality collar to begin with), it was actually the buckle working open that was causing my cats to lose the darn things all the time. Both the buckle hole and catch-loop-thing are always too big and loose, by adding in our own they're much more secure and we've stopped having to buy new collars regularly.
posted by shelleycat at 9:36 PM on November 11, 2006

Ug. Should proof read. The cat was bald around the neck and the new hole was made by shoving the metal pin through, not showing it. We have both stiff material and leather collars right now (the leather needed some scissors to get the hole started), tried a plastic one too back when I had three cats but it tended to rip.
posted by shelleycat at 9:40 PM on November 11, 2006

First of all, get him chipped. This way, collar or no, if he is brought to a shelter or even a vet's office, you will get a phone call.

Now, the POINT of the breakaway/stretch collars are that they WILL COME OFF at a certain point to avoid damage to the cat. There is no way to have a safe collar that will stay on all the time. If you know the cat tolerates the collar, but breaks them through normal activity, then I'd consider the non-breakaway kind. If the cat is breaking them on purpose, or is getting into sticky situations where the collar is breaking to safe him from damage, you should NOT get a "regular" collar. I had a cat that scratched his neck bloody and almost ripped out a claw trying to get a regular collar off once. If you don't know how they are coming off, assume they are coming off because they NEED TO, and do not get a regular collar.

shelleycat's approach sounds good (and she has great taste in music -- how are those other mixes coming, Swapset Elastica?). Some collars do have really bad buckles, so that might be your problem, also, the snugger the collar the less likely it gets caught on things.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:00 PM on November 11, 2006

shellycat: this I will try.
mwhybark: no link at all, but I do like that song, so thanks.
posted by baklavabaklava at 10:16 PM on November 11, 2006

We have outdoor cats and the same problems. We stopped using 'regular' collars, and now just use the tick and flea collars. First, because they actually keep them mostly free of ticks, and second, because they're cheap. They identify them as being pet cats and not strays, but they're only a few dollars a piece. If they manage to lose one, no big deal. Generally at warehouse-type stores you can buy them in packages of 3 or 6, I think.

Actually as they age, they lose a lot of their plasticity, so that they really won't unbuckle. When we want to take them off for some reason (generally, to replace them when their delousing properties have worn off -- if the cat hasn't lost it before then) we pull it off over the cat's head or cut it. (We intentionally leave them loose enough for the cat to take off if it gets stuck on something.)

If you get the light-colored (white) ones, you can even write on them with a Sharpie for identification purposes. I've found that the writing stays legible for about 3-6 months, although YMMV depending on brand and how deeply you let the ink seep in. We just put our last name and phone number on there.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:24 PM on November 11, 2006

I had a cat who regularly lost or removed his collar, until I bought a collar for him from a local animal charity. It was a piece of soft-ish transparent plastic tubing, with a reflective strip inside. I wrote my phone number on the other side of the strip. The collar closed with a little push-in plastic grommet thing. It was designed so that if he caught it on something, the plastic was soft enough to stretch so the grommet would come out, but he couldn't get it off on his own. He wore it for years and it never seemed to bother him.
posted by essexjan at 10:52 PM on November 11, 2006

I'm not sure if they do this where you are baklavabaklava, but we've got the option to tattoo our feline masters where I live. My brother's cat has an identification number inked on the inside of one ear and really boss Eye of Sauron on the other one. Chipping is still a great idea, but your vet might be able to mark your cat up for those situations when the people finding him haven't got a reader.
posted by Kreiger at 3:07 AM on November 12, 2006

'a really boss Eye of Sauron...'
posted by Kreiger at 3:09 AM on November 12, 2006

Give up. Seriously.

I had a cat that did this. He was a big burly 23lb loaf of a cat. I got him one of those tags at Petco and because I loved my cat and didn't want him to strangle, I got him a breakaway collar. I kept finding the collar laying on the living room floor. I sat the cat down and said "Listen here, cat. This is for your own good!" and put the collar back on. He looked right at me, stuck his paw in between his neck and the collar and popped the collar off right in front of me.

The fat bastard got a non-breakaway collar the next day. I came home 2 days later to find that he had managed to get one of his rear legs stuck in the collar and was rolling around the living room floor, bumping into the furniture. Poor stupid cat loaf.

I gave up at that point.
posted by drstein at 1:08 PM on November 12, 2006

I have to second getting a collar with an elastic panel or insert. The breakaway and stretchy collars just don't stay on in my experience. And it is all about the buckle. The collar that ended up working for my cat not only has an elastic panel, but super high-density nylon with a scalloped edge. It was nearly impossible to buckle (I had to punch a hole in the nylon with a nail), but there's no way the buckle is coming loose. It would have to work its way through tightly woven nylon and that scalloped edge, which acts as an extra stop gap. Sorry, I can't find a link, but the collar just came from my local PetCo.
posted by lunalaguna at 1:32 PM on November 12, 2006

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