Use “break-away” collars for cats.

Mad cat (2) The cat's basic nature differs considerably from that of the dog.  They are nocturnal hunters.  They climb trees.  They are very flexible — if their whiskers can get through an opening, so can the rest of the cat.  A dog accepts restraint pretty well, but cats hate it.  Many cats simply refuse to wear a collar, struggling constantly while it is on. [So do some dogs, but not many.]

Belt buckle (2) Because of a cat's propensity for investigating small places and climbing trees, collars may become hung up on something.  With a regular buckle like this, the cat will have great difficult getting disentangled.

Tufflock buckle (2) The same is true for this type of "snap" ("seatbelt") buckle.  They look like plastic junk, but the company guarantees them not to break (with free replacement if they do).  They don't pop open on their own if properly closed.

Wound (2)

You might have wondered why the cat looks a little angry in the first picture.  This is why.  She was missing for four days, returning home thin and a little dehydrated, and with her collar in her armpit.  Apparently it was a little tight, having been adjusted for her neck, not her neck and shoulder.

Closeup (2) Here's a close-up of the wound.  It's too infected to close up today, but we've cleaned her up, and she is taking antibiotics and pain medication.  Cats are such great healers, it will probably be half closed by the time the infection is under control.

Breakaway buckle (2) Here's the buckle on a "break-away" collar.  If the cat pulls hard enough, the buckle just pops open.  People complain about the cat losing its collar and having to buy more collars, but the collars are pretty inexpensive — certainly cheaper than treating such a wound.  "He keeps coming home without his collar".  The key words in that phrase are "He keeps coming home".   Some cats that get hung up just don't come home.  Somewhere in a bush there is a little kitty skeleton hanging by that collar we didn't want to lose.  Wish I had a picture of that.

22 thoughts on “Use “break-away” collars for cats.

  1. Julie Petix says:

    I put break away collars on all of my outdoor cats. This past Friday morning I noticed one of the cats was drooling, was upset,muddy chest and feet. He got the break away collar in his mouth and can’t get it off. He was so upset he would not let me get near him. It has been four days now. I have tried everything (humane traps, hidden helper with net, enticing with treats so I can nab him, lots of prayer). Please, if you have any suggestions let me know. Time is running out. Do not use these collars.

  2. Doc says:

    Hello, Julie,

    Any kind of collar is a potential problem, but “breakaway” is better than another kind if you have to have a collar.

    I would have suggested the approaches you have already tried in catching your cat. Getting animal control to “dart” the cat is not a good idea. Cats are too small and would likely be injured by the process.

    I would definitely leave the humane traps set in a secluded location where the cat would be likely to hide anyway.

    It sounds as if the cat is close enough in the yard that you are able to approach it (albeit from too great a distance to catch it). If this is the case, you might be able to use a group approach. This may be a ridiculous idea that just gets the cat wigged out, but what have you got to lose?

    Check out the fabric store for lengths of cheap material, or use folded sheets. You need something long enough that you can make a “corral” that gradually closes toward the cat. Two people hold each sheet/length of cloth/side of corral.

    The corral sides will need to be far enough away from the cat that it is not alarmed. Then they need to move in very slowly to hem in the cat without upsetting it, and will need to be tall enough to discourage just jumping over it. If the cat does jump at a sheet, just fold it up around the cat. This is the eventual plan when you get close enough anyway.

    Good luck. I know that you are very worried about your cat.

  3. Jonathan says:

    Good suggestions. For me the primary benefit of the collar is for identification. Is there a way around this with a breakaway collar without using a microchip?

  4. Doc says:

    Hello, Jonathan,

    This is a perennial problem. Someone has to think to scan for the microchip. Cats don’t have a great patch of naked skin for a tattoo to show up. Collars are either dangerous or getting lost all the time.

    When you let a cat run loose, you just have to face up to the fact that you are encouraging a high-risk lifestyle. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

    My old cat Godzilla went out when he wanted and back in when he wanted. When he was about 13, he didn’t make it across the street one day. My next two cats never went out, both died of lymphoma before they were 12. So, whaddayagonna do?

    Thanks for reading and writing.

  5. Christina says:

    In Australia, all the cat collars (that I have noticed) have an elastic section, so if the cat gets caught up it can slip its head out… I can’t see elastic in any of your photos? Like breakaways, you lose one every now and then – I’ve found my cat’s hung up on posts and branches.

  6. Isabel says:

    If a cat starts to twist in panic the elastic piece in a collar is useless. A break away collar is much much safer. No collar is even better. Have your cat chipped.

  7. Brandy says:

    How about you dont let your cat out! Thats insane, they can get killed by other animals or cars or bring home diseases! Cats do not need to be outside! Not only is it dangerous its rude! I have my own pets cats and dogs and I don’t want other peoples animals coming in my yard! Last winter we found someones cat dead in our window well, probably climbed in thinking it would stay warm then couldnt get out. Horrible!

  8. Greg says:

    Quote “No collar is even better. Have your cat chipped.”

    — Many people or kids, or kids saying “can we keep him” will take in a cat and never know a microchip exists under the skin and never call anyone. Visible identification has a real purpose in a mostly-honest society.

    Quote “How about you dont let your cat out”

    — Cat’s don’t always get out ON PURPOSE. They can get out due to a defective window, loose screen, a door not fully closed, baby sitters, kids/friends, pet sitters, etc. A breakaway collar and a visible ID has a purpose.

    I think it’s a good idea to buy the breakaway collars in bulk and not complain about the lost $2 here and there. I also like to independently and periodically test the breakaway collars w/ 2 lb and 5 lb weight combinations and make sure they break loose before lifting a 10 lb weight or whatever corresponding weight your cat is, for example. I have a small-frame cat that’s 4 yrs old and only weight 7.5 lbs and I feel better knowing I tested that collar personally and it lets-go *before* it can lift 7 lbs (it’s a brand/style for smaller cats). A proper 2-finger under or even just-slightly tighter (1.5 fingers?) helps make it slightly safer (reduces getting a paw under collar) (note: I am NOT saying the collar should be snug-tight).

    Check the fit periodically as cats gain weight or lose weight due to age and season. If your cat “fusses” with the collar and is not yet accepting of it he/she needs to be watched and monitored because a paw could get under the collar, which is not the same circumstance as the pull-weight needed to break it loose.

  9. Daria says:

    I adopted a 6 week old kitten and placed a collar on him right away. He was fine with it until I brought him in for his 2nd check up at around 4 months and since he had gained a few pounds the dtr loosened his collar. After that I guess he realized he had one on and decided he didn’t like it. It has been a constant battle for the past two months. He runs away whenever he sees or hears the collar. And whenever I do manage to get it on him, he gets all reclusive. He won’t come near anyone or even look us in the face. It lasts several hours until he gets the collar off (it is the snap closure kind) and he is happy again. He is an indoor act but he did escape once into the back yard when I was letting the dog in. I didn’t even see him slip passed me. I found him under the tractor a few hours later! I don’t know what to do, it seems he is traumatized by the collar for some reason. But I am afraid if he gets out again he won’t make it back without id. Plus I like to be able to hear him in the house. It will keep me from tripping over him when he comes running at me!

  10. Doc says:

    Hello, Darla,

    You might try getting some Feliway spray (the feline comfort pheromone spray). It seems to me that cats are more difficult to persuade than dogs.

    I would spray the feeding area with Feliway daily. Then after a few days, put the collar (also sprayed with Feliway) on while feeding a special treat.

    No collar, no special treat. Special treat available several times daily, if submitting to collar first.

    The treat should be something he’s crazy for. Fancy Feast cocaine variety, for instance. I’m kidding about the drugs, but it needs to be the treat he’s crazy for.

    It sounds from your note like you’re using a collar with a bell, and that may be part of the problem. I’d use a collar with no noise-maker on it in the training program. You can always add the bell later.

    Good luck.

  11. Sue says:

    We are a cat shelter, and our reason for collaring our cats is for identification. We are having a heck of a time finding the right material to use to make 200+ collars, as the material either frays, or shrinks, or seems to cause an allergic reaction. Can anyone suggest a cost effective collar material and where to get it. Thanks

  12. Linda Myers says:

    I’m one who was tired of saying, “He always comes home without his break-away collar” So I went to the fabric store and bought half inch wide elastic (for pajama waists etc.) and sewed a 5 inch piece together to make a collar. I put my address and phone number right on the white elastic so my cat can be identified by his collar or, if it comes off, by his chip. Now he always comes home with his collar on, and I can see that when he really wants it off, he can use his paw.

  13. Doc says:

    Hello, Linda,

    Sounds like a good tip. There might be a remote chance of it getting hung up and twisting more than a regular collar.

  14. Noor Yasmeen says:

    Just wanted to leave a tip about cat collars.

    My two toms are indoor/outdoor cats. Having read up some time back on this and other websites about breakaway collars not actually working, and elastic bands causing injuries, i tried some semi-home made collars for them. Bought some regular nylon collars from the vet, cut off all the metal and plastic bits to get a simple straight band of nylon. Stitched up the ends to prevent unravelling, and sewed two small metal snap buttons at the end. Have found that these snap buttons create a truly breakaway feature. My boys have lost these collars only a couple of times in the last year, which i was able to retrieve because of the tracking device they were threaded through, so no harm done, and i know that they come off easily because i’ve seen them snap open a couple of times when the boys have been rolling about in the dust on the pavement as cats are wont to do. 90 percent of the time they stay comfortably around their necks. The stitch buttons can be replaced when they get too loose, or new collars introduced when they get too scruffy. It’s possible to make several spare ones from half centimetre thin leashes. For cats with allergies to nylon, pet parents could try making collars out of thick jeans material rolled up into a straight band and stitched up with a sewing machine. These collars may not be the prettiest to look at certainly, but safety comes first and their functionality is great. I find that these collars are nice and light and not encumbered by bits and pieces of extra nylon, plastic or metal, all of which are things that can cause injury to paws and teeth. These collars can be made to fit your cat’s neck exactly. They are easy to take off and put on. My boys sleep indoors at night and I take the collars off then to allow their necks to breathe, which is why thank God they’ve not had rash or itch issues in that area. And what’s more they’re cheap and easy to make.

    Just wanted to share this idea with other pet parents. The pet tracking device that I’m using for my boys is also a great product and works really well in combination with these collars. I’m not sure I can mention that product’s name here on this website as it might amount to advertising, but would love to share this info with other petparents if I get permission to do so.

  15. Doc says:

    Hello, Noor,
    Sounds like you’ve had a great idea. Thanks for sharing.

    It’s okay to mention a product if you are having good results for it. If you are selling it, that’s a bit different.

  16. Liberty Zierdt says:

    So I might be getting a kitten soon, my parents and I agreed that our older cat gets the floor with their bedroom on it because it’s my mom’s cat and the kitten get’s the floor with my bedroom on it. We don’t use the doorway outside on the floor my cat would be on and none of the windows open. Should I still get a breakaway collar with a bell on it so I know where he is until he’s old enough that I trust him not to get into things?

  17. Doc says:

    Hello, Liberty,

    If you want to track the kid, then the bell is fine. I would use only a breakaway collar on any cat.

  18. Eileen says:

    My neighbor’s barn cat is killing my birds. Check out Birdsbesafe to see the impact outdoor cats are having. I am going to get her one of their collars and use a breakaway collar with it.
    She leaves a bird on my doorstep several times per week.
    I had an outdoor cat for 15 years and he wore his breakaway collar without problem.
    If we didn’t have ashma in our family, I would bring her in so no more killing. But she is not even my cat.
    Just a thought.

  19. Suzy says:

    I bought a breakaway collar with a bell for my 9 month old kitten. The bell is next to the breakaway part. When the cat is wearing the collar, should the breakaway part be beneath his chin or on top of his neck? Will the collar breakaway in any position on his neck, whether it is at top, side, or bottom of his neck?

  20. Doc says:

    Hello, Suzy,
    It doesn’t matter what the orientation of the collar buckle is. It will pull loose wherever it is.

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