Monday, July 18, 2011

The Cat Collar Conundrum

(This post brought to you by "things that seem kind of frivolous but that I know other cat-appreciators are likely to be able to identify with, and which may with any luck generate some degree of practical discussion")

None of the four felines-in-residence here currently has unrestricted access to the outdoors. Nikki used to have daytime garden privileges, as that initially seemed like a fair arrangement given she'd been an outdoor cat at my parents' -- but I put my proverbial foot down about that after she sustained one too many injuries fighting who-knows-what last fall.

Still, they've all proven their skill at escape artistry on more than one occasion. Nikki in particular is a champion door-dasher -- often I have to exit the patio sliders walking backwards because she's so good at appearing out of nowhere and darting between my feet.

Shadow, meanwhile, let the whole crew out a few times before I finally learned how to latch the screen door properly (he knows how to paw sideways at it and push it open). And just generally I like to be prepared for the possibility that regardless of how thoroughly I fortify the house's potential exit points, someone is bound to get out every now and then.

Now, all kitties here are microchipped and registered with HomeAgain, so they've at least got that measure of identification with them at all times. But it still makes me nervous to think of them out roaming around with no visible identification. Thus, I've been trying to get everyone to wear a collar ever since the youngsters' major kitten growth spurts started tapering off.

The results of this have been...inconsistent.

Nikki has the best record so far, probably because she's so used to collar-wearing (since my parents had her wear one all the time) and because she has no interest in the vigorous wrestling matches her housemates regularly engage in.

Brodie is also pretty good about not losing his -- he's had his current one on for so long now that I can't remember the last time he slipped it.

Shadow and Cora (who seem to have morphed into tag-team mischief-makers lately), however, continue to confound all my efforts to keep them identifiable at a distance as Cats With A Home.

In Shadow's case, mostly he just loses his. It doesn't matter what type -- clasp, buckle, velcro, you name it -- give him a few days and it'll be gone, and when I find it (under the couch or behind a chair, usually) it will generally look like it's been pulled out of a war zone (because he chews on it and plays with it like a toy once it's off).

Cora also loses collars (probably for the same reasons Shadow does). I was all excited a few weeks ago as at that point she'd been doing great with a lovely elasticized orange collar -- but then I found said lovely collar buried in the litter box. Eeep. But she also has a different (and more worrisome) problem -- that is, a tendency to get collars stuck around her lower jaw. I only ever use breakaway cat collars, mind you, but I still get concerned she's going to injure herself in the process of thrashing around to free herself.

That said, right now she's wearing the neon pink number pictured below:

...and so far she has NOT gotten this one wrapped around her face. I've attached it a little more tightly than I have in the past, and now I am thinking perhaps the jaw-stuck phenomenon was due mainly to my being too tentative about tightness. As is evident in the photo above, Cora has a ridiculous amount of neck-fluff (to the point where I'm beginning to wonder if she's got a longhair gene being partially expressed, if such a thing is possible). I can still put two fingers easily between her collar and her neck the way it is now, so she's definitely not choking, but it does seem I need to put hers on somewhat tighter than, say, Brodie's or Nikki's.

But I digress. What I've been doing is putting it on her during the day (when humans are liable to be traipsing in and out of doors) but taking it off and putting it away before I go to bed at night. Kind of annoying, but definitely more cost-effective than replacing lost or litterbox-buried collars on a regular basis!

So, if anyone is inclined to discuss: does your cat (or cats) wear a collar? What type? How do you keep them wearing it? Am I overestimating the need for visual identification? Etc.?


  1. My Ming wears a collar, the others seem to take theirs off, which is unfortunate as I sew super cute breakaway collars out of vintage fabric. I'm thinking about making my own tags, too. With metal stamps and copper or brass, maybe? They have neat shrinky dink plastic you can make tags with, but I guess it is a very bad kind of plastic.

  2. missmoppetkitty: oooh, you have an online store for your collars? And is any of the fabric you use super-durable? I would love to find something that didn't get little "pulls" everywhere, like Shadow's does when he chews on his. That nylon weave stuff also just tends to "fuzz" if anyone actually manages to keep their collar for more than a month or two...I keep finding myself taking them off and holding them (the collars! NOT the cats!) under a torch flame to seal up all the loose nylon threads.

    Re. tags, a while back I got metal tags made at Petsmart. They're the kind that are supposed to attach to the collar with rivets (no jingling, which is very nice!), only since we've gone through several generations of destroyed collars since I got those tags, only Brodie and Shadow are currently using theirs. And I don't even have the rivets in anymore, I couldn't find the right size replacements so I just used upholstery thread and sewed the tags on through the little holes.

    Wow, whew, didn't realize I had so much to say about cat collar tags, but at any rate, what I would *really* like to do is get a bunch of embroidered or printed fabric labels. That way I wouldn't need to worry about transferring a tag between collars, or about needing to buy new tags every time someone lost or ripped up a collar, I could just stitch in a new fabric label. Right now Cora's "tag" actually consists of plain computer paper laminated with packing tape and stitched on with thread (her name is on the outside of the collar, my phone number is on the inside)...given the rate she goes through collars I figured that was an appropriate level of effort/expenditure! But fabric labels would still be awesome too.

  3. I remember having a whole roll of iron on labels for my clothes when I was a kid with my name on them. They still make these. I was actually thinking about buying some with an etsy name on them if/when I ever get serious about selling. I bet you could squeeze a phone number on one, at least. I kinda hate metal tags. I worry about the cheap metal having lead in it, or the cats getting nickel poisoning from them.
    The collars I make have breakaway clasps and are made of cotton I stress test with a few vicious tugs before using. Ming, who is a heavy scratcher/groomer, has worn one for as long as a year before it looked crappy enough I wanted to replace it, so they are fairly sturdy and don't get that fuzzy look. Also, since they are cotton, you can iron those little clothing tags onto them. I'd probably both iron and sew one on, because sometimes the iron glue isn't really great.
    I have no idea if any of my collars are still up at etsy, but many people sell ones I'm pretty sure use the same pattern. My seller ID was astrokittycollars. I have forbidden myself to do any sewing and such until summer ends, but, I do have some pre-made ones around. Along with hundreds of pounds of fabric I hope to be motivated to use up someday.

  4. Your Flickr pal here! I definitely think a collar and tag are absolutely essential even for indoor cats. Even with a microchip and HomeAgain registration, my wife and I have heard a few too many tales from others of people assuming cats are strays, or a few incidents where it took some time before someone checked the cat for a microchip.

    As for my own tabby, Toshiro is equipped with a green Safe Cat collar, with a gold-plated tag that my wife ordered online. The gold plating is nice because it's chemically inert, and doesn't tarnish even when he gets it wet when drinking out of the faucet. I forget where exactly we got the gold-plated tag, but I can find out if you're curious.

    Not the best collar/tag shot, but this should give you an idea of what he's equipped with:

    I'm definitely very lucky in that Toshiro loves wearing his collar, and has never tried to remove it. In fact, on the rare instances when it comes off (usually if he trips the quick-release snaps), he finds it a bit strange to not have the collar, and will actually come back to me and wait patiently while I put it back on! I'm also very lucky in that Toshiro will run away from an exterior door when it's opened, since he does NOT want to go outside.

    By the way, Toshiro totally has the neck-fluff thing going on; everyone asks if his collar is very tight, but it's actually quite loose.

    Toshiro's current collar is his second one. His first one was destroyed under odd circumstances. My wife and I accidentally got some Advantage flea medicine on it while applying it to the back of his head (he loves this ordeal, of course), and a few hours later we found that his collar had melted where the medication had touched it! So I suppose collars and medications really don't mix.

  5. Byron: Hi!! I kept meaning to link you here from Flickr but kept forgetting. Glad you found your way here anyway...this is where I do the majority of my cat-pontificating these days (at least when I feel the need to pontificate at any length).

    But I digress. Interesting about Toshiro preferring his collar, however, that does make some amount of sense given that cats do tend to be creatures of habit. But in order for the habit to develop you have to have consistent collar-wearage, which we're not quite up to here yet (though as I write this, Cora still has her pink one on, and hasn't managed to lose or break it yet, hooray!).

    Re. Toshiro not wanting to go out...heh, none of my guys run away from the door, unless someone is opening it from the outside (as the younger three are still pretty wary of strangers).

    Re. collars melting...whoah! I usually take my guys' collars off when they get their monthly flea treatment, guess I should keep doing that!


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