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Collars, leashes and harnesses are usually something you’d search for if you had a dog, but they are occasionally useful items for cats, especially cat collars. This article will detail the benefits and disadvantages of using each, so you can make the right decision about whether they are suitable for your cat and/or situation.
There’s a wide variety of designs on the market, including flea collars for cats, and a multitude of reasons owners decide to use cat collars. Whilst they have their uses and benefits, there are, sometimes more suitable, alternatives available. Let’s go into detail…
Some owners utilise cat collars to attach an identification tag too, which can indicate ownership and a means of contacting their owner if necessary. However, the safest and most permanent method of identification is microchipping your cat and ensuring you keep your details up to date. It is also being brought into law that cats are microchipped.
The RSPB have concluded that attaching a tiny bell to a cat's collar can reduce the number of birds they catch, as it warns the prey they are being predated. This could be the case with other wildlife too, reducing the number your cat brings back to you. Hunting is a natural behaviour for cats, though, so you will need to create play mimicking this but reward them with treats so they feel achieved.
There are over-the-counter flea collars for cats, but we’d recommend purchasing a safer alternative from your veterinary practice or pharmacy. Seresto is a high-quality cat flea collar, but otherwise, it’s best to use a tablet or spot-on treatment prescribed by your vet, to prevent fleas.
Some collars have a reflective strip on them which is helpful for ensuring your cat is visible at night, especially around roads.
If you are looking to purchase a cat collar, it’s important to also take the following into consideration:
Ensure it fits properly, to prevent any rubbing and subsequent hair loss. You should be able to fit 1-2 fingers underneath – any looser and your cat could get their leg stuck in it
Have a quick-release collar, so if your cat gets hooked on something by their collar it will release to avoid strangulation
If there are attachments, such as bells, these can be hazardous as they could get hooked onto something, or your cat can get their claws stuck, which can be painful and cause injury. Make sure they’re light too, as heavy attachments will limit movement and be uncomfortable for your cat.
It’s not often you see a cat on a harness and lead, but they do exist! Some owners choose to use a harness and lead to take their cat outside, for reasons such as if they live near a busy road or if they’re worried about their cat going missing. Whilst they certainly play a role for these purposes, before you use them with your own cat, it is worth remembering their natural instincts and how they may affect their behaviours.
Cats will naturally run away from a suspected danger and usually, go high where they feel safe. If they’re wearing a harness and are on a lead, this will remove their ability to react in this way, which could result in them feeling stressed and unhappy. If they do still try to escape and go high, this may result in the owner losing grip of the lead or them getting injured if they try to climb.
Harnesses and leads can also give you more control over your cat's hunting behaviour, as we appreciate it isn’t nice when they bring back wildlife! However, it is a natural instinct, and if they cannot perform hunting (like) behaviours, they can become very frustrated and channel this feeling through aggressive-type behaviours instead. There are ways we can mimic this behaviour, such as chasing games with string toys, where they are rewarded for catching the toy with a treat.
Even if your cat appears willing to wear a harness and lead, this does not mean they are happy about it. With very few advantages, it is a better idea to make your garden cat safe, so they can roam freely and play as they desire, helping to avoid any unwanted behaviours. Ways to make your garden cat friendly include scratching areas, a water feature, toys and a designated toileting area.