Monday, April 18, 2011

Kitty Bling

I tend to get asked cat questions a lot. The most recent was this one my friend Jen posted on my FB wall:

Hey Kathryn, is there a secret to getting cats to wear collars? What kind is the best? I have two cats that need to be collared and tagged. What's the secret?

Ashi has a blue collar to match her eyes. She knows it makes her look pretty!
Well, the answer is longer than I can post on my wall and it's one I've been asked over and over again, so I thought it would be worth the time to put a full description here.

First you need to get a collar. I highly recommend a reflective collar with a breakaway clasp. The reflective part is especially important for dark-colored cats and the breakaway clasp is designed to come loose if the cat gets it snagged. This one from Petco is a good example and you can get them at any pet supply store for about $10. They come in a lot of colors so you can match your cat or make a fashion statement. Ashi, for instance, has a blue collar to match her eyes. Diedra's is a basic black with a wide reflective strip so you can spot her in the dark. Tyrone's is bright pink with rhinestones (Kassie picked it).

Tyrone stylin' his pink collar.
Because the breakaway clasps are designed to come open if the cat snags the collar on something, they will occasionally lose a collar. Diedra has lost one in the four years she's been with me. Tyrone - the little monster - discovered the trick of getting the collar off and went through several before switching to a different type of collar (it is also why he has a pink one; it's a subtle punishment for losing them all the time). He now has one that has a standard buckle closure but has a section of elastic so the cat can still pull free if it has to. I recommend trying the breakaway clasp first and only going with the buckle if the cat proves to be an escape artist.

Tyrone's collars have a buckle closure because he keeps losing the ones with the breakaway clasp.
I recommend adjusting the collar before trying to put it on the cat. Get a string or measuring tape, distract the cat with something yummy and measure around the cat's neck. Then adjust the collar to that length plus about half an inch.

Now for the fun part: putting on the collar! Wait until the cat is relaxed and calm and don't make a big fuss about it. Put the collar around the cat's neck, making sure not to pull or tug as you fasten it. It should fit a little loose - you should be able to fit two fingers under the collar without it choking. Make small adjustments if needed. Then pet the cat or give it some treats to keep it calm.

Diedra's collar has a wide reflective strip so she can be seen in the dark.
Most cats will freak out a little bit or try to play with it. Keep reassuring the cat and distract it with a toy if possible. If it doesn't calm down within a few minutes, take the collar off and get the cat calmed down with love and treats. After the cat is calm, try again. Most cats will adjust to the collar within about 15 minutes, but some take longer. One of my cats took several days of putting the collar on and taking it off - leaving it on longer each time - until she finally adjusted.

I have also found it helps to tell the cat that they look handsome or beautiful with their new bling. Just stroke them and tell them over and over how lovely they are and how the pretty collar sets off their eyes, or something to that effect. It sounds hokey, but it really does help.

For the first couple of days keep an eye on the cat and adjust the fit if necessary. If they keep scratching at it or shaking their head repeatedly, the collar is probably just a bit too tight. If they get a foot or their jaw caught in it - believe me, it happens - then it is a bit too loose. Also check regularly to make sure there is no chaffing or hair loss under the collar.

That's it! All of my cats wear collars with ID tags in case they get lost. And none of them mind it in the least. In fact, I got Diedra a new one recently and she preened like a beauty queen after I put it on her.

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