Cats Accepting Collars? It's More Likely Than You Think

 |  Sep 9th 2010  |   21 Contributions


This reporter's cat, Dahlia, has worn a collar since she was adopted ... although she prefers to think of it as a "necklace."

A new study reveals that most cats will gladly wear collars.

These findings fly in the face of cat caretaker conjecture that their feline friends will not, under any circumstances, tolerate such a thing.

The Ohio State University study, published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Three out of four cats in the study wore collars consistently during a six-month study. In almost 60 percent of cases, the animals tolerance of collars exceeded owners expectations that their cat would keep the collar on without much trouble

The researchers say that these findings should inspire veterinarians to talk about the importance of identification during annual wellness exams of pet cats. They also say microchipping cats remains a useful backup identification method.

Proper fitting, with room for two fingers between the neck and the collar, is critical to cats' tolerance. The researchers also say that caretakers should carefully observe their cats behavior with new collars for the first few days as the cats adjust.

Convincing cat owners that their pets, even indoor-only cats, need identification is a tremendous uphill battle, said Linda Lord, assistant professor of veterinary preventive medicine at Ohio State University and lead author of the study.

A lot of people start out with the dogma that cats cant wear collars, that they wont tolerate them or that theyre dangerous. Now pet owners can look at this research and, if they own a cat, maybe they will now consider that they will be able to put identification on them. A collar with an ID tag is probably a cats greatest chance of ever being re-homed or brought back if it is lost.

Indoor-only cats can and do get lost. Lords suggestions are informed in part by her previous research, which found that 40 percent of lost cats in one community were indoor-only cats, or that free-roaming cats without collars are very likely to either be fed by strangers -- reducing the likelihood that they will return home -- or to be ignored as strays.

The return-to-owner rate is abysmal for cats. Fewer than 2 percent of lost cats are returned to their owners, she said. If we could get cat owners to try using a collar with identification, it would be a big deal.

A total of 538 cats with 338 owners participated in the study. Of those, 391 cats, or 72.7 percent, wore their collars for the entire six-month study period.

Cats were randomly assigned to wear one of three types of collars: plastic buckle collars, buckle collars designed to detach if they become caught on something, or elastic stretch safety collars.

Thirty-two animals were withdrawn from the study for various reasons. Owners of the 115 cats that did not successfully wear collars for six months reported the following reasons: The cat lost the collar (7.1 percent); the cat scratched excessively at the collar (4.8 percent); the collar continued to come off and the owner chose not to replace it (3.3 percent); or the collar got stuck in the cats mouth or on another object (1.5 percent).

Relatively few collars did come off, however. A total of 333 cats wore their collars without incident for the entire six months.

Research participants answers to a series of survey questions indicated that cat owners perception about how their cat would tolerate the collar had a predictive effect on the study outcome. The results showed that cats were significantly more likely to fail to wear a collar for six months if their owners did not expect they would accept the collar or if the collar came off and had to be put back on more than once.

Part of the success of a cat wearing a collar is the expectation of the owner. For some owners, if a collar came off once, they were done. Some put the collar back on their cat five or six times, Lord said.

The study did indicate that there can be some risk associated with the collars. In 3.3 percent of cases involving 18 cats, the collars got caught on the animals mouth or forelimb, or on another object.

I would never say that something like this cant happen, Lord said. I would make an argument that a cat is much more likely to get lost and not be recovered than it is to be injured by a collar.

Lord said that, especially for cats that cannot tolerate a collar, a microchip is an important and reliable form of identification in case the pets are lost.

Owners of 90 percent of the cats told researchers they planned to keep the collars on their cats after completion of the study. Most of the 25 cat owners not planning to continue using collars attributed their decision to either problems with the collar or the fact their cats stayed indoors.

[Source: Science Blog]

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