This is a question we get asked a lot, so I thought I'd take the time to address it today. Normally we have to pick apart complex and conflicting advice on this blog (!) but it turns out the advice from all of the experts when it comes to collars is really clear:
"An ID tag is your cat's ticket home. All cats should wear collars and tags."
"An engraved tag with your contact details attached to a quick release collar which pulls apart if your cat gets their collar stuck on anything will help [your cat] be identified should they go missing."
For me, there were two episodes in particular that made me wake up to the importance of collars. One was when Lola wandered across a main road without a collar on and ended up stranded on the other side. It was only through extreme luck and the kindness of a man who found her that we ever got her back, two whole days after she first disappeared.
The other was when somebody around the corner from our home started feeding our other cat, Lyra. She didn't have a collar on so they figured she was a stray, and decided to take her in! Fortunately, one of my other neighbours knew this lady and was able to intervene on our behalf. But it brought it home to me how important it was that anyone could tell, at a glance, that my cats had loving homes.
Those two close shaves were enough to convince me that it was important for my cats to wear collars. But are there any exceptions to the always-wear-a-collar-rule?
1. WHAT IF MY CAT IS AN INDOOR CAT?
While your cat is inside you're able to keep them safe from the outside world and protect them from most of its dangers. But unfortunately it's all too easy for our clever kitties to make a break for freedom. It only takes one open window or broken screen.
Professor Linda Lord DVM from Ohio State University studied one community and found that 40% of cats reported missing were indoor-only cats that had escaped.
"Just because you keep your cat indoors doesn’t mean you don’t have to identify them"
- Linda Lord DVM
Because of this, indoor cats need collars just as much as outdoor cats - if not more. Outdoor cats generally know their way around, but an indoor cat that finds itself outside for the first time will be relying entirely on their collar to bring them home.
2. MY CAT IS MICROCHIPPED INSTEAD
Yay! It's great that your cat is microchipped. It's one of the really crucial things you can do to improve your kitty's chances of making it home. But it's important to remember that it's not a replacement for a collar - to give your cat the best chance of coming home you really must have both.
The reason is that a microchip can only be read with a microchip reader, which for most people is only accessible at the vets.
If someone stumbles upon your missing cat and thinks 'huh, that looks like the cat in the missing poster', there are very few people who would feel confident enough to bundle that cat into their car and drive it to the nearest vets to get the microchip scanned and see if their hunch was right.
But if that cat was wearing a collar with ID tag, the person probably would reach down to read their tag and see if the name or address matched the details on the missing poster. If it did, they could confirm with a microchip scan at the vets, or just call you direct from the details on the tag. Bingo - kitty's coming home!
There's another important facet to the collar and tag, but we have to admit it makes us a little bit sad to think about it. It's the speed with which someone can contact you. If one of my cats ever got injured while they were out and about, I'd want someone to ring me or run to my front door and let me know straight away. A collar and ID tag makes that a possibility.
3. EVERYBODY IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD KNOWS MY CAT IS MINE
This is what I thought about Lyra. I figured that everyone in my street knew that she was my cat and where she lived, so why bother encumber her with a collar and tag?
Well, it turns out that Lyra actually roamed a lot further than I thought she did, and that the people several streets away did not know she was mine! Wearing a collar and tag is essential to show other people that your cat is not a stray, and instead has a loving home.
4. THERE'S NO POINT. MY CAT HATES WEARING A COLLAR AND LOSES IT ALL THE TIME ANYWAY!
I don't know why I've left this one until last - it's got to be the most common one reason for not wearing a collar that I hear! If you fall into this camp I totally hear you. I tore my hair out for years trying to get my little monsters to wear a collar.
The main thing to understand is that most cats lose their collars for one of two reasons: they are either so bulky and badly designed that they are catching on things in their environment and breaking off; or they are so uncomfortable to wear that your kitty is actively getting rid of them!
The key is to find a collar that addresses both of those points. You want something simple and slimline so there's very little that can catch on a fence or branch. And you want to make sure it's comfortable enough that your cat doesn't make it its life's mission to escape! Those are the principles we hold highest when designing our collars. And, with a little care and attention, even the most collar-dubious of cats can be won over in no time at all!