Whether you have an indoor or an outdoor cat, here’s the bottom line: both are likely to go missing at some point. And in a world where only around 2% of missing cats are reunited with their parents, you want to ensure a helpful stranger can easily identify and find them in these situations. Attaching an ID tag or GPS tracker can help keep your missing your cat safe – but in order to use them, your cat will need to get used to wearing a collar. Bringing up the million dollar question: how to get a cat to wear a collar in the first place?

Now you wouldn’t be the first to wonder how to train a cat to wear a collar. But with a little time and patience, cats can and do take to collars pretty well – and it can help signal to others that they have a home and family. (Decreasing the chances of kitty being “adopted” by a well-meaning neighbor, or taken into a local animal shelter – where they might even be euthanized, if left unclaimed.)

So in this post, we’ll explain everything you need to know about cat collar training – so you can enjoy peace of mind about your cat’s well-being. Let’s get started.

Should cats wear collars?

In a nutshell: with time, patience, and effort, most cats can and do get used to wearing a collar. And they’ll be safer in the long run for it. Though you wouldn’t be the first to wonder whether they should be wearing collars – or how to get a cat to wear a collar without a fight.

But with proper cat collar training, fit and selection, and the right amount of care, most cats take pretty well to collars. Here’s what one study from the Ohio State University1 found after researching 538 cats and their collars:

  • Most cats (72.3%) wore their collars successfully.
  • Cat owners expected their cat’s tolerance to wearing a collar to be lower than it actually was; in other words – cats are better at wearing collars than we give them credit for.
  • Only 7.1% of cats lost their collars – so it’s wise to invest in a microchip and GPS tracker for max security.
  • Veterinarians should recommend that all cats wear collars, since they are an important means of identifying a lost pet.

Less than 2 percent of lost cats are returned to their owners2. Getting a cat to wear a collar with ID tags and a GPS tracker however, can change that.

A woman hugging a cat indoors

Benefits of cat collar training

No matter their age or personality, getting your cat to wear a collar is likely possible with some patience, positive reinforcement, and trial and error. So as mentioned above, getting your cat to wear a collar can have a bunch of perks. Including:

An improved chance of identification

When your cat grows used to their collar, you can attach an ID tag to it with your contact info. Now if someone finds your cat, they can get in touch with you to let you know they’ve found your cat. This can help make it less likely your cat gets mistaken as a stray. (Which might lead them to be taken to the local animal shelter instead – where your cat might even be euthanized after a few days if you don’t claim them!)

A Russian blue cat wearing a collar

An ID tag can always fall off or go missing. So we’d always recommend investing in a microchip cat ID instead. A microchip works like a permanent ID card for your cat. Aka, a vet or a local shelter can scan your cat’s microchip to find your contact details – and get in touch with you. Plus, it’s a quick, painless procedure which is both affordable and also widely available in most towns and cities.

Microchipping or equipping your cat with some kind of ID might even be required by law in some countries and US states (like Hawaii and California.) Make sure to check out your local shelters or vet clinics to find out where you can get your cat safely microchipped.

A reduced chance of pet kidnapping or getting lost

Now a microchip alone can’t actually prevent your cat from getting lost in the first place. They only help someone identify a cat who’s run away from home. And cats run away for a whole bunch of reasons – including being in heat, defending their territory, boredom, curiosity, stress, or even if they’re sick.

And if your cat runs into a pet thief instead – well, a microchip won’t be of any use helping you track them down. That’s where a dedicated cat GPS tracker can help instead.

With the Tractive GPS, for example, you can track your missing cat in real-time and over an unlimited range. Or set up a “safe zone” – and instantly get an alert if your cat sneaks past it. Or learn your cat’s favorite haunts and wandering areas from their Heat Map and Location History.

Know everywhere your cat goes

See where they are in real-time, no matter how far they go. Get alerts if they roam too far home. Find out where they’ve been and discover their favorite spots. Let others track with you.

Discover Cat GPS Trackers

Cattery owner and trainer, Clair Chesterman

“Tractive is my #1 recommendation when it comes to cat trackers. It’s specifically designed for tracking cats so you are sure that it is safe for your cats to use.”

– Clair Chesterman, Owner of CFA and CCA-registered cattery and fostering company, FluffyMeowPaws3

Reduced hunting behaviors

Even your purring furball who prefers the indoors has their wild instincts from their feline ancestors. And cat hunting behavior is another reason kitty might get lost if they wander too far outdoors. So the solution? Make them a less effective hunter. You can attach a bell to their collar, for example, to alert you or other animals (or people) that your cat is nearby.

(So it doesn’t just look cute – it also prevents your cat from wandering too far away from home. And also keeps your home free of dead mice, birds, and other prey animals.)

A cat in a tree wearing a collar with a bell

Do indoor cats need collars?

Yes! Even indoor cats can benefit from getting used to wearing a collar. If your cat somehow slips out of the house, an ID tag on their collar can tell people that this little cutie belongs to you. And if your cat is wearing a GPS tracker? Even better. Then you’ll be able to follow them in real-time and bring them back home.

An indoor cat wearing a collar

What makes a cat run away in the first place? Discover the top reasons why cats run away, and what you can do in case it happens to you.

When should my cat start wearing a collar?

It’s easier for a young cat to get used to wearing a collar than an adult or senior cat. However, even older cats can get used to wearing a collar. We recommend starting cat collar training as soon as your cat has reached their full size, when they can safely wear a breakaway collar.

How to train a cat to wear a collar

Step 1: Choose the right (safety) collar

The first step of cat collar training is choosing the right collar for your cat. There are several things to keep in mind.

A cat wearing a Tractive GPS collar sitting outdoors

⚠️ For starters, there is only one kind of collar appropriate for cats – a breakaway or safety collar. This is a special collar that comes off in case pulled on with force.

For example, if your cat gets stuck on a tree branch. Or if their collar gets caught on something after your cat (somehow) finds their way under the hood of a car. With a breakaway collar, your cat will be able to get out of a sticky situation.

Put short, a safety cat collar will stay on 99% of the time, but free your cat to avoid them getting hurt or trapped. And with a GPS tracker on their collar, you’ll be able to find where it fell off and bring it back.

Your Tractive GPS comes accompanied with a weight-adjustable Rogz Safety Collar. Which secures itself comfortable against your cat’s neck and prevents their tracker from falling off. (And also breaks away to avoid injury.)

Protect My Cat With Tractive GPS

Never use a collar without a safety release breakaway mechanism on a cat.

Besides that, consider the following factors when choosing the best cat collar for your cat:

  • color
  • material
  • size
  • glow in the dark / reflective qualities
  • force required*

*When using a breakaway collar, always make sure your cat meets the minimum weight requirement. This will ensure that their body weight will provide enough force to release the collar if necessary. If your cat is too small or lightweight (for example, a newborn kitten), they may not be able to wear a collar safely.

Step 2: Introduce the collar

Once you have found the right collar, the next step is introducing it to your cat.

Choose a time when your cat is calm and happy to introduce the collar, and do it in a place where your cat feels comfortable. Set the collar on the floor by your cat and let them begin to sniff, play with and investigate it.

A cat wearing a collar lying in a balcony

You can also try rubbing the collar on their bed, or rubbing a cloth against your cat and then against the collar. This will pass their scent to the collar and may help your cat warm up to the collar more quickly. If your cat snuggles up to it, reward them with treats.

Do not rush to put the collar on them immediately. If you do so, your cat might:

  • get scared
  • try to shake off the collar
  • build negative associations with the collar
  • avoid the collar

So slow and steady wins the race. With some time, patience, and effort, you’ll be on top of your cat collar training and helping keep your cat safe.

Step 3: Put the collar on your cat and let them get used to it over time

After you’ve let your cat get to know their new friend, it’s time to put the safety collar on your cat.

  1. Securely attach the collar around your cat’s neck.
  2. Make sure it’s properly fitted. Your collar should be snug enough to fit but loose enough that two fingers can fit between it and your cat’s neck.
  3. Let your cat get used to their collar for a few minutes before taking it off.
  4. Reinforce your cat’s behaviors throughout the process. Give kitty tons of praise, pets, and a few treats when they comply.
  5. Stay patient. Never yell at your cat for punish them for wriggling loose from their collar. It just means they haven’t learned to wear it yet. Plus, getting mad at them will just create more resistance as your cat develops a “bad” feeling around the collar.
  6. If your cat appears disoriented when you first attach the collar, know that that’s normal. Give them time to get used to it, and distract them with food or play, to help them forget they’re even wearing it.
  7. Practice your cat collar training daily, for increasing lengths of time, until your cat is comfortable wearing the collar.

Once your cat is used to wearing the collar, you can attach an ID tag and GPS cat tracker to the collar and let them outside (if you choose). Plus, if you’re letting a cat outside for the first time, follow these tips.

White and orange cat sitting outside on a log wearing Tractive GPS cat tracker and cat collar
Outdoor cat wearing a collar and the Tractive GPS Cat Tracker.

Be sure to monitor the collar’s fit, and your cat’s behavior regularly. Watch out for any excess scratching, pulling or discomfort, which may indicate you need to change the collar. If your cat has any physical issues (such as an allergic reaction) to wearing a collar, talk to your vet.

Should my cat wear a harness?

In general, it’s best to use a harness only when you walk your cat on a leash, and use a safety collar on your cat any time they are roaming free. Harnesses could pose a threat to outdoor cats exploring their territory, as they may have difficulty freeing themselves from the harness if it is caught on something. But in some cases, like in this story, cats can adjust to a harness with some training and patience.

Protect My Cat With Tractive GPS

So, how to get a cat to wear a collar again?

With some time, patience, and endless praise – most cats can and do adjust to collar training. (No matter their age or temperament.)

  • Just make sure to start slow and gradually familiarize your cat to their new collar.
  • Reinforce their behavior when they comply, with pets, praise, and treats.
  • Stay patient and allow your cat to gradually ease into their new collar.
  • Gradually increase the length of time your cat wears their collar – until they finally get used to it.

Wearing a collar helps other people recognize and ID your cat, plus gives you the ability to track them at a moment’s notice using the Tractive GPS Cat Tracker.

However, make sure to only use a collar with a safety breakaway mechanism, and to make sure your cat meets the minimum weight requirement to release the collar. Before long, your cat won’t even notice the collar is there.

For more information about cat collar and safety tips, check out this video from Berkeley Humane:

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