Whether you have an indoor or an outdoor cat, you’ll want to make sure they can be easily identified and found in case they ever get lost or go missing. An ID tag and GPS tracker are important tools in keeping your cat safe, and in order to use them, your cat will need to get used to wearing a collar. A collar on a cat also signals to others that the cat has a home and a family, and may decrease the chance of your cat being ‘adopted’ by a well-meaning neighbor. In this article, 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.

Should cats wear collars?

Some people debate if cats should wear collars in the first place. Others believe that cats won’t wear collars, at least not without a fight. But with proper cat collar training, fit and selection, and the right amount of care, most cats can get used to wearing a collar. Not only that, but they’ll be safer in the long run for it.

One study from the Ohio State University1 made the following conclusions 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 a microchip and GPS tracker are also recommended.
  • 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.

Benefits of cat collar training

As mentioned above, getting your cat to wear a collar can have several benefits, including:

  • your cat can wear ID tags with your contact info, so if someone finds your cat, they can inform and/or return them to you.
  • your cat can wear a Tractive GPS Cat Tracker, which lets you see everywhere they go, and everywhere they’ve been. Plus, keep an eye on your cat’s daily sleep and activity levels with built-in Activity Monitoring.
  • your cat will be less likely to be mistaken for a stray cat – people who come across your cat will know they already have a human.
  • your cat can wear a bell to alert you or other animals that your cat is nearby.

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.

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.

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.

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 it gets stuck on a tree branch. Or 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.

Discover the Tractive GPS Cat Tracker

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.

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, they may:

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

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. It should be snug enough that it won’t pull over your cat’s head too easily. But loose enough that two fingers can fit between the collar and cat’s neck.
  3. Let them get used to it for a few minutes before taking it off.
  4. Use positive reinforcement throughout the whole process – speak kindly to them, pet them, and reward them with treats.
  5. Never yell at your cat or punish them for getting out of the collar. This could cause them to have a bad association with 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. Do this 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 the ID tag and GPS cat tracker to the collar and let them outside (if you choose). 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.

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Conclusion on cat collar training

Most cats can easily be trained to wear a collar, no matter their age, following the steps above. 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, it’s important 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. Use positive reinforcement, and take your time while your cat warms up to their new accessory. Before too long, your cat won’t even notice the collar is there. While you’re here, don’t forget to check out our tips for keeping outdoor cats safe.

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

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