Friday, July 9, 2010

Best Cat Safety Collar: Review

Cat collars: looking for the right collar to keep your cat safe? What is the best safety collar for your cat? What to look for first is a reflective breakaway cat collar. Let us discuss what makes for the best collar before going through what can be found on the net.

What makes for the right cat collar

Visibility and reflectiveness. One of the major causes of death for pets is being run over by a vehicle, most often at night. It is critical for your cat collar to be very reflective of car beams so that your pet is highly visible on the road at night. It is also beneficial for the collar to be glow-in-the-dark, although this also comes with the drawback of making your cat more visible to predators such as  raccoons or coyotes. Your environment will be the key to decide whether you want a glow-in-the-dark collar: where there are few roads but many predators, a reflective collar only is best. Where there are many roads and few predators, a collar that combines reflective and glow-in-the-dark material is best.

Break-away buckle/ Stretch collar. It is essential for a cat collar to be able to give way to pressure, if it is snagged by a limb or an obstruction, otherwise your pet could die of strangulation. There are two major ways to deal with this. One solution is a stretch or elastic collar, or a stretch buckle in the collar (the whole collar being stretchy is better). While a stretch collar can be a good solution, the resulting material selection is very narrow, and does not give many choices to pick from.  Another solution, more generally adopted, is a break-away buckle in the collar. When that is the case, be sure to verify that other cat owners have validated the quality of the buckle. If the collar falls off every five minutes, it will cost you a lot of money. On the other hand, a buckle that does not give way could mean the death of your cat.

Bells. They are NOT recommended for a cat collar. Your cat is perfectly able to sneak up on birds without ringing the bell, but, when he runs for his life, he will not able able to avoid shaking it. A bell in a collar will not save many birds' lives. On the other hand, it  will attract the attention of predators through sounds and light reflections, and can endanger the life of your cat. If your cat collar comes with one, your first task should be to take it off.

Size. The size of the collar must be just right for your cat. Too wide, and it will slip quickly. Too tight, and your cat will fight it every day. The right size is such that you can fit two average-sized fingers between the collar and the cat. If you have kittens that are still growing, do make sure, every month, that the collar size is still good.

Comfort. The collar needs to be comfortable, as your cat has to wear it every day, all day. The texture of the collar surface should be soft enough that it does not irritate the skin. The collar itself should be soft enough, rather than stiff, to mold itself to the shape of the neck - this is particularly important for young cats.

Cost. Collars fall off regularly. A good assumption is that your cat, if indoor/outdoor, will lose her collar every six to eight weeks, but that you will occasionally recover a lost collar, particularly if you also have a tag on the collar (you should have one, really). You should then expect to buy approximately half a dozen collars per year. If you do not choose a reasonably cost effective solution, you may end up spending a lot of money on your cat collars:-)

Comparing cat collars

Owner reviews are the only things that can truly validate the safety and functionality of a cat collar. Most collars do not even consider the critical factors we have discussed, but focus on aesthetics. Among the others, many can only be found through small outfits where no reviews are available. Of those that satisfy our criteria and that have user reviews, almost none collect good feedback. We found a few promising or interesting cat collars, that we cannot endorse because of the lack of reviews or because they do not satisfy all our needed crtieria, but which we feel are worth mentioning. For cats with sensitive skins or with allergies, Silly Kitty breakaway hemp collars get excellent reviews from the pet owners, on their distribution site and on buzzillions, but are lacking reflective properties. Foster and Smith, a reputable online pet supplies store,  carries two good looking reflective, break away cat collars with interesting designs, the reflective kitty safety collar, and the lazer brite collar, neither of which carry significant numbers of reviews. This is noteworthy because most breakaway, reflective collars are quite plain. The Lazer Brite collar uses a hyper-reflective substance (Scotchlite) made by 3M and used by emergency personnel around the US, as does the coastal pet Lazer Brite reflective collar. National Leash makes an unusual stretch collar with reflective threads woven into the shock cord-like collar, reviewed in Modern Cat, but lacking in user reviews - we are a bit concerned about the possible lack of overall reflectivity.

The best and safest cat collars

Few models have at the same time good features and good reviews. The best of them are:

#2 Premier Glo Kitty Collar. The Premier Glo Kitty Collar is a good quality breakaway reflective cat collar, with glow-in-the-dark properties that are inherent to the reflective material it uses. Its bell needs to be removed at arrival. It is extremely cost effective, and can be obtained for $5 a piece - it is best to buy it from an Amazon merchant in quantities of half a dozen or more, and pay for shipping, rather than getting it from Amazon. The nylon collar is very light, and adjustable to very small or large cats as needed. It comes in several colors. Its reviews are good: "the clasp does snap open when under pressure", "glo-in the dark feature was great for our short haired", "nice clasp, a breakaway type, but it's not so easy that one brush against a bush will lose the collar.", "so bright that I can see my kitty, even in the middle of the night when I get up to go to the bathroom in total darkness", "lasts for months and it breaks away fast if he pulls on it when he is stuck; but it can withstand scratching and teeth pulling so he doesn't take it off", "reflector is excellent", "the collar seemed ever so slightly stiff to me [but] the cats actually seem to find this to be the most comfortable collar." There are few complaints: "within half an hour, I had put it back on him four times", "when my cat grew and the collar needed to be resized it never really fit well again." We believe that this collar is particularly suited to users who want a glo-in-the-dark collar and whose cats frequently drop their collar.

#1 Vedante Super-reflective breakaway cat collar. The Vedante cat collar gets a great set of reviews, with only one mildly negative review in the lot. It is available for a relativity high price point of $14, but probably represents the best collar available today if you can afford frequent repeated purchases. The collar is highly reflective, using a 3M substance (Scotchlite) used by emergency workers, and has a glow-in-the-dark tag that may be removed if you do not wish to use it. It fits both small and large cats. The bell should be removed as well. The collar is actually quite good looking for a reflective collar, and comes in several colors. Users are very pleased with their purchase: "aimed mainly at people whose cats go outdoors", "collar itself is nicely reflective", "good reflection and the tag really does glow in the dark", "it is beautiful", "super reflective", "only the tag part is glow in dark", "super reflective and good quality", " I like the way that the breakaway feature works... [it] makes it more durable than the other breakaway collars", "[for] extreme night safety, I recommend the silver since it is EXTREMELY reflective." Once single user provides a mildly negative review: "the collar is very stiff." We find this collar particularly well suited to outdoor cats who are not likely to lose their collar too often, and who are likely to be in the proximity of well traveled roads at night. If you can afford to buy this collar in large numbers every year, it is probably your best choice.

Where to buy cat collars

Beyond Amazon, which, as usual, shows a broad set of cat collars along with user reviews, Petco and PetSmart also have a decent inventory (Petco more than PetSmart), along with user reviews, which are, at this time, few in number and statistically insufficient. The online distribution market is widely fragmented across hundreds of small companies, many with proprietary brands and models, some of which are very likely excellent, but none of which have both features and reviews. If you find a model that you think is particularly good, let us know and we will include it in further reviews.

More information about cat collars

Want to find out more about cat collars? Many sites give good advice, although most are for-profit sites. Try vet info, the cat site , cat health tips, know your cat, Larry Chamberlain, or  pet product adviser


Anonymous said...

I suppose it works also for dog collar !!!

George Gear said...

It would be best not to use it for dogs, even small ones: these cat collars have a breakaway feature because cats jump in trees etc., and they could get strangled if the collar not come off under high pressure. But that also means that the collar will come off eventually (some users we surveyed suggest that their cats lose their collars every 2-3 months). Dog collars do not have provision for breakaway, as they are expected to stay put at all times. We will review dog collars later this summer though:-)

Anonymous said...

Nice blog. I agree with removing the bell from the collar for an outdoor cat.

However the bell should stay in place for an indoor cat. It's for yours and the cat's safety - not the safety of other creatures. We know how sneaky cats can be at all times, but especially in the middle of the night or in my case, whenever carrying a laundry basket up/down stairs. Keep the bell in place for an indoor cat.

They aren't easy to find but I prefer a very small bell that makes as little noise as possible. There are some available on - just look for a tiny bell 1/2 the width of the actual collar in size. Small so it doesn't bother the cat and not as noisy as the giagantic bells on most collars.

George Gear said...

Hi Anon - Thanks for the tip on finding the small bells on etsy! We agree with you on keeping the bell for an indoor cat, and making it as small as possible:-)

Carol said...

Great tips! I've been looking for the perfect collar for my Chihuahua lately. It's such a challenge because of her small size. Anyways, your tips are very helpful - even if they were written for cats.

Aron said...

Another idea....just don't let the cat outside? Then you don't have to worry about them getting trapped in a tree or run down by a car.... Course it's easy for me to say cat was rescued from the wild and REFUSES to go outside! Been there done that! lol

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