Kitty ‘Collar’ Training…

Deciding whether your kitty should wear a collar is a topic that is always being discussed amongst the online cat community, and many owners seem to have very strong feeling on the subject! Personally, all my previous cats have worn collars with ID tags on, but I do not put bells on the collar even though all cats have been free to roam outdoors. Each owner has their own reasons for their choices, and I pass no judgement on other people decisions for their kitties; whatever they decide, for whatever reason…

Gizmo temporarily wearing a collar a few months ago!!

I previously had an elderly kitty go missing for several days, (and she wasn’t wearing a collar), it took a long time for her to be found and returned to me, so I feel happier knowing that my kitties have a collar on with a contact number, and they can be returned to me should they decide to adopt another family, or get a little bit lost!?

When Gizmo first came to me as an indoor kitty, aged 5 months, his previous owner told me he had never worn a collar. I decided to buy one for him, along with a lovely ID tag, engraved with his name and my contact number. I put the collar on him, much to his annoyance. I made sure it fitted correctly (I could fit two fingers between the collar and his neck). He seemed intent on trying to get the collar off, but I (wrongly) assumed he would ‘get used to it’ over the next few hours. When I went to bed, he seemed calmer, and less focused on getting the collar off! However, when I got up the following day, I realised how wrong I had been…

Gizmo was clearly distressed. He had somehow got the collar caught on his lower jaw and it had not broken away. He had obviously been trying to scratch the collar off, but he failed in removing the collar, and succeeded in cutting his face with his claws in the process. I felt awful. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I know I was responsible for his stress, and I felt so guilty.

Since the collar incident, Giz has been (understandably) anxious and distressed when a collar goes near him and was reluctant to let me touch his neck. A few weeks after the incident when Gizmo was allowed to explore outdoors, I decided it would be safer if Gizmo wore a reflective collar, so that he could be seen if he was outside after dark. When I put the new collar on him, the release clip on the collar was so easy that it only took Giz a few minutes of scratching to work out how to remove it himself. He once kept the collar on for 24 hours, but he usually took it off more frequently!? Each time he undid the collar, I would calmly out it back on, but after a few days of Gizmo successfully removing the collar and hiding it in some unusual places (under the sofa, behind a wardrobe, etc), I decided to give up with the idea of putting a collar on him. He was finding it too easy to get off!?

As Gizmo now spends a LOT of time outdoors, I would feel happier if he had a collar on. Even though he has been microchipped, I would like him to wear a collar and an ID tag incase he needs returning to me for some reason. Following some advice from the lovely team at ‘Cool Cat Collars‘, and also doing some online research, I have decided to try and get Gizmo to wear a collar, using a different approach this time…

When getting a cat to accept a collar, owners tend to use one of the two following methods. They either ‘put the collar on and leave the cat to get used to it’, or they train the cat to accept the collar using a variety of rewards. I had already tried the ‘leave it on and he will get used to it’ approach, resulting in a very stressed Gizmo and an upset owner, so I crossed that off my list. That left me with the ‘train him to accept it’ approach instead.

The lovely team at ‘Cool Cat Collars‘ suggested Gizmo wore a collar from the ‘Double Velvet Soft Cat Collar’ range, available for £7.99. This beautiful collar is perfect for training as it is REALLY soft and flexible, and it has a quick release safety catch on it. The collar comes in so many beautiful colours it was difficult to choose, but I decided on the blueberry colour collar for Mr Giz! Another suggestion that was made was to remove the bell as some cats get distressed by the constant sound of the bell. After all, many cat toys have a bell in them and kitties associate the sound of the bell with excitement and playtime, but I needed to take Gizmos focus off the collar so that he will eventually stop trying to get it off!? Plus, the constant ringing from the bell may resemble a kitty version of tinnitus and drive a kitty bonkers trying to escape the sound…

Most cats can be trained to do things by using food as a reward, but Gizmo is not motivated by food or treats at all, so I needed to be a bit more creative with the method of motivation and reward. Luckily, the ‘Cool Cat Collar‘ team enclosed one of their beautiful new cat toys for Gizmo to try, so this would provide the perfect reward for Gizmo, and distract him from focusing solely on the collar.

The ‘Cat Shaped Pillow Catnip Toy‘ is available for £5.99 from the Cool Cat Collar website. The toy is beautifully handmade with the lovely logo on the front! Gizmo definitely approves of the canadian catnip, and the packet is sealed so that the lovely catnip aroma is fresh when the package is delivered! Great idea…Gizmo approves of the fresh nip!!

Gizmo is keen to open his new cat pillow toy and release it from its wrapper!

I decided to use an incremental (gradual) training method with Gizmo; I planned on putting the collar on for short periods of time, whilst allowing Gizmo to play with his new toy, and removing the collar and toy after a few minutes. I started by removing the bell, and putting the collar on the floor for him to sniff and get used to.

Gizmo investigating his new collar…

This went well, and after giving Gizmo his wonderful new toy, I was able to slip the collar underneath his neck and fasten it without an issue. Using a catnip toy might not be the wisest move as kitty behaviour can be somewhat erratic, but in this case, it worked well, and I managed to put the collar on whilst Gizmo was engrossed in his toy, and then successfully remove the collar with all my limbs intact, and a much less stressed kitty!! Phew…

Gizmo wears his new collar, whilst distracted by his new toy…

With regular repetition, I hoped this will help create a positive association between the collar and his lovely toy. After a few sessions, I gradually left the collar on for longer periods of time, and introduced other toys that he loves to play with. And eventually, I didn’t need to distract him with toys at all!

I’m hoping that in time, Gizmo will get used to wearing a collar, but I’m not expecting this to be a quick behaviour transformation!! After his traumatic ordeal with the collar as a kitten, he needs to realise that the collar will not hurt him, and will come off should he become tangled in a tree, for example… He is making steady progress with the collar training, and I’m doing short regular session with him!

So for any of you who have had similar collar issues with your kitties and you are considering trying to train your kitty to accept a collar, my advice is this…

  • Choose a suitable collar that is very soft and flexible, and has a quick release feature (such as Gizmos new collar from the ‘Cool Cat Collar’ team)

  • Decide what motivates and rewards your cat, (this might be food, treats, or toys for example) and make the sessions fun,

  • Have regular (but short) training sessions and reward your cat appropriately,

  • Timing is the key to success – don’t attempt a training session if you or your kitty are stressed (such as fireworks going off outside) as this will only add to the negative experience for you and your kitty,

  • Make the process as stress free as possible – animals know when humans are stressed, so try and keep your stress levels as low as possible.

  • Keep a diary of your progress – this includes how long your training session was, what you achieved, and how your kitty reacted.

  • Finish each session on a ‘good note’, preferably when your kitty is calm,

  • Each kitty is an individual and will react differently, so don’t be disappointed if something that worked with one kitty doesn’t work with another.

  • Supervise your kitty until they are 100% happy with wearing a collar.

With this in mind, I hope Gizmo gradually gets used to wearing a collar for longer periods of time. I’m sorry for the unnecessary stress and trauma I put you through Giz… I hope you can forgive me…

You can find out more about Cool Cat Collars on their website and you can also find them on facebook, instagram and twitter too! They sell a gorgeous range of kitty collars, ID tags, bells and charms, harnesses and a new range of cat toys too!

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