Cats wear collars with bells to keep them safe from harm. The collar is there to identify them should they ever get lost, and the bell serves as a warning signal to wild birds and animals. The problem is that there are advantages and disadvantages to cat collars with bells.
They ensure that people and animals know that a cat is approaching. Be vigilant about safety surrounding collars, though. If too tight, collars can become uncomfortable. Collars that don’t release when they get caught on a branch or shrubbery can cut off your cat’s airflow.
Some pets benefit significantly from wearing belled cat collars, but others seem to dislike wearing them intensely. By finding out the pros and cons of a belled collar for cats, you can make an informed decision.
Should Outdoor Cats Wear Collars At All?
The main reason that cat owners use collars is identification. Cat owners dread the night that their pet does not return from a wander at dinnertime. Cats are so food-focused that they rarely skip a meal. Cat and owner can potentially be reunited faster if the cat has a collar.
Imagine they doze off in a stranger’s shed, or find themselves far from home. If the cat has a collar with a phone number, their owner can be contacted. This will set everybody’s mind at rest.
Of course, if your cat is microchipped, they can be identified this way. Microchips act as legal proof of ownership of a cat once they are scanned. That will require the services of a vet, though. The generosity of strangers may not stretch to taking a cat to the nearest surgery. If they do, however, a collar could also contain medical information about a cat. If your cat is diabetic, asthmatic, or has another ailment, this can be given consideration.
Aesthetics are another favorite reason for giving a kitten a collar. Collars can look pretty. If you have a jet-black cat, for example, a pink collar can add a flash of color. Again, this isn’t for everybody. Cats are not dress-up dolls, and you may not agree with giving them collars.
A study in Science Daily completed at Ohio State University found that 75% of cats will tolerate a collar. If you are convinced that your cat will hate this accessory, give them the benefit of the doubt.
What are the Advantages of Cat Collars with Bells?
There are undeniable advantages to fitting bells on a cat’s collar.
1) Enjoyment and Fun
Many cats love the sound of bells. You may have noticed that many toys feature them. This can make a collar into something your cat actively enjoys. If you treat a belled collar as a game, kittens, in particular, will take to it. This will make the collar more tolerable as your cat ages.
Also, belled collars can look very cute. That’s not a priority, but it can be a very welcome benefit. If you want to jazz up your cat’s look, a belled collar will do the trick.
2) Bells on Cat Collars Protect Birds
One purpose of a cat collar with bells is warning birds that a feline is close. As cats are natural predators, they love to stalk and kill small birds. This can be upsetting for anybody that wishes to have an avian-friendly backyard.
Bear in mind that it’s not only your property that must be taken into consideration, either. Unless your cat spends all of their time indoors, they will likely visit your neighbor’s gardens. This could cause disputes if your cat attacks wild birds in their property.
While cats are skilled at remaining still while hunting, they eventually have to move. When they do so, the motion will trigger the sound of bells. Birds that have learned to fear cats will hear this, and fly away. Your cat may be left frustrated, but the bird will be grateful. According to journal Nature, cats have wiped out 33% of animal species’ in America alone.
3) Know When Your Cat is Nearby
It isn’t just birds that benefit from a cat’s collar being fitted with bells. It can be advantageous to know where your pet is. Imagine how much less worrying you would do if you could hear them in the house? It could spare you hunting high and low before finding them hiding in a drawer. You’ll also always hear your cat coming. That may be handy in the kitchen, say, when they can get dangerously underfoot.
Bells that warn of a cat’s arrival could also benefit other pets and humans. If you live with somebody who is partially sighted, for example, a cat may startle them. The tinkling of bells to announce a cat’s presence will lessen the chances of a shock. The same applies to young children. If you’re worried about how a cat will act around a baby, fix them with bells. You will always know if the cat is approaching the child’s crib.
Other pets may also enjoy knowing where the cat is. As these animals love to hunt, they sometimes adopt this as a playstyle. A nervous cat or dog that hates being leaped upon from behind will welcome the warning. This is vital if your cat is something of a bully. The territorial nature of felines means that this is relatively common. If other animals receive an alert that the cat is approaching, they can head somewhere else. Remember, the meeker members of your animal family deserve to be happy and safe too.
What are the Disadvantages of Cat Collars with Bells?
Of course, the use of bells on a collar will have downsides too.
If you are a light sleeper, the constant noise could drive you crazy. You will also need to remember that hearing a cat coming isn’t always a good thing. There is no getting away from the fact that bells are noisy.
2) Pest Control
You may be grateful that birds can escape a cat’s attention, but how about rats?
If you rely upon your cat to control a native pest population, bells may not be ideal. Rats and mice will hear your cat too, after all. This could mean that they live longer, and breed on your property. Your best hope is that the cat scares them enough to stay away.
3) Lack of Stealth
Also, remember that cats do not always like to make their presence felt. If they are wearing a collar with bells, they will not be able to stay hidden. This may be a little more than an inconvenience in the home, but outside could be different.
Your cat could be left exposed to bullying from other animals. It’s impossible to slink in the shadows and avoid enemies when every movement announces your presence.
Some people feel strongly that cats should not wear collars, regardless of the inclusion of bells. In some cases, this is because they consider the exercise to be pointless.
Longhaired cats, for example, may find that their fur obscures the collar anyway. This will leave the animal with a potentially tight peripheral around their throat for with limited advantages. Nobody will be able to find the cat’s personal information.
Primarily, concerns over collars revolve around the cat’s safety. If you are going to place a collar around your cat’s neck, you must ensure that it fits appropriately. As American Humane explains, young cats grow very quickly.
This means that a collar affixed to a kitten can soon become restrictive. There is a simple rule that you can apply, though. You should always be able to slip two fingers beneath the collar. If you can’t, the collar is far too tight. If you can do without any form of resistance, however, it’s too loose. In such an instance, the collar is not serving any useful purpose anyway.
If your cat is an adventurer, they will also be at risk of catching their collar on something. Many cats love to climb and crawl into small spaces. Your cat may not understand why their movement is being restricted if their collar gets caught. The more they struggle, the more potential damage they could do to their neck. Fighting could prove dangerous too, as collars give rival cats something to hook their claws into. If your cat is prone to getting into scrapes, a collar may be best avoided. Your cat may also get their claws trapped in the bell while playing with it.
Without meaning to sound alarmist, collars should even be handled with caution around the home. If your cat shares their home with a dog, there could be a collar hanging loose. As cats are naturally inquisitive creatures that love to climb, they may want to investigate.
It’s possible, though thankfully unlikely, that a cat could trap their neck in a dog collar. In such an event, they may end up accidentally choking themselves. If you hang a dog collar on a coat stand, keep it away from cats. Ideally, avoid leaving it handing altogether.
Are Bells Harmful to Cats?
Outside of the cons listed above, harmful is a subjective term. How do we define it? We treat our cats as family members, so we could say that any discomfort is harm. To that end, an argument could be made that bells are harmful.
One worry that can be set aside is the myth that collar bells cause feline deafness. This is not the case. Cats very quickly adapt to the sound, and are sedentary by nature. While they may find bells slightly frustrating at first, their physical health is not at risk.
They may annoy your cat though, especially when they put a kink in their hunting! Your cat may not tolerate wearing any collar. Least of all a noisy one. This could result in them becoming very stressed and irritable. You will bear the brunt of any fits of temper that follow.
If your cat is timid by nature, they may find a bell collar psychologically harmful. Cats that jump at sudden noises will be in a regular state of anxiety. Cats of this disposition will also be unlikely to hunt, making the bells unnecessary.
Finally, you’ll have to ensure your cat doesn’t trap their claws or teeth in a bell. As many cat toys feature bells, they may mistake their collar for a game. On the one hand, it could keep them amused for hours. On the other, it may be dangerous.
Safe Cat Collars with Bells
If you decide to collar your cat, with or without bells, safety is paramount. Make sure that the collar can be removed quickly, without fuss.
The easiest way to achieve this is by purchasing a ‘breakaway’ collar. This means that, should your cat become trapped, the collar will release automatically. This happens when sufficient force is placed upon the collar.
The intention is to prevent a cat from choking or strangling themselves. Any reputable pet store will sell these items. They may also sell ‘stretchy’ collars, constructed from elastic. Bells cannot be affixed to these collars, and it can be tricky to get a good fit with them. Breakaway collars are much safer.
If a collar that snaps and breaks sound like a false economy, do not be alarmed. The collar will be perfectly reusable after the breakaway mechanism is activated.