Whether you have an indoor cat or one that spends time exploring outside, a collar is a must. Indoor cats don't face the same kind of dangers as those who venture outside, but a home emergency or just plain forgetfulness can lead to a dramatic kitty escape. And even if your cat is microchipped, a cat whose name and phone number is clearly displayed around their neck is more likely to find their way back home safe and sound.
For this guide to the best cat collars, we cut, buried, washed, and pulled apart 15 collars to identify the best of the bunch. We also asked veterinarians and a cat behavior consultant about what to look for in a cat collar and why every kitty should have one.
Here are the best cat collars in 2021
- Best breakaway cat collar: Rogz Nightcat Cat Collar
- Best waterproof cat collar: Ruff Threads Biothane Cat Collar
- Best reflective cat collar: Pawtitas Glow in the Dark Cat Collar
- Best personalized cat collar: GoTags Personalized Nylon Breakaway Collar
- Best bow tie cat collar: Made by Cleo Bow Tie Collar Set
- Best GPS cat collar: Tractive GPS Tracker
- Best cat flea collar: Seresto Flea and Tick Collar for Cats
- Best cat calming collar: Comfort Zone Calming Pheromone Collar for Cats
Updated on 06/02/2021: We rewrote this guide after extensive research and testing.
SEE ALSO: The best cat toys you can buy
The best breakaway cat collar
With its adjustable breakaway buckle and reflective exterior, Rogz Nightcat Cat Collar is the most versatile we tested.
All three of the experts we consulted agree that a breakaway collar — a collar with a buckle that comes apart when force is applied — is preferable for cats. "The breakaway collars are really the safest for the animal," said veterinarian Lindsey Renzullo, an associate medical director at Bulger Veterinary Hospital in Lawrence, Massachusetts. "If they get stuck on something, if they pull hard enough, they are able to get it off." The ideal breakaway collar is one that comes apart when your kitty has wormed their way into a dangerous situation but stays buckled during less intense escapades.
With a unique breakaway buckle that can be adjusted to come apart with light, medium, or heavy pressure, the Rogz Nightcat Cat Collar is ideal for cats of all sizes and activity levels. That, combined with a highly reflective exterior that's easily visible in low light and an adjustable length, make Rogz collars the most versatile of those we considered. In our testing, the Rogz Nightcat proved durable and easy to clean. The 3/8-inch wide collar comes in three colors and has a removable bell.
The best waterproof cat collar
The sturdy, simply designed Ruff Threads Biothane Cat Collar repels water and cleans up in seconds.
Renzullo likes waterproof collars because if they get wet, they won't become a soggy, moist burden around your cat's neck. Unlike most collars, which are made from nylon or polyester fabric, waterproof collars are made from BioThane or a similar coated material that is smooth to the touch.
Although both of the waterproof collars we considered for this guide were good, we selected Ruff Threads' Biothane Cat Collar as our winner for its ultra-simple design and durable material. Our testing confirmed that the Biothane isn't just the fastest-drying collar, it excels at repelling odors, too. This is also the only collar in the guide that is custom-sized. Instead of adjusting the length to fit your cat, you send Ruff Threads either your kitty's neck size or collar length and they customize the collar. The Biothane Cat Collar is 3/8-inches wide, has a breakaway buckle, and comes in 18 colors.
The best reflective cat collar
The Pawtitas Glow in the Dark Cat Collar radiates light to make cats more visible when the sun goes down.
After dark, cats are nearly invisible to drivers. A reflective collar gives them a better chance of being seen. Even better is a collar that glows in the dark so it is visible even if headlights aren't shining on it.
The Pawtitas Glow in the Dark Cat Collar was the brightest of those we tested. It gets its vivid glow from a ribbon of lightly patterned reflective material that's sewn onto 3/8-inch wide ripstop nylon webbing. The Pawtitas collar held up extremely well in our fray, soak, and clean tests. It also has an adjustable length, breakaway buckle, and removable bell. The Pawtitas Glow in the Dark Collar is sold in eight colors.
The best personalized cat collar
The GoTags Personalized Breakaway Cat Collar has your pet's name and phone number sewn right in.
ID tags can fall off, but a personalized collar with your cat's name and your phone number embroidered is more likely to stay put. "If your kitty ever gets lost, having as many forms of identification as possible is a good thing that may help them be returned to you," said veterinarian Gabrielle Fadl, medical director at Bond Vet in New York City. And if you have a cat who is sensitive to wearing things around their neck, a personalized collar may be more comfortable for them than dangling, jingling tags.
GoTags Personalized Breakaway Cat Collar is made of durable nylon and can be embroidered with up to 21 letters and numbers. For the 1/2-inch wide collar, you can choose from 5 different colors and 14 colors of embroidery thread. GoTags Personalized Collar gave a solid performance in our testing, with minimal fraying and only mild lingering odors after soaking in vinegar. It has an adjustable length, a breakaway buckle, and a removable bell.
The best bow tie cat collar
Made by Cleo's Bow Tie Collar Set is as well-made as it is dapper — at it's available is dozens of unique prints.
A fashionable collar is a fun way to showcase your cat's personality. Collars can be produced from a variety of materials that go beyond typical nylon webbing, including soft velvet, patterned cotton, or canvas fabric. These are what Ingrid Johnson, certified cat behavior consultant and owner of Fundamentally Feline in Marietta, Georgia, gravitates towards. Bits and bobbles like bow ties and charms also make lovely accents to a collar without being overly burdensome for most cats.
Deciding which bow tie collar to choose as our favorite was the hardest decision we had to make for this guide. Both options performed similarly in testing and were super cute on our feline models. Ultimately, we went with Made by Cleo's Bow Tie Collar Set. This collar has a patterned fabric exterior and a webbed nylon interior, both of which proved highly durable in our fray, odor, and clean tests. After being washed twice, there was slight discoloration in the fabric, but the collar held up well otherwise. We also found that its 3-by-1.75-inch bow tie, which was about 30% larger than the Neocoichi bow tie, was a better fit for our 10-pound and 12-pound models. Made by Cleo's Bow Tie Collar is 1/2-inch wide, adjustable, and comes with a removable bell.
The best GPS cat collar
Tractive's Dog and Cat GPS Tracker identifies your pet's location in real time and keeps records of their favorite routes and destinations.
GPS trackers are an easy way to keep tabs on your outdoor cat's daily adventures and to help you locate them if they don't come home. While none of the experts we consulted had any major concerns about the weight or bulkiness of a tracker, a 2014 study published in the journal Wildlife Research recommends that a cat tracker never be more than 2% of a cat's body mass. Even if it's light enough, not every cat will be willing to tolerate a tracker. "When in doubt about what's comfortable and healthy for your individual cat, it's best to ask your vet," said Fadl.
We loved the Tractive Dog and Cat GPS Tracker and found that it more accurately tracked routes and identified the location of a pet in real time than the Whistle Go Explore. The Tractive app is also easier to navigate and both the tracker and its subscription plan, which starts at $4.99 per month, are more affordable. The tracker also had a longer battery life than its competitor. Although the device is bulky, it weighs just 1.28 ounces and its low profile is less likely to get caught on passing objects than the Whistle, which sticks out more.
The best cat flea collar
The Seresto Flea and Tick Collar for Cats is a reliable, vet-approved way to repel parasites for up to eight months.
A March 2021 investigation by USA Today reported 1,700 animal deaths and other adverse reactions linked to Seresto flea collars. It's unknown if the EPA-approved pesticides used in the collar caused these incidents and this story is still developing. Always speak to your veterinarian if you have concerns before using a product and only purchase Seresto collars from authorized retailers.
Flea collars are an alternative to topical or oral flea treatments and one collar lasts for several months. With flea collars, Fadl said it's important to buy the product from a trusted source and to select one that's specifically formulated for felines. Both counterfeit flea collars and those made for dogs can be dangerous for cats.
Of the flea collars on the market, Renzullo likes the Seresto Flea and Tick Collar for Cats. "Seresto is really good and efficacious," she said. This non-greasy, odorless, and water-resistant collar repels and kills fleas and ticks and keeps them at bay for up to eight months. The Seresto is adjustable, has a quick-release buckle, and is reflective in low light.
The best cat calming collar
Comfort Zone's Calming Pheromone Cat Collar releases pheromones to help your cat feel more relaxed.
Calming pheromones have been shown to reduce stress and unwanted behaviors in both cats and dogs. Calming collars made for felines are infused with a synthetic version of the pheromone a mother cat emits while nursing her babies. When worn, the collar steadily releases its calming power each time it rubs against the fur.
We selected the Comfort Zone On-the-Go Calming Cat Collar as our top calming collar. Daintier and easier to adjust than its competitor, this collar is secured much like a watch band, which prevents it from flopping around or sticking out. In an emergency, pressure on the collar causes the ridges to break free from their holes and the buckle to come undone. The On-the-Go Calming Collar is unscented and lasts for 30 days. It comes in only one color — white.
To find the best cat collars, we tested 15 of them for this guide. Approximately half of the collars were purchased by Insider Reviews, including those made by Ruff Threads, RC Pet Products, Rogz, Pawtitas, Blueberry Pet and GoTags. All others were provided as editorial samples.
Breakaway test: I tested the strength of each breakaway buckle by looping the collars one at a time around a sturdy table leg and applying steadily increasing pressure. I began with a gentle tug that incrementally increased in intensity every five seconds. As I pulled, I noted at which point the buckle came apart. I favored collars that broke away with a medium amount of pressure as they would keep a cat from accidental strangulation but would stay on in less sticky situations.
Fray test: I made a 1-centimer cut in the webbing of all but the tracking, calming, and flea collars, then hung a 15-ounce can of beans from each collar and left it for 24 hours. I then checked each collar to see if the weight caused the nick in the collar to expand or fray. I rechecked the cut after the collars had gone through the clean test to identify any additional fraying.
Odor test: I soaked the same collars subjected to the fray test in apple cider vinegar for 10 minutes, then rinsed them out in hot water and left them to dry overnight. The next morning, I sniffed each one and scored odor's strength on a scale of 1 to 4. I rechecked the collars after the clean test and scored the strength of the remaining scent a second time.
Soak test: I expanded each of the collars in the breakaway, waterproof, reflective, personalized, and bow tie categories to their maximum length and measured them. Following the vinegar test and odor tests, both of which included a thorough soaking and overnight drying, I measured the collars again to check for shrinkage. I also noted how quickly each collar dried, checking them 2 hours, 4 hours, and 12 hours after they'd been soaked in water.
Clean test: I buried the same collars from the soak test in a bag of potting soil. After 48 hours, I dug them up and washed them using hot water and dish soap, then laid them out to dry. Once dry, I thoroughly examined each collar for dirt and discoloration.
Glow test: I looked at the two glow-in-the-dark collars from three different distances — 2, 5, and 10 feet away — in a completely dark room. At each distance, I noted how brightly the collars glowed in comparison to each other.
Tracking test: To determine how accurate the GPS technology was on the tracking collars, I took each one for three long walks, checking the app afterward to see whether it correctly identified the route I took. I also checked to see if the device notified me about the location of the tracker as I walked.
Battery test: I noted the time and date that each tracker was fully charged and the time and date when its battery died. I also checked to see when and how often the device notified me of its dwindling power.
What else we considered
Among the 15 collars we tested for this guide, there were several categories for which we struggled to select our favorite. Read more about the runners-up as well as collars that didn't make the cut below.
RC Pet Products Kitty Breakaway Collar: This is a cute, durable collar that did well in testing. We did not like that it had only a small reflective patch, a sensitive breakaway buckle, and an extremely thick plastic ID ring that was hard to fit between the grooves of a key ring.
Red Dingo Classic Nylon Breakaway Collar: This very simple, inexpensive collar passed our tests with flying colors. But, with no reflective accents and a breakaway buckle that isn't adjustable, the Red Dingo Classic was not our top choice.
Kittyrama Cat Collar: We really like this waterproof collar, and with a cute house-shaped breakaway buckle, it is more attractive than tour top pick from Ruff Threads. What kept it from the top spot is the covered, plastic watchband-like buckle used to adjust the collar's length. It leaves extra material hanging, which has the potential to catch on something.
Rogz Glow in the Dark Reflective Cat Collar: Like the Rogz Nightcat, this glow-in-the-dark collar is highly durable and has a breakaway buckle with adjustable sensitivity. In our glow test, it was a little less bright than Pawtitas's version.
Blueberry Pet Personalized Breakaway Collar: The price is right on this customizable collar sold in a pack of two. It did as well as the GoTags collar in testing, but the back of the embroidery on the collar's interior was rough and scratchy to the touch.
Neocoichi Lucky Charm Bow Tie Collar: Neocoichi's bow tie collar is well-made and cute and we struggled to decide whether it should be named best. The final decision came down to two points: This collar has a hanging charm that cannot be removed and its bowtie is slightly smaller, and therefore a little more comical, than Made by Cleo's.
Whistle Go Explore GPS Tracker: This tracker connects to WiFi when in the home, but it frequently lost connection and sent me false alerts that my tester cat had left the house. This may occur due to a weak WiFi signal or when a pet is lying on top of the device. Though it weighs slightly less than the Tractive, the Whistle sticks out more, making it easier to get caught on things. Plus, both the device and its subscription plan cost about twice as much as the Tractive.
Sentry HC Good Behavior Pheromone Collar: While this calming collar is more affordable than the Comfort Zone, it has an extremely strong synthetic lavender-chamomile scent that may bother both sensitive cats and humans. It also comes coated in a powder that flakes off and makes a mess the first 24 to 48 hours of use and its extra-long webbing must be cut down to the appropriate size.
Do indoor cats need collars?
Both Renzullo and Johnson agree that indoor cats should wear a collar that clearly displays their ID. "Cats get outside, windows get broken, people break into houses, stuff happens," explained Johnson. "I've adopted the philosophy that they should all have a collar. It's their best chance of being ID'd."
Does a cat need a collar if they are microchipped?
Yes. If your cat gets lost or separated from you in an emergency, the person who finds them is unlikely to be able to scan their microchip without taking your pet to a veterinarian's office or animal shelter. If your cat's ID and phone number are clearly displayed on their collar, you have a much better chance of getting your pet back quickly.
At what age should a cat start wearing a collar?
The earlier a cat is introduced to wearing a collar, the better. A kitten who has positive experiences with collars early on is more likely to be comfortable in a collar later in life.
How do I fit a cat collar?
It's important to properly fit your cat's collar in order to prevent injury or discomfort. When a collar is too loose, a yawning cat can get their jaw stuck beneath it and their attempts to escape it can cause cuts in the mouth and along the jaw. If a collar is too tight, it might be itchy or uncomfortable and a cat that frequently scratches at their collar may develop a bald spot or hotspot.
For a cat collar to fit properly, it should be just loose enough for you to be able to slide one or two fingers between it and your cat's neck, said Fadl. Check the collar shortly after you adjust it to make sure it's the proper size. If you have a growing kitten, check the collar weekly to be sure it doesn't choke them as they grow.
What if my cat refuses to wear a collar?
Although a 2010 study by The Ohio State University found that around 73% of cats will wear a collar for an extended period, Fadl said some cats are never comfortable wearing a collar. She suggests consulting with your vet if your cat scratches at or tries to escape their collar. While positive-reinforcement training may help some cats to learn to be more comfortable in a collar, for others it might prove too challenging. In the latter scenario, it's particularly important to microchip your kitty.
Why do cats need breakaway collars?
Breakaway collars are built to prevent accidental strangling. Whether a cat is indoors or outdoors, a collar can get stuck or tangled on things and push against the cat's windpipe. With a breakaway, as soon as your pet begins to struggle, the pressure opens the buckle to free them.
Are GPS tracking collars too heavy for a cat?
According to a 2014 study in the journal Wildlife Research, a collar with a GPS tracker should ideally weigh no more than 2% of a cat's body mass. Researchers found that when cats wore heavier collars, the distance they traveled from home decreased, suggesting the weight of the collar was burdensome and uncomfortable.
Should I take off my cat's collar at night?
It's not necessary to remove a cat's collar at night unless they are irritated by it. Most cats won't even notice it's on. If you have attached a bulky GPS tracker to their collar, they may be more comfortable if it is removed at night. Attaching a GPS tracker to a second collar that is easy to put on and take off without removing your pet's ID on their regular collar may be helpful.
Types of collars
Cat collars come in several forms. We focused on the following categories for this guide:
A breakaway collar has a buckle that will come apart if your cat gets caught and pulls to escape. According to our experts, this is the only type of collar a cat should wear. There are a wide variety of breakaway collars, including reflective and glow-in-the-dark versions that make it easier to see a cat in low light and fashionable ones like adorable bow-tie collars. The ideal breakaway buckle is one that comes undone with the application of medium pressure. If it comes undone too easily, it's more likely to come loose in non-life-threatening situations If it takes too much pressure to undo, your cat may have more trouble escaping when necessary.
Personalized collars have a cat's name and your phone number inscribed on the webbing. These are a great option for cats who are sensitive to tags hanging from their neck. Look for a personalized collar that with identifying details stitched into the fabric. Information printed on a collar can quickly smear and become unreadable.
Waterproof collars are often coasted in waterproof synthetics. Cats who are sensitive to wearing a collar may find this style more comfortable because it is less likely to get caught in long hair. Because these collars dry almost instantly, they're also less likely to cause the kind of irritation a heavy, wet nylon collar can, said Renzullo.
A flea collar is an alternative to a topical or oral flea treatment. The flea collar will last for several months before it needs to be changed. Before using a flea collar with your cat, talk to your veterinarian.
Calming collars are made from smooth webbing infused with synthetic calming pheromones that mimic the ones a nursing mother cat emits. The collar rubs against a cat's fur to release pheromones throughout the day. Pheromone collars typically last 30 days before a replacement is needed.
A GPS tracking collar is not a collar but actually a small device that is attached to a standard collar. Tracking collars keep tabs on outdoor cats when they roam, identifying the places they visit most often and, in some cases, even tracing the route they take in real time. Tracking collars require a monthly subscription plan to go with a free, downloadable app.
Why you should never use a shock collar on a cat
Although there are shock collars made for cats, we have not included them in this guide because they are inhumane and ineffective training tools. Like shock collars for dogs, a cat shock collar delivers a quick jolt of pain which its proponents argue is a way to prevent a cat from engaging in unwanted behaviors. However, because it is nearly impossible to time accurately and apply consistently, shock collars more frequently lead to fear, anxiety and extreme discomfort than good behavior.
Whereas using a shock collar may seem like an easy fix to a behavior problem, it is far more likely to backfire and cause additional behavioral issues. The best way to train a cat is through the use of techniques based in the science of learning. Not only are these methods—which include positive-reinforcement and rewards-based training, desensitization and counterconditioning—more effective at decreasing the behaviors you don't want and increasing the ones you do, they improve communication between you and your pet without resorting to pain, fear and intimidation.
If you aren't sure where to start with positive reinforcement training, contact a board-certified veterinary behaviorist or a certified cat behavior consultant.
We consulted the following experts for this guide to the best cat collars:
Gabrielle Fadl, DVM, veterinarian and medical director, Bond Vet, New York, New York
Fadl is the medical director at Bond Vet in New York City. She earned her veterinary degree from the University of Kansas College of Veterinary Medicine. We consulted Fadl via email on March 10, 2021.
Ingrid Johnson, owner and certified cat behavior consultant, Fundamentally Feline, Marietta, Georgia
Johnson is a certified cat behavior consultant through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). She is the former co-chair of the IAABC's cat division and is the co-director of the Paw Project's Georgia chapter, which works toward ending the practice of cat declawing. Johnson is also a veterinary technician and cat groomer at Paws, Whiskers, and Claws veterinary hospital in Marietta, Georgia. We interviewed Johnson by phone on February 17, 2021.
Lindsey Renzullo, DVM, associate medical director, Bulger Veterinary Hospital, Lawrence, Massachusetts
Renzullo earned a veterinary degree from Canada's Atlantic Veterinary College. She has been with Bulger Veterinary Hospital since college, when she worked as vet tech during summer breaks. In 2014, Renzullo was promoted from her role as a licensed veterinarian to Bulger Veterinary Hospital's assistant medical director. She also co-hosts The PAWEDcast, a podcast that explores topics in veterinary medicine. We interviewed Renzullo by phone on February 24, 2021.
We also consulted the following online sources between February and May 2021:
- American Humane Society. Choosing a Cat Collar
- Blackwell, Emily J., et al. The use of electronic collars for training domestic dogs: estimated prevalence, reasons and risk factors for use, and owner perceived success as compared to other training methods, BMC Vet Res 8, 93 (2012).
- Coughlin, Cayley E. and Yolanda van Heezik, Weighed down by science: do collar-mounted devices affect domestic cat behaviour and movement?, Wildlife Research 41(7) 606-614 (2015)
- Guy, Nick. The Best GPS Trackers for Cats and Dogs, Wirecutter, January 25, 2021
- Heflin, Marissa. New Study Reveals Most Cats Will Wear Collars, Veterinary Practice News, December 7, 2010
- International Cat Care. Collars
- Ontario SPCA. Training the Cats in Your Care to Wear a Collar