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I cringe to see a cat with their whiskers crushed in a stiff plastic “cone of shame.” Years ago, when my tabby Zoe was spayed, I tried sitting up all night holding her on my lap rather than tie a cone, also known as an Elizabethan collar, on her. (As you can imagine, that didn’t work—we ended up using a small kitten cone.) The good news is that now there are many types of Elizabethan cat collars, or E-collars, that are easier on your cat than the old-school vet-issued cone.
As much as your cat will attempt to convince you otherwise, it’s important that they wear a collar when the vet orders it. The restrictive collar prevents the cat from ripping out stitches, licking off medications, chewing on irritated skin, or removing dressings on a wound.
The idea that it’s OK for animals to lick at incisions is a myth, according to veterinarian John Berg, Professor of Small Animal Surgery at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts.
Pet parents can minimize discomfort by sizing the collar correctly. Berg advises, “Be sure it is long enough to prevent licking at the incision, but short enough not to make it difficult for the cat to eat and drink—just past the end of the nose is a good rule-of-thumb.” (See more of his advice about recovery collars in this Tufts University Catnip newsletter article.)
If your idea of a recovery cat collar is the traditional, stiff, uncomfortable plastic “cone of shame,” you’ll be pleased with the many new and better options out on the market. They include clear collars with padded rims, inflated collars, lightly padded nylon collars, soft floppy collars, and cushion collars similar to the ones people use for sleeping on planes. Many of the new collars are washable, so you can buy two and know that your recovering kitty will always have a fresh collar.
Another alternative is recovery suits. These cover a wound or irritated area on the torso, preventing your cat from biting or scratching at a sensitive site. In most cases, your cat will be able to eat and use the litter box while wearing the suit.
When checking ratings and reviews for E-collars, keep in mind that many of the collars are designed for both cats and dogs. A negative review from someone whose 80-pound dog gnawed through a size Large collar doesn’t tell you much about how the collar will work for your 10-pound kitty.
Bottom line: We sure hope your cat won’t need to wear a cone or recovery suit any time soon. But if they do, know that you can spare them the basic plastic cone and level up to something more comfortable.
These inexpensive Elizabethan cat collars are upgrades from the basic plastic cone, with improvements such as padding to prevent neck irritation, holes for easier breathing, and wider cone shape to avoid irritating your cat’s whiskers.
While this E-collar looks a lot like the dreaded cone, it has some significant improvements, including top and bottom padded edges, so your cat’s neck won’t get irritated, and a set of holes that make it easier for your cat to breathe. The collar has snap closures with three settings so you can adjust the fit. Because this product is for dogs and cats, you’ll probably want to get the small size for your kitty.Buy Now on Chewy
This cone has a padded cotton collar and padded edges, plus Velcro for closing the collar firmly. It’s wider than traditional plastic cones, so it is less likely to irritate your kitty’s sensitive whiskers. Read the product’s sizing guide—and customer comments—before buying. Some pet parents feel that it runs a bit large.Buy Now on Chewy
These fully padded Elizabethan cat collars are a great choice to help your cat rest comfortably. But they can limit visibility, so your cat should be protected or supervised as they move around the house. Fabric collars that absorb dampness may also get wet in the cat’s water dish.
The cat version of this soft E-collar is the extra-small size of the Calm Paws dog collar. It fits necks 6 to 9 inches and has a depth of 4.75 inches. The heavy-duty outer materials are easy to clean, and the soft, fuzzy inner material is comfy for your recovering kitty. Reviews on this collar are mixed—some praise its comfort, others comment that it’s bulky and perhaps better suited for larger pets.Buy Now on Chewy
Two cool things about this padded collar make it a good choice for cats: First, you can remove the plastic stays to make it less stiff and bulky. Then, if your cat is recovering from a shoulder or upper back injury such as a wound, you can turn down the collar so the cone goes in the other direction—covering the back and shoulders rather than the head and neck. Durable, tight-gauge nylon is ideal for your cat because their claws can’t get caught in it; the material also allows you to fold it back when needed.Buy Now on Chewy
This lightweight, soft machine-washable memory foam collar is designed for cats. Chewy customers rave about it—because cats don’t mind wearing it! Some purchasers inverted the cone to cover the back, chest, and shoulders. However, there are some minuses: Cats can get claws caught in the fabric cover and fabric can get soaked and heavy if it drags in the cat’s water dish.Buy Now on Chewy
This collar may not cheer up your convalescing cat, but it is likely to amuse you. Depending on which collar you select, your cat can look like a lion, a sunflower, or a pink pompom. Some buyers say it is perfect for a cat, others report that it is a bit heavy. The collar is machine washable.Buy Now on Chewy
Inflatable Elizabethan cat collars are big and bulky, but very effective at keeping your cat from biting or licking a sore area.
An affordable collar designed for cats and short-nosed dogs, the Kong Cloud Collar inflates to become a big soft donut with a hook-and-loop closure. It’s washable, so your kitty can stay clean and comfortable while keeping wounds and stitches protected. The extra-small and small sizes are for cats—check size information and measuring instructions before purchasing.Buy Now on Chewy
Even if your cat does not achieve serenity by wearing this inflatable collar, they’ll be well protected. This collar must be attached to your cat’s regular collar: inflate it, attach to their collar, and use the hook-and-loop strap to close the ZenCollar in front.Buy Now on Chewy
While Elizabethan collars are designed to reduce a cat’s range of motion so they can’t reach a surgical site or injured area, recovery suits take the opposite approach. They allow the cat to move freely but protect the injured or irritated area from teeth, claws, and tongues. Some recovery suits can also be used to hold dressings in place.
This suit gets rave reviews from cat parents for its effectiveness at preventing cats from fussing with their surgical wounds. There is an excellent guide on the Suitical website with measuring directions (cat sizes include XXX-small, XX-small, X-small, and small) and details on the suit’s many features. A blue lining makes it easy to detect fluids or bleeding, and there is a pocket for an ice pack or absorbent padding. The suit closes with snaps and the stretchy neck and leg openings of the suit keep it in place. The manufacturer says that most cats will be able to use the litter box without dirtying the suit.Buy Now on Chewy
This recovery suit for wound management and post-surgical protection is a two-piece. You put the top on over the head, roll it down to the shoulders, and insert the cat’s front legs, one at a time. The optional back piece is like a pair of undies. The machine-washable suit is 95% cotton and 5% Lycra. Be sure to read the sizing instructions before ordering.Buy Now on Chewy
This lightweight step-in onesie is, like other suits, designed to prevent your pet from licking, biting, or scratching at a sensitive area. Unlike other recovery suits, however, it covers the upper legs—so it could be ideal for a cat recovering from a leg or shoulder condition. The chest/tummy area is adjustable for a snug fit, and most cats can easily use the litterbox while wearing the suit. Made of Pima cotton, the pullover is machine washable.Buy Now on Chewy
While it may work as a post-surgery option to keep kitty from clawing or chewing at stitches, as you can see, the primary objective of this particular Elizabethan cat collar is purely ornamental. This handmade lace ruff is just what you need when outfitting the cat for your next all-feline production of King Lear or Twelfth Night.
It’s made in the USA and available on Etsy at the link below.Shop on Etsy
Need to improvise a recovery collar or suit for your cat in a hurry? A baby t-shirt will often do the trick. This vet in England posted an entire gallery of patients wearing their collars and tiny shirts.