It could make all the difference in getting a lost cat back home.
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It might seem like overkill to make your indoor cat wear cat ID tags, but they're a necessity.

So says Kat Albrecht, the founder of the Missing Animal Response Network. Cat identification tags are an easy, low-cost safeguard if your cat goes missing: If a stranger or shelter collects your cat, they'll know who to call. 

"When somebody sees that cat, they will immediately know it belongs to somebody," says Albrecht, who adds cats should also be microchipped to keep them from being lost forever. 

However, not all cat owners buy in. Albrecht has run into some cat owners who don't think it's necessary or view collars as "unnatural." Others think because their cat spends all her time inside, a collar with tags isn't necessary. But if your cat gets lost, an ID tag is one of the easiest ways to get her home.

Why Do Cats Need ID Tags?

While the cat might live inside exclusively, there's still risk that a natural disaster or burglary could scare a cat into running out an open door. Heck, a curious indoor cat could saunter out during the summer if a door or window is mistakenly left ajar. Albrecht says owners often don't think about collars and ID tags until it's too late. "You never know when you're going to have an emergency," she says. 

And of course, a cat with access to the outdoors will especially benefit from having ID tags. If he wanders into unfamiliar territory or finds himself in a sticky situation, anyone who finds your cat will know how to alert you. 

Plus, the ID tags signal to strangers that the lost cat belongs to someone. Missing indoor cats will be afraid out in the wild, mimicking the behavior of feral cats, Albrecht says. While your cat should also have a microchip, a visible collar and tag makes it clear to the average person that she's lost. And, without cat ID tags (or a microchip), a shelter, which might not find your cat for days or weeks, won't know who to turn to.

What To Include on Your Cat's Name Tag

As for what information to put on the tag, Albrecht recommends at least the owner's name and two phone numbers. It's not always necessary for you to put your cat's name on the tags. "It's more important that whoever finds [your cat] knows how to find you," she says. 

Your veterinarian's contact is a good option for the second phone number on the tag. Most vets are able to accept pets if you're not around, so if you're out of town or your cat needs immediate medical attention, their primary vet is the best place to be. Including an address (or city, if an address won't fit) and important medical information can also help keep your kitty safe.

If you happen to be traveling, animal welfare organization American Humane recommends placing a temporary tag on your cat's collar with contact information for someone still in town who can, in turn, reach you.

Remember to keep your cat's ID tag (and microchip) updated with current information, especially when you move or change phone numbers. Luckily, the tags themselves are inexpensive to replace. You can typically buy engravable metal tags for between $10–$15 at big box pet stores. 

cat with collar and ID tags
Credit: ScottHughesPhotography / Getty

Which Collars Are Best For Cats?

A personalized collar can also serve as a form of identification without the noise of a traditional hanging ID tag. Albrecht suggests outfitting your feline with a breakaway collar—a kind of collar that will unlatch if the cat tugs at it with enough force. Cats are curious and can find themselves in situations where their collar gets caught on a limb or fence. A breakaway collar gives them a way out a traditional one doesn't.

In a 2013 local news station interview, South Carolina veterinarian Wendy King told the sad story of a dog who strangled after her conventional collar was caught in a bush. She cited it as a reason to use breakaway collars. 

"This is especially good for dogs but also cats," King says. "Think about them. They slink through fences and everything, and if they get caught, they will panic and they will pull and tug and twist and flip and they just strangle themselves." 

If your cat wears a breakaway collar, it's especially important to have a microchip. With that redundancy, a found cat will still have a verified link to her family even if she had to shed the collar.