You might not think you need it, but experts recommend putting a collar with ID tags on your cat — even for indoor cats. It could make the difference in getting a lost cat back home.

By Austin Cannon
August 24, 2020
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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. 

But 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. 

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.  

Contact Information

As for what information to put on the tag, Albrecht recommends at least the owner’s name and two phone numbers. It’s not 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. 

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. 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.

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.

The tags themselves are inexpensive. At Petco, for example, you can buy engravable metal tags for between $10–$15. 

ScottHughesPhotography / Getty

Breakaway Collars

For cats’ collars, 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, she also needs 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.