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Throw Out the Dreaded Cone Collar

by Shell St. James 4 days ago in cat

A Cat Mom Finds a Modern Alternative

Image by PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay

We’ve all been there.

Your fur-baby has just undergone a traumatic experience at the vet, a spay/neuter or an injury, and the doctor hands you this torture device and tells you it’s imperative you keep it on your pet, so they won’t disturb the healing of the area. The dreaded cone collar...

Your baby has already been through so much already!

When you have to fight them, holding them down as they struggle against this uncomfortable device, adding insult to injury, they look at you with accusation.

“How could you? I’m already hurting!”

Your vet says they’ll get used to it in a few hours, and some do. But some don’t.

My cherished cat, Minnow, was a stray. He had lived his first seven months outside, and adopted me one January afternoon. Being a responsible cat Mom, I immediately scheduled an appointment for his shots and microchip. The vet guessed at his age, and advised me to get him neutered right away, before he was mature enough to start spraying.

I agreed, having seen enough starving kittens living outdoors. Minnow was not going to contribute to the cat overpopulation problem.

The neutering appointment was made for two weeks in the future. Minnow adapted to indoor life quite readily, but he was afraid of a lot of things. It was apparent he’d never lived in a house before.

He would skedaddle when I closed a cabinet, ripped a paper towel from the roll, or ran the faucet. Pots and pans rattling would send him under the bed. Indoors was like a foreign planet for him, and he was always on the lookout for new threats.

Keep in mind, he had successfully survived as a stray for seven months by always being wary and watchful. Having had no one take care of him, he was hyper-vigilant, ready for danger.

author's photo of Minnow

The first time I had to put him in the cat carrier was difficult, and he cried all the way to the vet. Well, that's nothing new. I’ve yet to have a cat who enjoyed the experience, though a (very) few friends have reported their cats do love a car ride.

When it was time to bring Minnow in again to be neutered, it was apparent that he remembered cat carriers and car rides lead to being poked and prodded. He fought like a demon, a little Tazmanian devil, furious that he was trapped in the carrier. My soothing words didn’t comfort him.

When I dropped him off at the vet, still in his carrier, and walked away, it broke my heart. His meow changed tone, became both frantic and mournful at once. I went back to the counter and looked at him through the carrier’s slats, made eye contact and promised him it would be OK. I was not abandoning him.

I found myself gulping back tears as I left the vet’s office, hearing him crying so pitifully. During his first appointment I was able to stay at his side. No doubt this time he thought I was leaving him behind, after him having a tease of the good life, with the security of a home and regular feeding.

I was so happy to pick him back up that afternoon! I was going to make it up to him, pamper him and coddle him. Things would settle back down and we could bond properly. He already owned my heart.

author's photo of Minnow

I'd had only female cats in the past, and when they were spayed, for whatever reason the vets had never sent them home with a cone collar.

I had no experience with these collars, and listened carefully as the vet instructed me on how to fasten it (not a live demo, Minnow was in his carrier).

He admonished me it was absolutely critical that Minnow wear the cone collar. He told me, no matter how sad Minnow seemed, it had to be worn; without it, my boy was almost guaranteed to pull at his stitches. Minnow and I definitely did not want to have to come back in a day o two.

When we got home and I let Minnow out of his prison, he ran for cover and hid under the bed. I talked to him and set his food and water nearby. He was groggy and I decided to let him sleep, staying close by and checking on him.

That evening, I put the cone collar on for the first time.

OMG, it was a complete disaster!

Not just the struggle to attach it, but as soon as I released him, Minnow ran into the kitchen, clawing frantically at the foreign object obstructing his vision, and bashing his head repeatedly against the lower cabinets in an effort to dislodge it.

He was wild-eyed, out of his head with fright. I tried to soothe him and pet him, but he was having none of it. He would whirl around, hissing continuously, unable to see anything that wasn’t directly in front of him, having to turn in circles to guard himself.

It dawned on me then, just what his survival outdoors for the first seven months had taught him. If you couldn’t see it coming, danger would catch up to you, and probably kill you.

Minnow wouldn’t be calmed. He ran to hide under the bed - his sanctuary - and found the collar obstructing him from crawling underneath. It was too wide. He cowered in a corner, frantically swiveling his body from side to side to see if something was lurking nearby. The absolute panic and pitiful unhappiness on his face broke my heart, and I couldn’t hold back my tears. I hated that I had caused him this level of distress!

I tried to give it time. Minnow cried mournfully all night and wouldn’t be comforted. Finally, at 2 A.M. I took off the collar, telling myself I would watch him carefully for signs he was pulling at the stitches or over-grooming the area. Maybe he would leave the area in question alone.

Of course he didn’t.

He was letting me pet him again, now that I had rescued him from the monstrous collar, but I couldn’t get him to leave his stitches alone.

I had to find another solution. I could not put the cone collar back on him.

photo of product on

An internet search led me to this lifesaver. An inflatable collar, made in several sizes, for both dogs and cats.

Same idea as the plastic cone collar - it prevents them from being able to get their heads close enough to their affected area to groom or pull at stitches, but it doesn’t obstruct their vision. I called a friend to babysit Minnow, to distract him if she saw him pulling at his stitches, and went to pick it up.

I bought mine at PetCo. I don’t remember the brand, and have since donated our collar to my sister, but they seem to be sold everywhere now, from Walmart to Amazon (my experience was in 2013).

Minnow wasn’t happy when I put the new collar on him, but he soon realized he could still swivel his head just fine, and therefore see any danger creeping up on him. That was the issue that seemed to have been causing his panic, and once that was resolved, he adjusted to wearing it.

I only caught him pulling at it once with his front paw, more like he was itchy than anything, and the collar stayed put and suffered no damage.

Minnow wore the collar for 7 days, until the stitches healed. It was a success! I was SO happy to have found this alternative! It was heartbreaking that first night to see his panic and distress with the old-fashioned cone collar.

An inflatable collar is such a great solution, and I wanted to share my experience with the pet Moms out there. We all feel bad enough when our fur-babies are in need of the vet’s attention.

Using the inflatable collar instead of the cone collar, you won’t feel like you’re causing them additional distress once they get home.

Love your babies, and please get them spayed or neutered.

Shell St. James
Shell St. James
Read next: Calling All Wannabe Pet Owners
Shell St. James

Wanderer, but never lost. Reader, writer, teacher and student. The written word feeds our souls, but eat some blackberries now and then, too - they're good for you!

See all posts by Shell St. James

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