Why does my cat hate wearing a collar?
Q I'd like to put a collar on my newly adopted six-year-old cat, who used to be a stray. I have tried every way to get the collar on but he just jumps away. I've tried slipping it over his head, and also tried to do it up at the back of his neck. I've tried to put it on him when he is asleep, but he quickly wakes up. Is there any technique you think I could use? I don't want to let him out without the collar in case he gets lost. Can you suggest anything?
Behaviourist Francesca Riccomini advises: If he hasn't already been microchipped, it would be worth having this done as it would take the pressure off you a bit and give you time to work on building his confidence.
I suggest you work on a de-sensitization programme, starting at the point where he feels comfortable to be with you. For instance, when he walks over to you, just reach out your hand towards him - but stop before he takes fright.
If he doesn't show any negative reaction, reward him with a tiny food treat. Perhaps you could even hand-feed some of his regular diet so that he regards your hand coming towards him as a really positive thing.
When he's quite comfortable with that, decrease the distance you extend your hand before offering the treat so that he has to get closer. Once he comes near to you voluntarily, you could hold the treat in one hand and very gently touch him for the briefest moment on a neutral part of his body. Don't move quickly or reach over his head, as this is quite threatening.
Working very slowly through this sort of programme can be amazingly helpful, although it will probably be some time before you reach the stage of getting a collar on him or being able to pick him up. You could also make the collar itself less scary for him by placing it by his food bowl or putting it on the floor with treats beside it so he associates it with something good. If he learns to accept that happily, you can then hold it up so he has to put his nose through to get the treat.