There comes a time in a cat’s life that she may very well leave a veterinary clinic wearing an Elizabethan collar, or E-collar — a hard, plastic lampshade-shaped funnel fitted around her head. Cats are made to wear what people call the “cone of shame” so they don’t bite and scratch or lick and tear at stitches or a wound and thereby lengthen healing time or introduce harmful bacteria from their mouths or claws that could lead to a nasty infection.
Many cats, understandably, hate it. The plastic cone cuts off their peripheral vision, making it hard for them to move around easily and causing them to bump into furniture and become stuck in tight spaces as they struggle in it. The cone can make it difficult to relax or eat comfortably, too. Owners hate seeing their pets struggling with simple activities.
Fortunately, while the veterinary practice at which your pet is treated might send you home with a traditional e-collar, there are alternatives on the market that can keep your pet from reaching her wound without so much discomfort. Here are some of them.
Soft e-collar. Some cats prefer a soft cone made of fabric instead of a hard plastic one. It will not work for every feline. If your pet is a major chewer and will shred the cone, it is not a viable option. Also, you have to make sure that your cat cannot bend or manipulate the cone in such a way that allows her to get at the wound. Finally, many softer, floppier cones are opaque, so while they are less uncomfortable to move about in, they will not correct the tunnel vision that a cone creates.
Inflatable collar. Think of an airplane pillow that encircles the neck. It gives a cat peripheral vision in addition to allowing for better mobility. But it’s not for every wound on every cat. If the healing is taking place on the lower part of a limb, your pet’s mouth may still be able to reach it, eliminating this type of collar as an option.
Tiny dog sweater. If your cat’s wound or incision is on her trunk rather than one of her limbs, you can outfit her with a sweater or covering made for a small dog, such as a Chihuahua. That way, you are not limiting what her mouth or head can do. You’re limiting her access to a particular spot. As with any solution made of fabric, you just have to make sure your pet isn’t going to tear or pull at it to the point that she will be able to reach the place on her body where she is healing.
Infant onesie. Same idea as a tiny dog sweater. Zip or button your cat into a onesie meant for a human baby, and she will not be able to reach a hot spot or other wound on her trunk. If the onesie has sleeves, you will even be able to cover part of your pet’s leg and keep her from getting to a wound as far down as the knee, or maybe even a little lower. (But the onesie, while it should be comfortable, has to be tight enough that she can’t get under the fabric.) Make sure there are no doodads on the outfit that she can tear off and accidentally swallow or perhaps hurt her teeth on. Most cats will fit into something meant for either a 3- to 6-month-old child or a 6- to 9-month-old.
Leg covering. Some manufacturers sell fabric or bandages that wrap around a cat’s upper or lower limb so you can protect a particular spot on a leg.
Popular leg covering: PawFlex Protective Sleeve Tubular Cover — Bandages — for Dogs, Cats & Other Pets ($11.95 for 7 strips on amazon.com).
If you’re unsure about which of these might be best for your cat’s comfort while making it impossible for her to reach a spot that needs to heal, speak with your veterinarian for advice and tips. You won’t be the first client whose pet abhors the traditional e-collar.