Are Cat Collars With Bells Bad

The Pros and Cons of Cat Collars with Bells

Cat collars with bells have been a popular choice among cat owners for years. The main purpose of adding a bell is to alert birds and other small prey of the cat’s presence, as the ringing serves as a warning. However, debates continue over whether bells on collars do more harm than good. This article will examine the pros and cons of cat collars with bells to help owners make an informed decision.

According to a 2010 study by Ohio State University, 72.7% of cats consistently wore collars over a six-month period when their owners put them on. This highlights that most cats will tolerate wearing collars, so cat owners do not need to avoid collars due to concerns over acceptance.

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits and downsides of bell collars, look at when bells may be problematic, overview alternatives, provide tips for introducing and caring for bell collars, discuss signs to ask a vet about collar concerns, and offer overall guidance to help owners decide what is best for their cat.

Pros of Cat Collars with Bells

Two main benefits of cat collars with bells are alerting wildlife of the cat’s presence and helping owners locate roaming cats. Studies show that bells can warn birds and small mammals that a predator is nearby. For example, research published in the Journal of Zoology found that bells reduced predation rates by cats by about 50%. This reduction may be enough to alleviate threats cats pose to vulnerable ecosystems and species.

a cat with a bell collar stalking a bird

In addition to protecting wildlife, bells make it easier for owners to find cats that go outdoors. The sound of the bell allows owners to quickly track down a roaming cat. Bells are especially useful for finding cats who have wandered off or gotten lost while outside.

Cons of Cat Collars with Bells

While some pet owners put bells on cat collars with good intentions, there are potential downsides to consider. The most common cons cited by experts include:

The ringing sound of bells can annoy some cats, causing them stress. As the ASPCA notes, some cats dislike the constant jingling and find it irritating or overstimulating [1]. This may cause anxious or easily startled cats to become fearful.

Bells can make it harder for cats to hunt, impacting their natural behaviors. Studies show collars with bells reduce a cat’s ability to catch prey by about 50% [2]. While this may help protect local wildlife, it prevents cats from expressing natural hunting instincts.

Overall, while bell collars seem innocuous, they may adversely affect some cats. Pet owners should observe how their cat responds and consider alternatives if the cat seems distressed or disrupted by the bell’s sound.

When Bells May Be Problematic

While bell collars can provide some benefits, they may not be suitable for all cats. There are some situations where bell collars can cause issues:

For skittish or anxious cats – The constant jingling sound of a bell can be stressful for cats that are easily frightened or startled. The noise may overstimulate them and exacerbate nervous or anxious behaviors. Some cats may even become withdrawn or depressed from the constant bell noise (1).

For cats with hearing loss – Senior cats or cats with partial hearing loss can find bell collars frustrating or disorienting. The bells create noise pollution that makes it even harder for hearing impaired cats to discern important sounds in their environment (2).

For outdoor cats in areas with larger predators – Bells can draw unwanted attention from predatory animals like coyotes or eagles. The bell sound may attract predators to an outdoor cat, putting them at greater risk. In areas with larger predators, bell collars are best avoided (1).

If you notice any signs of stress, anxiety, or changes in your cat’s behavior after introducing a bell collar, it’s best to remove it and try an alternative.


Alternatives to Bells

There are some alternatives to bells that can help keep wildlife safe when cats go outside. Here are a few options:

Brightly colored collars can make cats more visible to birds instead of using bells. Companies like Birdsbesafe make collars with vibrant fabric covers that attract attention.

a cat wearing a bright pink collar

Microchipping cats provides permanent identification without a collar. A vet can implant a small chip under the skin. Animal shelters and vets can then scan for the ID if a cat gets lost.

Supervising outside time allows owners to monitor their cats. Instead of having cats roam freely, owners can bring them out on a leash or stay with them in a contained space like a catio.

Choosing a Bell Collar

When choosing a bell collar for your cat, it’s important to select one that is lightweight and designed not to irritate your cat’s neck. Elastic collars can be uncomfortable for cats, so it’s best to choose a collar with a buckle closure. Look for soft, flexible materials like nylon or leather that won’t chafe your cat’s skin.

The bell itself should have a pleasant, gentle sound that won’t startle your cat or annoy you and your family. Test different bells by ringing them to find one with a melodic chime. Avoid very loud, clanging bells. The bell should be securely fastened to the collar so it doesn’t fall off.

Measure your cat’s neck before buying a bell collar to ensure you get the proper size. Make sure you can fit two fingers between the collar and your cat’s neck. It’s also a good idea to choose a safety release collar designed to unclip if caught on something.

When introducing your cat to a new bell collar, monitor them closely at first to ensure the collar fits properly and the bell sound does not cause stress. With patience and positive reinforcement, most cats adjust well to wearing collars with bells.

Introducing a Bell Collar

Before putting a bell on your cat’s collar, it’s important to first get them comfortable wearing a regular collar. Cats who aren’t used to wearing collars may resist or try to take them off at first. With patience and positive reinforcement, you can train your cat to accept wearing a collar.

Start by letting your cat inspect and sniff the collar. Offer treats and praise when they show interest. Next, hold the collar up to your cat’s neck and reward them with treats for staying still. Gradually work up to very briefly putting the collar on and immediately giving treats and removing it. As your cat tolerates it for longer periods, you can leave the collar on for 5-10 minutes at a time, supervising and rewarding calm behavior.

putting a bell collar on a cat for the first time

Once your cat is comfortable wearing a regular collar for extended periods, you can introduce the bell. Make sure to remove any dangling name tags first, as the bell should be the only thing hanging from the collar. Again let your cat inspect it, and give treats and praise. The bell may startle them at first, so go slowly and keep sessions brief. With time and positive association, your cat will adjust to the sound of the bell.

According to experts, cat collar training requires time and patience. With short, supervised sessions and plenty of rewards, you can get your cat comfortable wearing a bell collar. The key is gradual desensitization through a positive process. This source provides helpful step-by-step advice.

Caring for a Bell Collar

It’s important to regularly check your cat’s neck for any signs of irritation from wearing a bell collar. Redness, sores, or hair loss around the neck area may indicate the collar is too tight or rubbing uncomfortably. If you notice any irritation, take the collar off and allow the area to heal before considering putting it back on. According to, collars should have enough room for 1-2 fingers to fit underneath to avoid being too tight.

Experts also recommend removing bell collars at night when your cat is home and supervised. This gives their neck a break and reduces the amount of noise they’re exposed to over 24 hours.

Additionally, check the bell regularly to make sure it still rings clearly when shaken. Bells can become clogged with dirt or fur over time, muting their sound. Replace the bell collar once the bell is no longer ringing clearly and loudly.

When to Ask a Vet

While most cats adjust well to wearing a bell collar, it’s important to monitor your cat’s reaction and watch for signs of distress. Here are some situations when you may want to check with your vet:

  • If your cat seems anxious, agitated, or overly focused on the bell collar, they may find it uncomfortable or annoying. Signs include shaking their head, pawing at the collar, hiding, or acting skittish.
  • If the collar causes skin irritation like redness, sores, or hair loss around the neck area, the fit could be too tight. Your vet can help adjust the collar or recommend switching materials.
  • You are considering a bell collar for an older cat who may have limited mobility or vision. The jingling sound could startle them, so discuss options with your vet first.
  • checking a senior cat's neck for collar irritation

  • Your vet may have advice tailored to your individual cat based on health conditions, activity level, and temperament. They can help determine if a bell collar is appropriate and monitor any effects.

While bell collars are generally safe, chatting with your vet allows them to raise any potential concerns and monitor your cat’s health and behavior. This helps ensure your cat’s experience wearing a bell collar is comfortable and worry-free.


In summary, cat collars with bells have both pros and cons. On the positive side, bells can help prevent cats from silently hunting birds and other wildlife. The sound alerts potential prey to the cat’s presence. Bells can also help locate a cat that goes missing. However, bells may startle some cats or annoy neighbors with the constant jingling. Bells can signal a cat’s location to prey as well, reducing hunting success.

There are alternatives to traditional bell collars, such as colorful collar covers, ultrasonic devices, or Bibs. These provide visual or sound cues without a constant noise. When introducing any bell or sound device, do so gradually and positively reinforce your cat’s acceptance. Monitor your cat’s behavior to ensure the collar does not cause undue stress.

Overall, bell collars can be an effective wildlife protection tool if used carefully. Weigh the potential benefits and drawbacks. Seek veterinary guidance to find the best solution for your cat and local ecosystem. With patience and the right approach, bell collars can reduce cat predation and lead to more harmonious coexistence.

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