Elizabethan collars, more commonly known as e-collars, are often used in veterinary medicine and sometimes referred to as a cone, lampshade, or "the cone of shame." These plastic cones are fitted to individual pets and are used to prevent cats from biting, scratching, and licking wounds, incisions, or other injured areas. Cumbersome and sometimes uncomfortable for the pet, they nevertheless serve an important purpose.
While animals do need some kind of protection to allow wounds to heal, there are a variety of new products that are more comfortable and less cumbersome than the e-collar. Traditionally purchased from your veterinarian post-surgery or after cleaning up an injury, these collars may now be purchased at many pet supply stores. They are a great way to prevent self-trauma for eye problems such as corneal ulcers and for recurring situations such as paw or tail injuries or lick granulomas.
About the E-Collar
The e-collar was invented about 40 years ago by veterinarian Joel Ehrenzweig. Until its invention, vets and pet owners had rigged their own devices to keep pets from scratching and licking wounds; not surprisingly, some efforts were more successful than others. The e-collar does exactly what it is intended to do: allow wounds to heal without interference. Unfortunately, a large, unyielding plastic cone has many drawbacks—not only is it uncomfortable, but it can interfere with a pet's ability to eat, drink, hear, and see.
The downsides to the e-collar led to some inventive alternatives intended to make the healing process more pleasant and comfortable for the pet and pet owner. While all of these alternatives have their benefits, none is perfect.
Alternatives to E-Collars
Any alternative to an e-collar must be practical, low-cost, comfortable, and effective. Of course, no one product can achieve all this for every pet, so some options will be better than others for your cat. It is worth looking at more than one option to determine which is right for your pet.
There are five basic types of e-collar alternatives:
- Soft e-collars
- Inflatable collars
- Neck control collars
- Pet clothing
- Do-it-yourself options
Soft e-collars are a softer, more comfortable version of the usual hard plastic option. Soft e-collars come in an amazing range of sizes and shapes. One of the most popular brands is the Comfy Cone. It uses a flexible combination of nylon and foam material, along with stays that can be loosened to allow your pet more freedom of movement. Because it is softer, however, it is subject to being chewed and tugged; in addition, because it is made of opaque or solid-colored fabric, it severely limits a cat's line of vision.
This option comes in several different designs. For example, the ProCollar is very much like an airplane pillow. It fits around your pet's neck but does not extend beyond the shoulders. This means it is very comfortable but does not stop a cat from reaching its hindquarters. If your pet has an upper-body injury, this might be a good option.
Neck Control Collars
Intended to immobilize the animal's neck, neck control collars are fairly uncomfortable. Bite Not is one such product. It doesn't affect the line of sight, but it does make it difficult for your cat to raise or lower its head to eat or sleep.
Pet garments take a completely different approach to wound protection by stopping your pet from moving its head or reaching the wound. In most cases, pet clothing covers the wound with specially designed clothing items. For example, the "Suitical Recovery Suit" is a vet-approved option that is tough enough to stand up to some chewing and tugging.
If you are handy, a DIY option can be a good idea for some cats, especially those that are particularly mellow or small. Some pet owners craft pet clothing from children's sweatshirts or create soft collars from towels or other types of fabric. The key to success is to ensure that whatever you put on your pet is secure but not tightly fastened and that your pet can tolerate it well.
One of the hardest parts of using an e-collar is the guilt you are likely to feel when your pet is unhappy or uncomfortable. To help your pet through this hard time, be sure to choose the most comfortable option available and, of course, give your cat extra love and attention to let it know it is not being punished.