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    How to Make Your Outdoor Cat More Visible at Night

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    Updated: January 28, 2020

    Car at Night in the Rain

    Outdoor dangers abound for cats, and especially at night. One of the most dangerous threats to your cat if they’re out at night is also one of the most common objects they’re likely to encounter: a car. 

    While it’s impossible to accurately track the actual number of cats killed by cars each year, estimates are well into the millions. And it stands to reason that when a driver’s ability to see decreases — like between dusk and dawn — accidents are more likely to happen. 

    Cats move fast, and anyone who’s driven a car knows they can (and do) dart out into roads quickly. But no matter how fast the cat is moving, it’s likely that cars on that road are moving even faster. Add to that the fact that cats have a tendency to move erratically when startled — say by a large, loud, moving object with bright headlights — and drivers have little time to react, if they have time at all.

    Reflective Collars for Outdoor Cats

    With dogs, you should always put an LED collar on them for walks in the dark, but that won’t work with cats. LED collars have to be manually turned on, meaning you’d have to see your cat before it gets dark to turn on their collar. If that’s the case, you might as well bring them in for the night (seriously, it’s significantly safer for an outdoor cat to at least stay indoors after dark). 

    However, there are still some collar options that will help your cat stand out better to drivers at night if you really can’t bring in your cat at night. When shopping for a nighttime collar for your cat, look for one that includes a wide band of highly reflective material that you can be sure will reflect the light. Like these:

    In addition to being reflective, these breakaway collars can sometimes be safer than regular collars on cats.
    See below for the benefits of "breakaway" collars.

    You may also find “glow-in-the-dark” collars, which can be OK for nighttime visibility when they’ve been “charged.” But they aren’t always dependable, as the “glow” needs to charge in the light for several hours, and even then it can deplete rather quickly.

    As with any cat collar, you want to find one with a break-away latch. Cats tend to squeeze into tight spaces and can easily snag their collar and strangle themselves trying to get away. A break-away latch can help ensure that the collar will pop off rather than harm your cat.

    GoTags makes a good reflective, break-away collar with custom identification information stitched right into the material.

    Make Sure Your Cat is Microchipped

    Since your outdoor cat has a break-away collar for safety, you need to have a backup source of ID in case their collar comes off, along with all of their identifying information. 

    It’s always a good idea to have your cat microchipped — whether they’re indoor or outdoor — with up-to-date contact information, in addition to the ID information on their collar. If your cat is already microchipped — first of all, yay — know that the process of ensuring their information is correct and traceable can be more complicated than you might think. Here’s a detailed overview for how to keep your cat’s microchip up to date.

    Black Cat Black Background

    What Your Cat is Really up to at Night

    When not dodging cars or other nighttime hazards, you might be interested to learn what your cat is probably doing while the world sleeps. 

    The only way to know for sure is to stick a camera on them and review the footage. In fact, researchers from the University of Georgia (UGA) did just that, strapping cameras to 55 outdoor cats in Athens and reviewing their nighttime antics.

    The researchers (and the cat owners) were surprised to learn that the Athens outdoor cats preferred hunting small reptiles and amphibians, or small local mammals (voles) over mice. What’s more, the cats’ hunting wasn’t what you might call productive. The monitored cats left behind about half of the animals they hunted (meaning they killed or severely injured them and left them to die), only ate about 28 percent, and brought home about 23 percent. 

    Check out this UGA page to view photos and videos of these cats.

    Other Reading About Outdoor Cat Safety

    Lost Cat: How to Prevent It and What to Do If Your Cat Goes Missing

    Cats Outside in the Winter: Remember to Knock On Hoods

    Help Your Cat "Get Away" With a Break-Away Collar

    *Learn about Amazon links and Preventive Vet recommended products

    Topics: Cat Behavior, Cars, Cats outdoors at night, Outdoor cats, Cat Collars

    Please do not ask emergency or other specific medical questions about your pets in the blog comments. As an online informational resource, Preventive Vet is unable to and does not provide specific medical advice or counseling. A thorough physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinary-patient-client relationship is required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet is having an emergency or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic medical conditions, please contact or visit your veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.

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