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How to Make Your Outdoor Cat More Visible at Night

Author: Colin Rigley

Published: December 11, 2017

Updated: June 20, 2023

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make outdoor cat more visible

Nighttime Safety for Outdoor Cats

Reflective Cat Collars for Better Visibility

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:

Bemix Pets Reflective Cat Collar with Bell
Reflective Cat Collar Night Visibility with Bell

(set of six)

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.

About the author

Profile picture for Colin Rigley

Colin Rigley

Colin Rigley has more than a decade of experience in journalism, content production, and sleeping on a tiny sliver of the bed because the animals are sprawled across the rest of it. He’s an avid writer, photographer, and traveler. He lives in Seattle with his wonderful girlfriend; two cats who graciously let him wait on their every need; and three-legged, coated Mexican hairless street dog, which is a really complicated answer when people ask “What kind of dog is that?”

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