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Home > Cats > Are Bell Collars Bad for Cats and Their Hearing? Facts, Safety Tips & FAQ

Are Bell Collars Bad for Cats and Their Hearing? Facts, Safety Tips & FAQ

cat collar bell

One of the more disarming but ghastly habits cats have is bringing dead animals to their pet parents as “gifts.” From birds and chipmunks to baby squirrels, mice, and rats, if yours is an outdoor cat, it’s likely you get dead animals delivered at your feet regularly. For many, this habit, while good-intentioned, isn’t pleasant to witness.

It’s also bad for your local ecosystem, which is why many cat owners attach a bell to their cat’s collar. With a bell collar, no matter how silently your cat stalks its prey, the ringing noise will save the victim from an attack.

One question many cat parents have is, are bell collars bad for cats and their hearing? The good news is that bell collars, according to veterinarians, aren’t a problem for most felines. The bell on a bell collar produces about 50 to 60 decibels (dB) of sound. That’s almost as much noise as a normal human conversation, which, for most cats, isn’t a problem.

Now that you know a bell collar won’t hurt your cat’s hearing, you probably have other questions about bell collars and their usefulness. What alternatives are there to bell collars, for example, and do bell collars attract dangerous attention for your cat, such as larger predators? We have the answers to these questions and several more below, plus some great advice and tips.

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Do Bell Collars Work?

Yes, bell collars work. This study in the United Kingdom found that cats with bell collars killed 41% fewer birds than cats without a bell. Also, the same cats with bells killed 34% fewer other animals. In short, bell collars work and significantly reduce the number of birds and animals your cat kills.

cat bell collar
Photo Credit: Artem Beliaikin, Unsplash

Can a Bell on Your Cat’s Collar Help With Any Other Problems?

Putting a bell on your cat’s collar (or purchasing a collar with a bell already attached) can reduce the number of creatures your cat will kill. However, depending on your cat and living situation, a collar bell can also help with several other problems.

A Collar Bell Can Warn Other Cats When a Bullying Cat Is Approaching

If you have more than one cat in your home, there’s a good chance one of them is a bit of a bully. There’s not much you can do to stop a cat from bullying other cats, but putting a bell on the bully’s collar can warn your other cat of its approach. That will give them the time to run off or seek a safe place to chill until your bully cat leaves.

Cute cat blue tie scarf bell scarf
Photo Credit: Paiboon Somnuk, Shutterstock

A Bell Might Help You Locate Your Cat

Knowing where your cat is located can be helpful if, for example, you need to take them to the vet. Of course, cats are the best “hide and seek” players on the planet, and finding yours might be extremely difficult and frustrating.

Putting a bell on their collar might help. Your cat would, of course, have to move for you to hear the bell. Plus, most cats are intelligent and stealthy enough that they can walk without the bell ringing with enough time and practice.

A Bell Can Help You Keep Track of a Kitten

Kittens are always on the move as they have so much energy. Putting a bell on your kitten’s collar can help you keep track of where they are so that you can prevent them from getting into trouble.

A Bell Collar Can Reduce Cat Fights

Cats, whether indoors or out, are territorial and don’t like when their space is invaded. Putting a bell on your cat’s collar lets other cats know they are around, which could help reduce fighting over territories.

Cat Collar Outside
Photo Credit: Cat Mapper (Max Ogden), Unsplash

divider-catIs It Safe To Put a Bell on Your Cat’s Collar?

Knowing that a bell will warn birds and other small animals (and save their hides) is one thing. However, many pet owners question whether putting a bell on a cat’s collar is a good idea. Below are a few reasons why it might not be, including:

A Bell Might Alert Other Predators That Your Cat Is Nearby

One train of thought is that, with a bell on their collar, other animals will also know that your cat is lurking about. Some, like dogs, coyotes, and other predator animals, might hear the bell and attack your cat.

Cat Bell Collar Close up
Image Credit: Edward Howell, Unsplash

You Cat Might try to Chew Off the Collar To Get Rid of the Bell

One problem some cat owners have experienced is when the bell on their cat’s collar genuinely annoys their cat. In a situation like this, your cat might try to chew the collar off, which could present a choking hazard. A curious cat might even dig hard enough to get the tiny ball inside the bell, which could cause an even worse choking risk.

A Bell Might Psychologically Affect your Cat

If you know cats, stealth is a part of their genetic makeup. They are adept at moving through space without a sound, sometimes to hunt and other times to not be detected. Taking away a cat’s ability to do this innate action can negatively affect its mental well-being. Plus, the constant bell ringing, at least for some cats, can cause them psychological stress.

For these reasons, some cat parents choose not to put a bell on their cat’s collar. It must be noted, however, that the chance that any of these situations will occur is slight. Most cats will forget the bell is there after a few days or weeks, and the noise a bell makes is relatively low, as we’ve seen. As for predators, see below.

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Do Bell Collars Attract Larger Predators That Can Harm Your Cat?

We mentioned earlier that a bell on your cat’s collar might attract larger predators that could harm them. While this is possible, the truth is that the small amount of noise a bell makes is unlikely to attract any animals of note. In most areas, the bell’s noise will blend into the background, along with dogs barking, birds chirping, car horns, etc. Yes, any animal that’s close will hear the noise, but your cat will likely detect any close animals anyway and, if needed, head for the nearest tree to escape. In short, the chance a bell would get your cat into trouble is slim to none.

Are Bell Collars Bad for Kittens?

Just as they aren’t bad for cats, a bell collar won’t harm a kitten in most cases. The decibel level is too low to cause their ears any harm, and since they’re kittens, they won’t have experienced stalking in silence, and it won’t upset them nearly as much as an adult cat.

One caveat is that an anti-choking collar is best when choosing a collar and bell for your kitten. These collars come with a quick-release buckle in case your silly kitten gets wrapped up in them. One thing to note is that, with time, your kitten might learn to walk around without ringing the bell.

Orange Cat With Bell Collar
Image Credit: Jirakarn Dhejsawatdhirat, Shutterstock

divider-catWhat Alternatives Are There to Bell Collars?

If keeping track of your cat and reducing the number of birds and small animals they kill is your goal, there are several alternatives to bell collars. Some are better than others, but all are worth a try if you’re not keen on putting a tinkling bell around your feline friend’s neck.

Keep Your Cat Indoors

One of the best ways to keep your cat from killing small animals is to keep it indoors. Not only will that completely prevent your kitty from hunting and killing, but it will also reduce the chance they get fleas and ticks. Plus, an indoor cat won’t be exposed to risk from cars and large predators (or your neighbor’s cruel kid).

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Hepper Hemp Safety Breakaway Cat Collar with Bells
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Put a Large, Colorful Bib Collar on Your Cat

Most songbirds can see bright colors very well and will fly away if they see them moving closer. This bib collar claims to be an excellent alternative to a bell. Frankly, while it might work, it also looks a bit… ridiculous (your opinion may vary).

De-Claw Your Cat

While this option is becoming more and more controversial, a declawed cat won’t be able to do nearly as much damage to birds and small animals as one with sharp claws. However, since they will be almost defenseless, you should always keep a declawed cat inside. It’s also worth noting that most vets recommend against declawing and suggest keeping your cat indoors instead.

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Final Thoughts

Are bell collars bad for cats and their hearing? The consensus seems to be that bell collars do work and don’t damage the cat’s hearing. The sound they make is simply too low to cause harm to their ears. However, some cats might be bothered by bell collars enough that it causes them anxiety and stress. Remember, every cat is unique, and if yours seems stressed out by the bell on its collar, one of the alternatives we looked at today might be a better choice.

We hope the information we’ve provided today has been helpful and given you the answers you were searching for. Whatever solution you choose, we wish you and your cat the very best of luck.


Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

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