How to Feed a Cat Who is Wearing a Cone Around Its Head

Elizabethan collars, or E-collars, are protective plastic cones that stop your kitty from licking or scratching at incisions or injuries. Most domestic cats spend one or two miserable weeks wearing the collar after their spay or neuter operation. Your pet likely will have a difficult time eating, drinking and using the litter box for the first few days of his E-collar experience.

Cat with Elizabethan Collar
Cat wearing cone while laying on couch
credit: Douglas Craig/iStock/Getty Images

Raise the Bowl

When you ask your veterinarian for advice on caring for your recently coned kitty, he'll likely tell you to adjust the height of the dishes. If your pet's bowl only rises a few inches from the floor, his collar will stop his head from reaching the meal. This can be frustrating and disheartening for your kitty, causing him to give up on eating or drinking for a while. You can make his life easier by elevating the dishes so that the collar can fit around the bowl without touching the floor. Slim bowls are more accessible than wide ones, so consider swapping big dishes for smaller ones.

Wait for It

While E-collars make eating and drinking more challenging for your kitty, most felines learn to cope quickly. In fact, an appropriately sized and fastened cone should not inhibit your cat from eating normally once he's had some practice, according to VCA Animal Hospitals. While you should expect your cat's meals to be messy at first, most felines adjust to the cone quickly and can eat or drink without serious issue within a few days.

Take it Off

E-collars are convenient to remove and refasten, although it's not necessarily a good idea to do so. If your cat is having an exceptionally difficult time getting to his food, you can take his collar off during his meals. Only remove the cone when you can supervise your pet and be sure to replace the collar when your pet is finished eating. The collar should be loose enough to allow two fingers to slip between the cone and your cat's skin. Check his neck every day to make sure the collar isn't scratching the skin or causing other problems.

Alternative Collars

The hard plastic cone isn't the only fashionable medical device that prevents your cat from picking at his cuts and scrapes. Depending on your kitty's injury or surgery, you may be able to switch out the hard E-collar for a softer alternative. Talk to your veterinarian before pursuing this option, because the alternatives are not always suitable for certain types of wounds. Soft collars, for example, aren't as effective at keeping your pet's mouth away from his rear and tail compared to hard collars.