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

If your cat has to wear a cone, or Elizabethan collar, while he recovers from a wound or surgery, well, let's just say that he's probably less than happy about the experience. Most cats hate cones, but they are necessary to help your cat recover. Your cat can resume most of his daily activities, but he'll likely have the most trouble figuring out how to eat while wearing the cone. There are a few ways that you can help him out.

Close-Up Of Cat Wearing Protective Collar
credit: Kryssia Campos/Moment/GettyImages

Find the right size cone

Placing a cone that's larger than it needs to be on your cat will restrict her movement and make it more difficult for her to eat. A cone that extends too far out past your cat's head will only bump into her food dishes, rather than allowing her to get her mouth to the dishes. Choose a cone that's only as long as necessary to prevent your cat from licking the problem area that you're trying to heal.

Ask your vet for some help if you have questions about which size cone is right for your cat, Most vets will automatically size a cone to your cat when sending her home after surgery.

Position food properly

You will probably need to reposition your cat's food so that he can access it while wearing the cone. Elevating your cat's dishes 2-to-4 inches up off the floor will make it easier for your cat to eat since he won't knock the edge of the cone against the floor during his meal. Choosing food dishes that have a smaller diameter than the diameter of the cone will also allow them to better fit inside the cone as your cat eats.

It can be difficult for your cat to eat from bowls with a cone, since the cone may knock against the sides of the bowls. Instead, try feeding your cat from saucers, which have a lower edge and might not interfere with the cone as much. Keep in mind that your cat will probably knock over the dishes at least a few times as he learns to position himself to eat.

You may need to help your cat discover that he can still eat with the cone on. Offering him a particularly tempting food can help encourage him to eat. You may want to feed him a bit from your fingers, then lead him to the dish.

Look into alternatives

If your cat just isn't coping well with the cone and won't eat, it may be time to look into some alternatives. Soft cones made of a flexible material can be more comfortable for your cat, and some of these can even be folded back when it's time for your cat to eat.

Other options include inflatable donut-style cones and even allowing your cat to wear a small shirt over her wound to prevent her from licking it. If you opt for the shirt strategy, then you'll need to closely monitor your cat. Some determined kitties can find a way to pull up the shirt so that they can lick their wound.

Remove the cone

As a last resort, you may need to remove the cone while your cat eats. This should only be done under careful supervision, and only if your cat refuses to eat while wearing the cone. Stay with your cat the entire time that he eats, since it only takes a few seconds for a cat to groom open a new wound or remove his stitches.

If possible, it's best to teach your cat that he can eat and drink even with the cone on. This method will allow him to eat whenever he pleases, and he won't be dependent on your schedule for his next meal. Luckily, your cat will probably only have to wear the cone for a short time, so you just need to get through until your cat is healed up and the cone can come off.