An Alternative to the Cone of Shame for Cats and Kittens

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Gustave has just turned eight months old, and last Thursday we had him neutered. In an ideal world we would have had this done sooner, but our veterinary practice didn’t have availability until now due to the pandemic boom in pet ownership, and so we waited as we know and trust them from our time there with our previous cat Minou.

On the forms I had to fill in for Gustave I was asked if I wanted them to supply me with a plastic cone for wound protection after his operation. After neutering, cats need to keep from licking their surgical incisions so that they don’t infect them or prevent them from healing through mechanical disturbance with their tongues. Minou had to have a cone at one point to help let an impacted anal gland heal, and she hated it. She wouldn’t eat or drink with the cone on and couldn’t get comfortable to sleep in it either, so I was reluctant to put a plastic cone on Gustave after his neuter operation. I opted not to get a plastic cone but rather to try a few DIY cones using felt and cardboard, to varying levels of success. Gustave didn’t like them either, and wouldn’t eat with them on. Eating, drinking and sleeping are just as important to a cat’s recovery after neutering or spaying as leaving their incisions alone is, so I needed to find a solution that worked for us and kept him happy.

Desperate to prevent him from licking his wound but keep him comfortable, I reached for his soft harness. I have been leash training him so that we have the option to take him with us when we visit my parents and possibly take him on walks in the woods when it’s very quiet, and he has taken quite well to the harness. The harness is soft and allows a wide range of motion, but it is stiff enough to limit a cat’s range of motion when it comes to curling up in a ball. He can walk, play and climb up his cat tower when wearing his harness, but he doesn’t curl up in a ball to sleep or to groom his lower body, and to my relief he leaves his scrotum alone when he’s wearing it! When he wants to rest and is wearing the harness, he can comfortably and easily lie down like he is in the photos or stretch out on his side. Because the harness isn’t up around his neck, he can put his head down comfortably too. It’s a little bit like wearing a slim fit pair of jeans would be for a human. You can sit down in them, but you wouldn’t want to curl up in bed and read in them!

I wanted to share this in a blog post in case it is helpful to you, if you are searching for an alternative to the cone for a cat after they have had their neuter or spay operation, or at any other point in their life after surgery or injury on the lower half of their bodies. I know not all cats tolerate harnesses and some just lie down and refuse to move in them, but cats can lie down and refuse to move in the cone too. The advantage of a soft fabric harness over the plastic cone of shame is that at least it is comfortable and they can eat, drink and use their litter tray without feeling like their vision is limited. It’s worked for us, and I hope it might work for you too. Spay surgery, whilst routine, is a more major operation than neuter surgery but the advantage of surgery to a cat or kitten’s flanks is that at least they can wear a spay suit and be comfortable. It’s quite tricky when you need to keep a cat from licking their scrotum but they still need to be able to use the litter tray freely and have the urge to wash themselves after toileting.

Gustave is healing well. One of his incisions has closed completely. The other was weeping when we picked him up – in the vet nurse’s words “he’s had a little ooze” though she wasn’t concerned – and has taken a little bit longer to close up. I left him without the harness over night last night because he hadn’t been chewing or worrying the wound, but this morning I caught him licking at it and a tiny spot of blood over the incision which stopped very quickly after I dabbed it with some clean tissue paper, so he’s back in the harness today and I’ll be keeping a very close eye on him.

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