Alternative to the Elizabethan Collar

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Introduction: Alternative to the Elizabethan Collar

Elizabethan collars are clear plastic cones placed over the head of an animal in order to prevent them from scratching or licking a wound (see 3rd picture). Although E-collars are effective they can also cause the animal a lot of stress. E-collars limit peripheral vision causing the animal to run into a lot of things and also make it harder to eat and drink. This instructable offers an alternative that is cheap, easy to make, and will work in most of the situations that one would use an E-collar.

Warning: This collar is designed to give an animal more freedom than an E-collar and therefore cannot be used in every situation that an E-collar is used. In particular, it may not prevent an animal from licking/biting its front paws or the end of its tail. However, with cats (and some short faced dogs) it will prevent the animal from using its front paws to scratch its face. In any case, you should always watch your pet for a while to make sure this collar works as intended.

Step 1: Materials

1. Foam pipe insulation: This is the insulation used to keep pipes from freezing in winter. It should be fairly ridged foam and should defiantly not be fiberglass. What matters most is the outer diameter (O.D.). However, insulation is generally measured by the inner diameter so take a measuring tape. For my small to mid-sized cats I used foam with an O.D. of 5cm (2in). This size prevented one cat from licking or biting her hindquarters and prevented another cat from scratching her chin. For a large cat you should have 6 cm foam. A large dog would likely need foam with an O.D. of 10 to 15cm.

For large dogs you may want to fill the inside of the foam with cloth or smaller diameter foam so the dog can't simply crush the collar.

2. Electric or other plastic tape. The kind of tape you use is important as the collar is inevitably going to have contact with whatever your pet eats and drinks. I tried cloth athletic tape first and within a couple of days I had to negotiate terms with the colonies of bacteria that had seized control of the collar.

3. Shoelace, or other thick piece of string.

Step 2: Measure and Cut the Foam

Figuring out how much foam to use is a little tricky. I recommend overestimating as it is very easy to remove excess insulation but basically impossible to add insulation.

To calculate the length of foam you need the O.D. of the whole collar. The first step is to determine the diameter of your pet's neck. If your vet gave you an E-collar, you can use this to estimate the diameter, otherwise wrap your fingers around your pet's neck and guesstimate the diameter (Note: fur doesn't count). Again, overestimating is better than underestimating. The O.D. of the collar is attained by adding the diameter of your pet's neck to twice the O.D. of the insulation (e.g O.D. of foam = 5cm, diameter of neck = 6cm. 6+2*5=16. So the outside diameter of the whole collar will be 16cm.). The length of insulation will be the O.D. of the whole collar * Pi (e.g. 16cm * 3.14 = 50.24cm).

Step 3: Shaping the Insulation

In order for the foam to bend into a circle, you need to remove material from the inside of the foam. The easiest way to do this is to create a sawtooth pattern in the foam (see first picture). In this case it is better to remove too much than too little as the tape will cover excess gaps.

The first picture is much clearer than the description so look at that before you read on. First, draw a straight line down the insulation. Then draw another line 90 degrees (1/4 of the circle) from the first. The material to be removed will be equilateral triangles with a base that is the radius, r (i.e. 1/2 the diameter) of the O.D. of the insulation. To do this, use a ruler to place a mark every r centimeters along one of the lines. Do the same for the other line, except shifting each mark by 1/2 r (i.e. 1/4 the O.D.). Then connect the dots to make triangles.

When you are done marking the triangles, cut them out (second picture).

Finally, test that it bends properly (third picture).

Step 4: Add String and Test

Pass the string through the inside of the insulation. Then place it around your pets neck. Tighten the string until the insulation is tight enough that the animal can't remove the collar. If that is impossible, then you need to shorten the insulation.

Step 5: Tape It Up

When you get the right length it is time to tape it up. The primary purpose of the tape is to maintain the circular shape of the collar. The secondary purpose is to give the collar an easy to clean surface. I started with a little duct tape to hold the basic shape, then wrapped the entire thing in electrical tape to make it easy to clean. I initially tried cloth athletic tape, but that simply absorbed food, water, medication, blood, and anything else that happened to touch it.

After the collar is taped poke a couple of small holes along the outside near each end (see picture). Then pass the string through these holes. This allows you to tighten the collar a little more than if you left the string in the center of the insulation.

You can wipe the collar once a day with a little rubbing alcohol to keep it clean.

2 People Made This Project!


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Be careful. Although this looks like a great idea it really is not. I've worked with E-collars for 30 years and substitutes like this one usually result in failure and unnecessary auto-trauma what you wish to protect. In the case sited above if the injury were on the face the cat could easily rub it or get to it with its real limbs. If the injury was on the back half or underside of the cat you might as well have so collar on at all.

As for stress..what stress? A successfully treated cat is the least stress you can apply. NO one likes the E-collar but they are designed for a purpose: To work. The "alternatives" don't work. I'll be re-suturing a dogs ear in an hour. It's a mess. The owner took off the "stressful" E-collar and substituted an inflatable collar on the advice of a pet shop ( that got the money for the collar ). No we have a horribly opened incision, infection galore and an unnecessary bout of anesthesia. That stress.

Thank you for this! Just made one for my cat that started tearing herself up when she got fleas... I got rid of the fleas, but the scratching, biting, constant licking seems to be compulsive at this point, or the wounds are just itchy. Her wounds have only been getting worse with no sign of stopping, and they are grade A nasty now.

Found this just before going out to get a cone of shame, seems so much nicer for the cat! She's not *thrilled*, but she's also not seeming very bothered at all, certainly nothing like what she'd be experiencing with a cone. She's sitting on my lap purring right now, despite having collared her an hour ago. :) I've seen her react *far* worse to a harness.

Hopefully she won't be able to get to her back / base of tail / chin, (haven't seen her manage it yet!) and she will be able to heal. No, I wouldn't use this for *all* situations, but it is certainly a *great* alternative for others, thanks again!

My boy is the same way right now :( poor kiddo. Definitely going to try this for him! Any suggestion on what else to use besides foam?

Hi Juise. Thanks for commenting. I'm always happy to know that some cat is suffering a little less because of this.

my cat is about to get neutered. will it stop him from licking/ biting around that area?

Does this insulation tube come in thicker sizes? I need to try it for a 110 pound golden retriever who is beyond depressed..Any suggestions?

So glad I found these instructions - I thought I wasn't going to be able to go on holiday as my cat was so unhappy in her Elizabethean collar (wouldn't eat, drink, hid under bed). Infected lesion between shoulder blades meant this solution is brilliant - she can now groom face and paws but can't lick lesion. [Still can't get through cat flap wearing it but that's the only real limitation.]

Had to have a couple of tries to get it right so took me quite a few hours but so worth it. Much happier cat, able to leap up onto favourite window sill (the plastic collar just kept hitting things so she couldn't judge gaps, leaps etc).

She seems to think I've just put a new strange collar on her and hasn't even tried to get it off. I didn't get it quite small enough (she is a tiny cat) so it's quite funny when she tries to scratch her neck as it spins around! Doesn't seem to be a problem though.

Thanks again for this information - now feel I can leave her in the care of my neighbour and go on holiday.

I'm thrilled it worked for you. About once a year someone sends me a comment like this and it makes my day every time. Thanks.

I'm wondering if this would work for our kitty. She has a nasty scratch on the top of her head off to the side by her ear. I need something to keep her from scratching it so it can heal.

Thank you so much! The vet put a huge cone on her head, it is so big she could not drink or eat. We cut it down but she is still unable to see or move right. This is perfect thank you so much!!