Introduction: Superior Post-surgical Feline & Canine Appliance. (Or: Dump the Cone!)

Picture of Superior Post-surgical Feline & Canine Appliance.  (Or:  Dump the Cone!)

I took our 2 young cats to the veterinarian for necessary surgery (an incision in the abdomen requiring stitches). After the operation the vet supplied the usual plastic head cones which stop the animals from licking or biting their incisions. But the cones make the animals miserable since they can't see or hear properly, move around, eat, drink or use their litter box without a lot of frustration. So I had to invent some non-cone solution: THE CAT JACKET. No doubt it will work on dogs, too.

Two kittens adopted us several weeks ago. They are female and one is black (I named her "Bella" after my Dracula bella orchid), and the other is grey (my cousin, Linda named her "Buttercup" before I could stop her). This is their story. (No, not Linda's!)

Step 1: Tools & Materials You'll Need.

Picture of Tools & Materials You'll Need.

1. Old T-Shirt or other piece of material about 20" (40cm) square.
2. Scissors.
3. Marker (felt pen, etc.) if you want to mark the cloth before cutting.
4. Four safety pins.

NOTE: This is for a medium-sized cat. You will need a bigger piece of cloth and more safety pins for larger animals.

CLOTH NOTE: I have found that tee shirt material works best (not sure, but I think it's called "Jersey"). I did try another type of cloth that was more "crisp", but it failed miserably in less than a day -- it frayed and ripped, and of course the poor cat was desperately trying to lick the frayed threads. Be careful what material you use.

FASTENER NOTE: You can of course use something fancier than safety pins, but before you sew on buttons, snaps or velcro, remember that the jacket only has to last a few days - until the stitches are removed. And while it's being worn the cloth will stretch and have to be repositioned, you should look under the jacket every day to check the wound and if the jacket rips, gets soiled or has to be re-tailored you may be sorry you didn't just use quick & easy safety pins.

MOST IMPORTANT NOTE: The whole purpose of the jacket is to protect the wound and stitches from being licked or chewed. It's okay if your cat licks the cloth; no harm done. BUT IF YOUR ANIMAL BITES OR CHEWS THE WOUND AREA THROUGH THE CLOTH then you must put the head cone back on. Or possibly use a heavier cloth, or a patch of chew-proof material sewn over the wound area. So far, my cats haven't made any effort to chew through the cloth - only lick it - so hopefully you'll have the same luck.

PICTURE: Buttercup gnawing on the hated cone.

Step 2: Cut the Cloth.

Picture of Cut the Cloth.

Plan to do one or 2 practice tailorings. It's impossible for me to give you precise measurements because each animal is quite different. Even my 2 kitties who are sisters, who are the same age and who weigh exactly the same are different shapes. Buttercup is slim & muscular, while Bella is big & fat.
So, forget your measuring apparatus for now and just "eyeball it". For a medium-sized cat you need a piece of cloth about 20" square. You need 4 holes in it for arms & legs. So, roughly mark this out with your felt pen, as shown in the picture. Now you're ready to cut, but first note the following:
In the picture the cloth is situated so the rump is nearest you and the neck is nearest the recumbent black cat. Be sure to leave 2-3 inches of cloth in front of the arm holes (i.e.: Don't get the arm holes too close to the edge).
Next, the rump. Note that the leg holes need to be CLOSE to the back edge, as close as the fabric can take it without ripping. The reason is that you don't want any cloth sticking out back there in the way when the cat has to pee or poop.
Also note that there is a lot of cloth BETWEEN the leg holes (i.e.:Don't get the leg holes too close to each other). Because here is where the cloth needs to cover and protect the abdominal incision.

Step 3: Cloth Cut.

Picture of Cloth Cut.

Here, as you can see the cloth is cut and ready to adorn Bella.
Yes, it's crudely done & a little asymmetrical, but it does the job perfectly and it is, after all, very temporary & disposable. And the kitties seem to love their jackets.

Now, get your safety pins ready and position cat over jacket. Lower feline so front paws are in arm holes (the smaller 2 holes). When this is done, forget rear end and just pull front half of jacket up arms, wrap around snugly and fasten (safety pin) at back of neck.
Now for the hind legs. When you have the feet & legs through the back 2 holes then you just snug everything up. Use 4 safety pins, all along the spine: one near head, one near tail and 2 in between.
Make sure jacket fits very SNUGLY, but not too tight! Make sure your cat can breathe okay.

Reasonable snugness is necessary or your cat will wriggle right out of her jacket, or get 2 legs through one hole, or one arm through the collar, etc.

Step 4: Stegosaurus Impersonation.

Picture of Stegosaurus Impersonation.

Bella displaying how her jacket is safety-pinned along her back.

Step 5: Surgery Well Covered.

Picture of Surgery Well Covered.

Bella in an immodest pose displaying her new jacket and how well it covers her surgery.

Step 6: Finished Products.

Picture of Finished Products.

Only 3 more days to go and then the stitches come out; no more cones or jackets.

Hope this helps someone else's pets avoid some suffering.


chrwebb (author)2017-08-07

Despite being extremely unhandy, I was able to make a pretty good jacket for my cat following your instructions. It's crude, but it works, and anything is better than the dreaded cone.

rush0011 made it! (author)2017-03-11

I know it's old, but thanks for posting this. Here's my version for Kitty. She has a couple granulomas on her tummy and I needed complete coverage so she can't reach them. Since she'll need to wear this a little longer than the usual few days, I snazzed hers up with an embroidered portrait and velcro tab closures. Velcro makes for easy on, easy off for washing and a bit of adjustability.

Whispurr (author)2017-01-25

Eureka! It may be a Heath Robinson structure, but it works wonderfully. Thank you so much to the clever person who invented it. Well done!

dreamyraynbo made it! (author)2016-10-24

I am so glad I found this page! My Tali was spayed today, and is absolutely determined to pluck at her stitches. Two failed cones and a discarded baby onesie later, I was at my wits end. Then I found this page.

I used the onesie as a template for where to cut the arm holes. I didn't have any safety pins on hand and really didn't want to run up to Walmart so I cut the cloth extra wide, cut strips along the top, and tied it along her spine. I totally had to bribe her with treats to get it tied, but that's ok. It isn't terribly elegant, but she hasn't tried to go for her stitches once since I put it on her! She seems fairly comfortable, too, which makes me so happy.

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JuanitaD7 made it! (author)2016-08-04

Thank you so much for posting this design. Today we got our 4 month old kitten spayed, at 3.5lbs the vet didn't have a cone small enough for her, he even felt the fabric one would be too large. We brought her home, and she immediately started chewing at her sutures. Desperate to try and protect it, we thought maybe if we covered the area it would help stop her from tearing out the stitches. We tried the cuff of an old sock, but the more she moved about the more it rolled upon itself. I worried it would become to constricting, so I turned to google, and found this tutorial. Our sweet little Russian Blue Mix, Graycee thanks you!

susan.r.vining made it! (author)2015-03-18

before and after! great design! used slits instead of holes, my kitty is super happy, minus the cone!!

great idea with the slits! I made our kitties vest before reading through the comments or i probably would have done it with the slits as well. The holes seem to be ok too though.

lhcollapse. made it! (author)2016-05-08

thank you so much for this! we just had our recently adopted kitty Yuki spayed, and she was absolutely miserable with that cone thing on. We couldn't even get her to come out from under the couch! But within minutes of putting her in the jacket and taking of the cone she was running around and playing with our other kitty snow just like normal. Such a huge relief! thx again!

Tappydirl made it! (author)2015-10-17

I used the leg of a pair of old leggings. Put two holes for arms to for legs and trimmed the rear a little. Before this i made a shirt out of a sock because my cat kept scratching her neck and chest because she has allergies.

TanyaC14 (author)2015-10-10

I was having the same trouble with my cat Sky Blue accept she wouldnt keep the cone on not even 5 secs she'd slide it off. I found the tshirt idea off a forum i found and came across this one. I just tied the top parts together enough not tight enough room where she wont get out. But im wondering how did you do it in the back to go to the bathroom. She already doesnt like it If i take it off she will be a big problem trying to put it back on.

NetWt4Lbs (author)2015-09-09

I was looking for a pattern for these, thank you! lol. we're going to have to have SIX cats done here soon…SIX !! (adopted a stray, she was pregnant already when we brought her in…)
i was looking for alternative to cones, to protect their wound sites, and Hey-o! here it is ^_^

maggie.ber (author)2015-04-03

did it, my cat barely got out of her spay and totally refuse to do anything when wearing the cone of shame. Not even go pee!!!! Which scared me when we saw she did not use the litterbox at all in almost 24 hours post op... once the cone was removed, she went in the box in less than 10 minutes.

Now i wonder, how long did it take for the cat to stop being wobbly with the shirt on? my cat doesnt like it either.... but i want to give it a shot to make sure she will or not use the box with it.

I was a bit scared of using pins so i actually did a few stiches to sow the fabric together. that way, no possibility of poking my kitty! (cheap diaper pins ... yay)

silveritea made it! (author)2015-02-05

Got my kitty spayed today - as soon as I got her home and she became aware of herself, she instantly went for the stitches. Tried the cone - cone only made her circle the room over and over again. Found this - made a cat shirt - seems to be working so far, although she looks like burritocat.

Thank you.

analouise.moores (author)2015-01-13

Does anyone know if it is safe to let a cat outside with this body stocking on?

heath.catherine (author)2014-12-01

Thank you SO much!!

carmillamedusa (author)2014-08-18

I hate to say this, because this is a brilliant idea, and my mum and I spent a couple of hours making two of these, but it did not work with my ornery old lady. It's really because of the location of the stitches - with a mastectomy, the bottom stitches are so close to the back leg, that all she needed to do was get into that weird "sitting" position they have when they lick their bellies, nose the cloth aside, and voila! Stitches, ready to be removed.

Nothing worked with her - not dog t-shirts which we cut down and tailored - either too short, or she just nuzzled through it, and she even chewed on the edge and swallowed a few threads, leading to a horrible hairball situation at 2 am.

Not even the (not cheap) medical pet shirt worked, and had the downside of getting wet everytime she went to pee. Or it ended up around her waist like a skant, functioning as a diaper.

I even tried a smaller cone than what the vet provided, and was woken up by loud smacking noises coming from a contortionist cat who clearly spent the year taking classes at Cirque du Soleil.

So now we're back to the old huge cone, and she's been sulking all day.

I really needed this wonderful shirt in May, when she had a cyst removed from her side - that would have been a bwa-ha-HA moment for me, but I didn't even know such things existed then.

nevroth (author)2011-01-04

My 4.5 month old kitten just got fixed today and I was told to get him an e-collar if he started licking himself (which of course he did). I thought this would be a great alternative, but he would have none of it. He's usually a nice kitty, but can bite like crazy when the mood strikes him. Unfortunately for me, he wanted none of this, especially since my guestimated measurements were waaay off. I didn't give up though, and cut off the end leg of some old PJs I was going to toss out. In lieu of holes that didn't work the first time around, I cut slits. It was easier putting him in the tube than wrapping the cloth around him. Either way, Momo bit the jeebees out of my hand (thankfully he didn't cut the skin).

tehferalhamster (author)nevroth2014-06-08

I imagine that adjusting the pattern for a tom isn't as easy as it sounds. Do you have any more pictures?

Re. Biting: Lucky you, kitten teeth generally can't do much damage. My boy almost got through my nose, though...

Lmarotta (author)2013-08-24

Just made one of these for my little Bengal girl, Luna! She got spayed on Thursday afternoon and kept knocking the cone off and licking at her incision site. The vet put a tighter cone on after I brought her in this morning because I saw a little blood on the site. She got it off again within fifteen minutes. I was at my wits end!
I made one of these from an old t shirt and she seems to be a lot calmer. She has slept and ate with it on. My only concern is that I had to put lots of safety pins because the cloth was so loose. Do you think they will open up and poke her? But gosh what a life-saver this is!!! Thank you so much posting.
I'm surprised the vet doesn't have something along these lines. Thanks again!!

tehferalhamster (author)Lmarotta2014-06-08

The cones are a lot cheaper and more widely available. And a lot of owners have a put-up-or-shut-up attitude towards it.
My boy has been neutered and had an eye removed (all within two months before he was even over 5 months - vet won't neuter before unless the cat is definitely "ready"), didn't need a cone either time.

Guitbox13 (author)2014-02-05

Hey great idea, Im curious if its okay for Male cats after a neuter?, i have a cat i just brought Back home today, and he's good but im a little worried he'll lick alot when im not aroun because everytime i leave the room and come back he's licking. The reason i ask if its okay, is because male neuter incisions are usually on both sides of the scrotum. In order to cover his incision ,would i be prohibiting his ability to urinate? Im not sure if he's just cleaning ?because he does licks down there quite about normally.( not to a point to be considered about but a few times a day i catch him in the act,) i dont too much about male cat urination, i know they spray backwards and even horizontally. But would covering his testes prohibit his bathroom usage? I looked through the entire post and comments to make sure im not being a redundant comment. Anyway, great instructable,im gonna babysit my cat for now :P

Neutering is a lot less invasive, and unless he's an adult with very prominent "bits" it probably won't even need stitches.
At the same time, it would make using the litterbox a lot more difficult if done exactly as the tutorial. You may be able to figure out a way to cover the scrotum without covering the penis, but it seems quite difficult..

tehferalhamster (author)2014-06-08

Good to know! I have a 1-year-old boy so it's not a necessity, but will be made eventually nonetheless: Other Hoomin and I are getting married next year, and of course being a cat he's going to shed all over me on the day... :-/

holly-g (author)2014-03-06

Ingenious and well detailed for us diy-era! Love the cat gnawing his cone! Ironic! ty

Rider Girl (author)2014-02-14

Very good idea! My cats hated the cone

lsepulveda1 (author)2013-11-26

Thank you so much; my poor little Truffles just had her surgery and that cone was just driving her crazy. I was drawing a blank on how to make her happy; but thanks to your kind sharing she won't be scaring my 2 younger kitties anymore(although that was truly a Kodak moment this morning). Your cats are beautiful and very lucky to have you for their human :) .

kmck5904 (author)2013-09-24

Thanks for all the great posts and especially the suggestion of using a baby onesie. I measured along my cat's back to check size and then bought a newborn onesie. It worked best to put it on upside down. His tail and back legs go through where the baby's head and arms would be. The bit with the fasteners (between the baby's legs) I left open and safety pinned to his collar. No cutting required. After the horror of the 'cone' its a huge relief to both of us.

ReddWolf (author)2013-09-10

Another option my vet suggested is using baby onesies, with a hole cut near the snaps for their tail. When I used these I sewed the neck area to the size of the cat's neck, or else they might wiggle out.
I had a cat with surgery on his abdomen recently and he had to have the wound kept open to heal after having an allergic reaction to the sutures. He had to wear onesies for several weeks to protect the wound. I taped bandages to them over the wound area. I cut a larger hole in the onesies so he could use the litterbox. There also is a company that makes a pet medical shirt that is similar to a onesie but made for pets.

ReddWolf (author)ReddWolf2013-09-10

Oops, forgot to include a photo.

ReddWolf (author)2012-09-08

I would recommend making a "pattern" out of newspaper first. That way you can cut it out, try it on the pet, and make adjustments to the pattern so you can make sure it fits properly before you cut the cloth itself.
I do this whenever I am making something that I don't already have a pattern for.

Do plan on repairing said pattern a few times before you get it right. Cats just -know- you're wantin' to play with 'em. Good luck, and if you manage to get a good pattern for a homemade "Cone Of Shame", I hope you'll share it with us here. Adaptable in size, with many tabs on the shorter edge that fold around to hold the shoelace used to secure it about the lil beastie's neck. We tried once, at our place, to make one. She wasn't havin' any of that nonsense, ripped it to shreds. A good cat'll do that for ya!

I don't have a pattern for a cone, but I made one out of plastic canvas once, with duct tape over the edges to soften them. I suppose a cat could get a nail caught in that material though if they tried really hard.
I usually just use a style of soft cone that has a drawstring closure at the neck, called "ElizaSoft". They still hate it but at least they don't get the edge caught on things like with a rigid type of cone.

Yer -what- hurts (author)2013-09-10

The dreaded "Cone of Shame!" Agreed, any functional alternative is excellent. Agreed, -some- cats ain't havin' either one. That's why they're called "cats". ;)
Good post!

Petes_mom (author)2013-05-30

This is amazing! A friend send me this link and I made one for my cat. She just had surgery and managed to escape from the cone and was trying to take her own stitches out. She is laying in the bed purring like crazy. She hasn't had an interest in walking around yet. Thanks so much for posting this!

Grahamwithimps (author)2013-02-18

This looks like a brilliant idea, but my six month old cat just disappeared round a corner and came back without it on! No idea what he did but it was turned inside out! He's back in the Cone of Shame while I have another look through and try to figure out what went wrong or if he is just very agile...

ThamarBerber (author)2012-12-25

Wow! Thanks for the idea, I will definitely keep this in mind, if one of my babies needs an op.

raindear82 (author)2012-10-11

I made one of these by cutting the sleeve off a long-sleeved T-shirt. This will fit up to about a 10 lb animal. Just cut closer to the cuff for small animals-mine was a 4 lb kitten, and closer to the shoulder for a larger animal. If the animal is larger than 10 lbs, a child's/infant's size shirt (with new holes for the front legs rather than the sleeves) might work. If you need a thicker material, a sweat shirt (or sleeve) might work. Both T-shirt material and sweat shirt material are very breathable and the resulting shirt is loose enough to allow the wound to breathe. My kitten did well with this method. As was noted in the original article, a more aggressive animal chewing through the material will need a more aggressive method of wound protection.

If you use a premade item, make sure that any seams won't rub on the incision you are trying to protect. Irritating the incision could cause the very behavior we are hoping to prevent.

I also used this idea when we went on vacation with our dogs (both chihuahuas) when we were surprised by cold night time temperatures. It makes an easy, impromptu sweater.

jtodd3rd (author)2011-10-12

Our cat Victoria just came back from being spayed and she took it upon herself to try and pull out her stitches. We were looking for a way to make a "cone of shame" out of a milk jug, and we found this instead. She keeps trying to back out of it, but it'll be much easier for her to go around with this as opposed to a cone on her head. Thanks for putting it up!

jet h (author)2011-01-08

i'm agree with you about that cone, i have made those skirts for mine cats too, but they are often too tiny so i used as well a sock and used the same methode like yours.
but last time my oldest one had a major surgery on her behind leg and her knee and then... couldn't make a trousers have tried it a lot, but....
so after all i let her walk in the bench without the cone but it costed me lots of attention.LOL
she is now recoverd without the cone and she walks great again.
but love the sharing of your idea, well done.
Glad that she is well again;-D much fun with her.

blackpanthershay (author)2010-08-27

Our kittens Booster(m) and Bandit(f) had surgery yesterday so we had a few types of cones and collars ready when they came home. None of the them worked! Not even the inflatable. The collar sent her crazy,running all through the apartment and banging her head plus banging into things. Bloody waste of time those cones and collars. My husband suggested we try this and after a few tries(we didn't secure it properly) I am happy and relieved to say Bandit kept it on overnight! Thanks so much! So hard typing with a kitten sitting on your hands lol

jessyratfink (author)2007-11-13

Oh my goodness, they are so cute. I wish I would have though of this when Ms. Jade Pants was fixed... I swear I had to tell her "no" every five minutes because she kept licking the stiches. :P

uguy (author)jessyratfink2007-11-13

Was Ms. Jade Pants broken and had to be "fixed"? Hope she is better now. lol

PerfectlySquare (author)uguy2007-11-13

Since I'm not sure if you seriously didn't understand what she meant, I'll explain: "Fixed" in this context means "spayed" in a feline hysterectomy. "Now you know; and knowing is half the battle!" - G.I. Joe

TschNJ (author)PerfectlySquare2010-05-26

I'm sure Uguy knew what all this meant and was trying to be funny.  I told a friend that I'd had Marley 'fixed'.  He asked was he broken?  I said no but he is now!

Pork Chop Sandwiches!

I think he was being sarcastic...

Knuten (author)CrazyCory5642007-11-13

Thank you! Fortunately, neither of the cats have tried to gnaw, chew or itch through the fabric. However, other cats or dogs may behave differently so you may need to use a heavier cloth (denim, etc), or double layers... or just revert to the cone if all else fails. Using a cut-up cone might be an idea to try for a particularly chewy animal, but luckily I haven't needed it for my two.

Our other lady cat just came home from being fixed, and not only is she in an awful mood, but she's also chewing her stiches like a madwoman. I'll definitely be using this now. Thanks again!

Scuttle (author)2009-09-29

This is a good idea, but I know that my dogs would be able to tear through a t-shirt. I would suggest heavier material, however it is important that stitches get good air ventilation so anything other than cotton would not work well. If your going to use this I would suggest keeping an eye on your pet for a while before leaving them alone with this on. Tearing out stitches is not something to be messed with and can be a life or death situation. So I would first check and double check that they cannot get to their stitches. Most dogs and cats, with responsible owners, will have to have stitches at some point when they are spayed or neutered so if this works for your pets then by all means save them from the cone! (I know my dogs hated it) lol Just be sure to put safety first.

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