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Superior post-surgical feline & canine appliance. (Or: Dump the cone!)

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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!)

 
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Step 1: 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.
holly-g1 month ago
Ingenious and well detailed for us diy-era! Love the cat gnawing his cone! Ironic! ty
Rider Girl2 months ago
Very good idea! My cats hated the cone
Guitbox132 months ago
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
lsepulveda14 months ago
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 :) .
kmck59046 months ago
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.
ReddWolf7 months ago
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 ReddWolf7 months ago
Oops, forgot to include a photo.
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ReddWolf1 year ago
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.
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!
Lmarotta7 months ago
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!!
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Petes_mom10 months ago
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!
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...
Wow! Thanks for the idea, I will definitely keep this in mind, if one of my babies needs an op.
raindear821 year ago
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.
jtodd3rd2 years ago
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 h3 years ago
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.
nevroth3 years ago
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).
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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
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
Was Ms. Jade Pants broken and had to be "fixed"? Hope she is better now. lol
Since I'm not sure if you seriously didn't understand what she meant, I'll explain: "Fixed" in this context means "spayed"....as in a feline hysterectomy. "Now you know; and knowing is half the battle!" - G.I. Joe
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)  CrazyCory5646 years ago
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!
Scuttle4 years ago
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.
TschNJ Scuttle3 years ago
When my cat, Marley had to have stitches, he also had that dreaded collar which he managed to get out of.  Poor thing was so miserable with it on, running into walls etc.  I took him back to the vet and when it was re-attached, I asked for a sedative to give him to calm him while he recuperated.  That worked well, he was always so easy to pill.  Your idea for the pet shirt is a very good one.  Wish I'd seen it sooner!
jaffers3 years ago
great idea!, years ago i had a kitten that got attacked by another cat and had a bunch of stitches and i hated the cone idea too so i cut the end off a bed sock and some leg holes and she wore that! obviously that wouldnt work for an adult cat.
bowmaster4 years ago
Really neat idea. My cat got hit by a car (he's fine now) and he broke his jaw so he needed to have it wired back together. He needed to wear a cone after the operation but it was to keep his paws away from his face. He HATED the cone. He is a major escape artist and managed to slip out of it a bunch even on the smallest setting. He isn't even that small of a cat.
jon.buford4 years ago
 I did this in about five minutes after seeing the first couple of steps. 

My changes that I made to this were to use the bottom seam on the t-shirt that is finished as the back end edge. Since this is the one they are likely to be able to access directly, having it cleanly finished is probably better. 

I just cut slits into the material rather than actually making holes. It is for a cat, so larger beasts may need holes. 

Thanks for this great idea, Scooter is much much happier now without the collar, and it will be a lot easier to make sure she is well fed and rested now. She is happy to finally be able to groom herself after three days of the dreaded collar.
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meowzebub4 years ago

Buttercup looks massive in that muscle t!  great guns, grrrrr.

i'm making one for my dog for a winter coat

Knuten (author) 4 years ago
Just an update... Pee & poo, going to the bathroom: NO PROBLEM. Note in the pictures that the rear end is not covered up, so there is no problem with the cats going potty and no mess. The kitties (Bella & Buttercup) are older now and doing just fine. The "cat jackets", above worked perfectly for my 2 cats. Their stitches got plenty of air and healed perfectly. The old tee shirt I used for these 2 cats worked perfectly; they did not rip it and did not chew through it, and did not disturb the stitches. IF I had an animal that tried to chew through the cloth to the stitches, then I would have tried a heavier cloth, like denim. Just use common sense, experiment and observe to make sure the stitches stay safe.
pyroelfears5 years ago
what if they poo
ummmmmm I was wondering that too.
chaitanyak4 years ago
thats the coolest thing ive seen today!! i posted an instructable just yesterday, that's about how to use a sock to cover a dog's leg. in case your interested http://www.instructables.com/id/Dog-Leg-Stitches-protector-with-a-sock/

i will try out yours if my dog ever needs it some day(god forbid).
purplekitty4 years ago
Here's how one of them turned out. It didn't turn out as nice as yours but it sure is going to help. Now They're' free and I am free from putting the collar back on every 5 minutes hehe Thanks for putting this up. :-)
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