Why shouldn’t you put a bell on your cat?

The image of a cat with a bell on his neck has been common for a long time. We usually see pictures, paintings or illustrations in books and fairy tales of cats with bells. However, using a bell with cats can actually damage them in innumerable ways.

Advantages of a bell

First of all, let’s see some of the reasons to put a bell around the cat’s neck. The first one is that the owners can use it as a location device to be always aware of the cat’s whereabouts; being the cats very cautious by nature, the bell will act as a sort of GPS.

Another reason, even more commonplace, for the use of a bell, is to warn potential prey (birds and mice) that the cat is approaching, so that they can escape, avoiding a painful demise by his paws. Owners often take their cat’s diet very seriously and want to avoid the ingestion of food which is outside the said diet. So, if the cat is used to being outside, it might not be a bad idea, on the condition that once he comes back you set him free from the burden.

Disadvantages of a bell

A bell can really improve the aesthetics of a cat but, unfortunately, it comes with a number of disadvantages: the first is the sound. Not only is the bell repetitive and annoying for the owner, it can be dangerous for the cat’s health, being in close proximity to his ears and thus the ear canal. The animal will be constantly subject to stimuli that will deprive him of his auditory acuity and, in a worst case scenario, could amount to permanent hearing damage (tinnitus, or whistling of the ear) if the bell is loud and/or kept long enough (normal bells will not get loud enough to deafen a cat, but they can contribute to an overall noisy landscape).

At the same time, the bell can alter the cat’s state of mind. Cats are indeed quiet animals that often get scared by surrounding noises.

The constant ringing can make your feline nervous to the point of stressing him. This is not even taking into account how bothersome a bell is, with many cats trying to bite it or remove it, while many others learn to keep it in their mouth just to avoid its ringing.

Speaking of hunting: the cat will not understand why you put around his neck such a bothersome sounding thing that prevents him from hunting or even scratching in peace, will feel betrayed and most likely will hold a grudge against you. Then the issue is all yours!

Alternatives to a bell

There is a number of alternatives to a bell, far less noisy.

If you wish for your cat to wear a collar, there is no issue, but it can bother him. Collars can be used as means of identification, to ward off parasites, as a beauty accessory or even to cater for an electronic sensor that can help him open his “house”. Personally, I don’t see among these a reason justifying making him wear a bell.

Make sure that the collar is not too tight so that the cat doesn’t risk getting stuck in something. And if you really want to see your cat with a bell for purely aesthetic reasons, you could put it on just for a few minutes a day. This way your animal will not be bothered and you will have a bit of your way as well. Doesn’t seem to me like a bad compromise!

Cat with bell

8 thoughts on “Why shouldn’t you put a bell on your cat?

  1. It’s a myth that cat bells can damage their hearing. A loud bell is around 50db, and hearing damage to cats does not occur under 80db (1000 times as loud).
    Our cats’ wellbeing is very important, but the well being of animals in the environment, particularly those that are endangered or near extinct must also be considered.

    • Thanks for the heads up! You are right about permanent hearing loss occurring at approximately 80dB in cats, however some of the studies have found that sounds in the 50-ish range can cause permanent tinnitus in the affected frequency. Also, regardless of the damage being physically permanent or not, we feel that bells should be used sparingly and carefully, keeping in mind that they’re, at least, a nuisance for the animal, and that there are alternatives 🙂

      • hey, do you have the links to those studies? I am researching about the topic and having a hard time finding credible information.

        • Hello!
          This is one that compares animal and human models for tinnitus, references findings of alterations in animals exposed to non-traumatic levels for weeks:
          Another one about mice actually references two different studies about low level noise and diminished response in the affected range in cats specifically:

        • Local neighbour’s cat stalks birds and lizards in our garden. Cat has a collar and bell. One of those collars that are made to come off, that the cat can easily rub off on a fixed stick on a bush or on a fence. Which it does, often. The bell has been crushed so it doesn’t ring anymore. I wonder if the cat has done that, somehow, too? We used to hear the bell tinkle, rush out and chase the cat….but last time I picked up the collar, the bell was useless. Strongly dislike finding proof of kills, and don’t get me started on cat poop in the vegetable garden and flower beds. Yuck. Cats are not welcome in my garden.

          • I can recommend speaking with the neighbor so that he can keep his cat Within his property (maybe closing his own yard with an inward fence)…
            Regardless, any garden will be accessed by wildlife, be it rodents, birds, foxes, insects, each leaving more or less pleasant signs of their presence since to them it’s just another green area.
            I still recommend speaking with the neighbor so that the cat doesn’t end being the one to pay, even if you dislike him specifically 🙂
            Otherwise there’s the option of closing your property – animals, cats or not, don’t really understand private property signs 🙂

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