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Why Does My Cat Walk Backwards With A Cone On?

If your cat is walking backwards, because it has a cone on, you may be wondering why, and what now… 

Why does my cat walk backwards with a cone on?

A cat’s first reaction, to move backwards is in response to the ‘tunnel vision’ effect of the cone. Your cat feels like they have been pushed into a confined space and they are trying to ‘back out’ of it. Other odd behaviors may occur as they get used to the cone, but the most common first reaction is going to be backing away.

So, now you know. But, is this behavior normal? How can I prevent this from happening? Is it safe to leave a cat alone with a cone on? Keep reading for these answers, and much more…

Is it normal for a cat to walk backwards with a cone on?

White cat in a transparent cone.

White cat in a transparent cone.

It would actually be much more surprising if your cat did NOT walk backwards, or act up. When your vet puts one of these cones on your cat, they’ve got an unfamiliar person tugging at their neck at the same time that their peripheral vision is becoming completely blocked.

What is a cat cone?

Known as e-collars (Elizabethan collars) or more commonly as ‘cones of shame’, these useful, but awkward devices are put in place to keep your cat from chewing at or otherwise interfering with an injury.

Your cat is unlikely to be able to get the cone off without your help and so this effectively keeps them from scratching or biting at a surgical wound or from licking medicine off a treating area.

While it certainly takes some getting used for your cat to and looks strange to you, keeping your cat from worrying away at stitches and sores is a must, and so the cone greatly facilitates your cat’s healing process.

How can I prevent my cat from walking backwards with its cone on?

Your cat is going to adjust to the cone, but it will naturally take time. The best thing that you can do is to make sure that your cat is in a large, open area so that they are less likely to bump into things and panic themselves further.

Once your cat is a little calmer, they should adjust, but if your cat is still consistently trying to back out of it to the point that you are worried then you should check with your vet.

There are a few different options, such as softer, fabric cones, or specialized covering ‘onesies’ to help keep your cat away from their stitches if they simply cannot seem to adjust to the cone.

Is it safe to leave a cat alone with a cone?

It is not recommended to leave your cat alone while they are wearing a cone. If you have no other option, the safest bet would be to put them in a wide, open room with nothing that they can get wedged into to knock over.

Your cat can still eat and drink with a properly fitted cone, so if you absolutely have to leave them alone with the cone on then this is your best option. Just make sure that you’ve actually seen them eat and drink with the cone on and keep your away time to as minimal as possible.

Beyond this emergency option, you want to make sure that your cat has supervision as much as possible because it’s too simply easy for them to get stuck in places or in other unanticipated troubles. Also, if your litter box has a lid, it is also recommended that you take the lid off at this time so that they can use the box with less trouble.

How long does a cat need to wear a cone?

Black cat wearing a white cone.

Black cat wearing a white cone.

The duration that your cat needs to wear the collar is going to depend on the type and severity of injury that your cat is healing from. Your vet will be able to give you a good approximation, which can be anywhere from a few days to even a few weeks!

Usually, it is on the shorter end of that time but if your cat does have to wear the cone for a longer duration then don’t worry… most cats will resist it but they eventually adjust to the cone.

Can a cat sleep with a cone on?

Yes! Your cat should be able to do all of its essential activities while wearing the cone. They should be able to sleep, drink, eat, and do their ‘litterbox duties’. How quickly they adjust is going to depend on how strict you are with that cone, however, so you’ll need to resist the temptation to just ‘take it off for a second’.

Taking off the cone just makes it harder for your cat to adjust to it, so this doesn’t do either of you any favors!

What can I use instead of a cat cone?

There are actually quite a few alternatives to a cat cone, such as a plush ‘pillow’ collar, an inflatable ‘donut collar’, or even a customized ‘onesie’ for your cat that looks like pajamas and keeps them effectively away from their wounds.

Some people have even used baby clothes, which can function almost effectively as those customized onesies, with the exception of ‘coverage assurance’’ and the simple fact that you’ve got to put those clothes on your cat in the first place! The ‘onesies’ are definitely easier to get on your cat with less risk of harming their stitches.

Do cats get depressed wearing a cone?

Your cat can certainly get depressed from wearing the cone, but the good news is that they should adjust quite quickly. Cats don’t generally suffer from prolonged depression, as they tend to find ways to keep themselves comfortable or amused by nature, but a little extra affection during this time can help to facilitate the process.

Extra hugs, petting, and even a cone-fed treat are all great ways to help your cat to relax and to adjust. Also, try to keep calm while your cat is first adjusting to the cone. If your cat notices that little jumps or head-shaking have gotten your attention then they will try to ‘guilt’ you into taking off the cone.

So, stick to extra kindness and be prepared to wait it out… your kitty will adjust to the cone.

Does my cat really need the cone?

If the veterinarian says that your cat should be wearing it, then the answer is a definite yes. Cats will lick at wounds naturally and they also chew at them sometimes, pulling stitches right out! Medicines that have been applied to these wounds might also be toxic to your cat if ingested orally, so this is another useful function of the cone.

The ‘cone of shame’ is definitely awkward, but it does exactly what it is supposed to do. It makes sure that your cat heals as quickly and safely as possible.

Is a cone necessary after neutering a cat?

Yes, a cone is necessary after neutering a cat in order to keep them from licking or worrying at the incision. Generally, this means a period of 5 to 7 days, but some neutering sessions are more complicated and may require 10 to 14 days of healing time.

An example of this is a ‘retained testicle’, where an abdominal incision is required in order to perform the neutering properly, and in a case like this, the extended wearing time will be followed by a vet visit to ensure your cat is healing up properly and to determine if it is now safe to remove the cone.

Lindsey Browlingdon