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“The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.”
Clairee Belcher (Olympia Dukakis), in Steel Magnolias

Vincent’s tag features 2 kinds of rivets (bead and invisible) and a heart showing my love for my kid.

ID Tags for Your Pets

Alabama’s finished tag shows him posed in a stance that warms the cockles of my heart.

Vincent's first tag was as basic as possible but still got the job done.

Jules’ tag is a slide with a custom-made safety collar and a low-profile design.

This leather collar was built for safety as well as good looks.

Jules is modeling his slide collar for you

Issue # 13

Christine Cox was a regular contributor to ARTitude Zine. This article originally appeared there and is reprinted here with permission. Unfortunately ARTitude is no longer published.

Our pets; we love them like family and they ask so little. Anyone who knows me knows that my 3 black, male cats are the very heart of my heart. When I heard that this issue’s theme was My Pet I immediately thought of pet tags. Even though they’re indoor cats, I’d been saying for months that I was going to make our Boyz some jewelry and now I had the creative inspiration.

I had been looking in stores and on the Internet for pet tags with some flair but the most impressive I could come up with was a $75 cast sterling tag from Tiffany, made to be used as a keychain. I found tags shaped like bones, paws, fire hydrants, bells (including the Liberty Bell), hearts, rectangles, milk containers, stars and generic animals. Sizes seem to range from about 1” for small dogs or cats, up to about 2” wide if you have a large dog. All this variety was wonderful but it just left me cold. Now each of my Boyz wears his own, personalized jewelry.

Alabama’s tag was the first one I made. I wanted it to be in the shape of ‘Bama but couldn’t find any clip art or drawings that looked like him. I found one that was close and then modified it with my trusty Sharpie marker. I used my jeweler’s saw to cut out the shape from 20 gauge brass, drilled the hole for the jump ring and stamped ‘Bama’s name and number on the back. So that I wouldn’t have to worry about the tag coming off the collar, I soldered the jump ring closed. The ring that comes with most purchased collars is really hard metal and you probably don’t need to worry about soldering that.

Most tags you buy from the store are engraved, a process of carving into the metal with a sharp tool. The techniques take years to master and my Boyz needed tags now so I decided to use my alpha/numeric stamp sets. I oxidized Alabama’s tag so that the words would show up better and then chose to let it weather naturally. If I had wanted to seal it I could have used Carnauba wax (available from automotive stores in the car wax section).

Now, whenever I look at ‘Bama’s collar I smile because it’s the exact shape that my boy gets himself into whenever he wants me to pet him.

Vincent’s collar is much more elaborate. I lucked out right away and found a piece of clip art that looked just like my kid. I modified it just a little as the tail in the image went straight out and I wanted it to curl around ‘Vincent.’ I cut the cat image out of copper and the heart out of brass and riveted them both to a ground of nickel (with Vincent’s name and number stamped on the back). Vincent’s tag looks the most like ‘real’ jewelry. Unfortunately no one will ever see it, as he’s very shy (his nickname is ‘Boo’ after Boo Radley). It’s OK though; I know that if he ever gets out and someone finds him, they’ll have my number.

Jules’ collar fits his personality, if not his size. Even though he was the runt when we got him, Jules is our intrepid explorer and all-around tough kitty.  I decided to make his tag as a slide, which is a plain piece of metal with slits cut into it. The collar slides through the slits and then fastens around Jules’ neck. It’s a low-profile design that doesn’t have anything dangling from it to catch on things. Since the collar he had didn’t go with the slide (it was a little pink and blue number with a bell on it, not fit for a macho kitty like Jules at all), I made him a new leather collar as well.

I assume this is true about dogs (I haven’t had a dog since I was a kid), but cats should always wear safety collars. The idea is that if your kitty is getting into things and his collar catches on something, the collar will break before the cat does. The collar I made for Jules is thick leather that would never break if he got into trouble. I cut the leather into 2 pieces and held them together with a small rubber band. I rest assured knowing that the rubber band will break before Jules does.

Anywhere I needed to fold the leather (the folds for the rivets and behind the slide) I thinned it using a scalpel with a curved blade. I also gently bent the metal slide to the curve of Jules’ neck so that his collar is comfortable and doesn’t hang oddly.

There is an entire world of possibility for these tags. You can keep them very simple, like Alabama’s or you can really go overboard and make an elaborate one like Vincent’s. You could install an eyelet through the hole for the jump ring and give it a nice, finished look. If you know how to solder you could use that skill to further embellish your pet’s tags. Whatever you decide to do, make sure that your pets don’t get caught wearing store-bought tags on their collars! Démodé!

Pet Collar Safety:

  • Make or purchase a safety collar (if appropriate)

  • Make sure the collar fits correctly. You should be able to slide 2 fingers between the collar and your pet’s neck. If the collar is too loose your pet might either wiggle out of it or get his teeth caught trying to get the collar off.

  • Talk to your veterinarian about using a flea collar. Some animals are sensitive to the chemical flea killer and their necks can get very irritated.

  • File off all sharp edges.

  • Make sure that all parts are secure. Dangles are probably not a good idea as pets might think they are toys and try to chew them off.

  • The tag should be size appropriate to the pet. You don’t want your cat tripping over his tag when he’s trying to jump onto something or have it dangling into his dinner.

  • Solder the jump ring so that the tag won’t come off.

  • Choose soft shapes without sharp points or holes in the pattern that will catch on things. If you really like an unsafe shape, simply rivet or solder it to a larger, safe ground like I did with Vincent's.

  • I put the Boyz’ last name on their tags so that if someone finds a cat they don’t have to start the phone conversation with, “Is this Vincent’s mom?”

    Christine Cox teaches metalsmithing and bookbinding classes in our Studio in Volcano, CA.