A breakaway is a collar that will break off if it's snagged on something (instead of strangling your cat). You'd want a microchip and a collar so if the collar is lost, someone can still get your info from the microchip.
So if she ever happens to get out and gets lost, then gets her collar gets caught on a tree branch or something and collar breaks, then someone finds her and takes her to the shelter, the microchip comes in handy?
Both. Collars can be lost or removed. Chips show up at the Vets office. I can honestly say after 2 decades f pulling cats off the street... I feverishly pray they are chipped each and every time. I have yet had to luck to find one that is and returned them to their home. I have a cat living in my neighborhood that i KNOW was stolen from someone's driveway, in another state. If he had been chipped he would be home now. He has lived on porches and with neighborhood caretakers for going on 5 years now instead.
Both for the same reasons as outlined above. Dog collars are not break away because they do not jump to high heights but cats can leap, snag their collars and strangle - hence the break away. I recently saw a collar with tags on it on a fence - they work, but without a microchip kitty is now ID-less.
Some people will even purposefully pull a collar to keep the animal and you can prove ownership by scanning the animal or if it escapes again from them trying to get home it might get scanned that time. This is less likely with a cat but it does happen. However, they don't always scan cats because they are chipped less often than dogs. I just saw a case where a shelter took in a stray, rehomed it, and when the person went to have it microchipped the vet found the cat already had one. Actually went to court on who would get the cat. Having both a chip and collar covers more possibilities.
I've read of people getting back cats that were missing for a few years thanks to microchips. Of course, if you move you need to make sure that the information is updated. It isn't always clear how to do this.
Home Again you can update online if you remember the account you set up originally. I've got a dog with an avid chip from 9years ago that I have no idea what info is on it at this point. I tried to send in information to update it but I had no actual form and they had nothing online. Never heard from them. It is a downside of some chips.
We have a cat at the shelter now that was lost and then taken in by someone and kept for 8 months. The person never checked for a chip and when she brought her in to us we scanned but never found a chip either.
Fast forward 9 months and I had just posted Kitty on our website for adoption the original owner comes in after seeing her picture and recognizing her eyes. She told us Kitty was microchipped and to check again. Turns out the chip had migrated to her low middle back and we just didn't scan far enough down! She ultimately decided not to retrieve Kitty because she had been aggressive to her other cat so left her with us for adoption.
Microchips work ONLY if they are scanned and scanned properly - a whole body scan. We are a huge municipal shelter with Animal Control officers and you would think they'd know better but they don't sometimes. Even the paid staff caretakers missed this one. I would microchip AND put an identification collar on your cat but if she gets lost you need to be very cognitive that both can be missed when checking.
One of ours keep losing his collar and we have at one point retrieved him from a vets office after a stranger brought him in to scan (he wasn't really lost, but yeah).
A collar with a phone number can get you in contact with your cat as soon as possible if anything happens. It will also show everyone that the cat is not a stray. A bell on the collar helps protect wildlife, even the best hunters will have a hard time catching a bird that way. It's in your best interest as well since birds can carry disease and fleas.
A chip is the fail-safe, for-life, insurance that you have done everything you can to find your cat if missing, stolen or (god forbid) found at the side of the road. Make sure you keep the info that comes with the chip so you can update address, phone number etc if you move or something. 30 bucks over 20 years is little more than a buck a year.
Where i live a chip costs 30 USD, a collar 3 USD. The chip is for life, the collar is good for a few months.
As others have already mentioned, get a collar (as well as a microchip) that releases if it gets caught. This type has worked well for us but there are many kinds to chose from.
Make security your priority, if the collar you want doesn't have a place to put your number you can complement it with an identification tube, there are tiny ones for cats and keep a piece of paper dry when your cat is not.
Years ago I lived in a city where every cat or dog that was spayed or neutered automatically got an ear tattoo that was coded to indicate the vet clinic it was done at and the year it was done. The SPCA and city pound had lists that could help them trace an animal by ear tattoo. They'd contact the clinic and read off the code if it was readable, then it was up to clinic staff to track down the owner.
It worked up to a point, but tattoos tend to fade and blur after about 8 to 10 years. Plus, if the animal was very old, the clinic's list was ofter superceded after a time if they ran out of space or the owner moved and didn't leave a forwarding address. Still, that can be another option.
I found a stray cat who was an absolute sweetheart, and took him to the vet. He was microchipped. The vet staff and I spent several days tracking down his owners, who had moved several times and had a new phone number, but we eventually found them and reunited them with their kitty. As it turned out, he'd been missing for several YEARS! I was amazed that no one else had had him scanned, or maybe no one had been as persistent as I had been in finding his owners.
He hadn't had a collar on when I found him, but for the few days I was feeding him before I could get him to the vet, I put on one of my cat's spare collars with one of those ID tubes on it, with a piece of paper saying "If you are the owner of this cat, please call (my phone number) and let me know so I know he is not a stray."
As for my own 17-year-old granny, she is both chipped AND collared. I have the vet check the microchip every year, to make sure it hasn't moved/migrated in her body.
Her collar has a tag with her microchip number on it, as well as two separate types of ID tag (the regular hang-tag kind, and one of those flat ones that fits directly on the collar itself). I also have a teeny-tiny short-range GPS tag on the collar, since she's an old girl and has medical issues. Luckily I've never had to use the GPS!
But I am a firm believer in microchipping AND collaring cats, even "strictly indoor" cats. My friend's cousin did not have her Scottish Fold spayed, collared, OR chipped because "she is an indoor cat that will never get out" -- of course someone left a door open and the cat DID get out. Luckily they found her again, but she was pregnant. My friend herself has the same attitude towards her two cats - no collars or chips because they "will never get out" - luckily both of her cats are neutered, but her brother accidentally broke a screened window one day and both cats dashed out of it before anyone could grab them. Again, luckily, my friend quickly found both cats, and nowadays both sport collars and ID tags ;}
(unfortunately I think her cousin never listened to the advice, and although she kept both kittens her cat gave birth to and had all three spayed/neutered finally, I don't think any of them are chipped or collared. sigh.)
Obviously I feel very strongly about microchipping and IDing kitties, and there are so many safe breakaway collars out there that "oh he/she will strangle himself!" is not really, imo, a valid excuse for not collaring a cat, whether indoors or not.
I got my cat from the shelter last week and he came microchipped with lifetime registration. He also has a tag with the chip # and website. I just don't like the big tag hanging down and he doesn't either. I am checking into buying a custom tag that is smaller or fits flush on collar.
I used a store made tag for my other cat Emily and its not quite as good; the tag part hangs lower so it drags on the ground when she's in "prowler mode." She wasn't chipped at the shelter so I wanted something to have while we're waiting for the chip appt at the vets.