Depending on the situation, I am a fan of E-collars.
We don't send E-collars home with all animals; however, in some cases it's necessary.
After a surgery is completed, we monitor whether or not an animal is licking (and to what level) or biting the incision site. Based off our findings, if we feel it's necessary for the safety of the animal to wear one, we send one home with the owner.
However, even when we don't find that an animal has been at his/her incision site at the clinic, we will still mention the option to the owner if they feel concerned about their cat's personality regarding the incision site. It may be based off of previous experiences or that they feel their cat may be a "licker/biter" when it comes to things such as that. They know how their animal reacts in his/her own environment and may feel more comfortable having one at home just in case. At that point, we allow them to take one home and keep it on hand in case a problem arises.
Generally, if we feel an animal needs to wear an E-collar due to harmful licking/biting, we recommend the owner keep it on at all times (until the sutures are removed) unless they can carefully supervise the animal and quickly stop harmful behaviour if it should arise. If an animal can have the collar removed to eat without incidence, it's great for him/her. However, if that's not possible, raising the dishes (as others have mentioned) can help.
Again, we don't send a lot of animals home with E-collars as we generally find they aren't needed; however, there are definitely cases when they are necessary. Although most animals recover just wonderfully without an E-collar, I have seen a few cases where it became an unfortunate problem when a recommendation for one was made but declined by the owner.
Anyway, sorry for the long post. Bikeman, I hope your kitty makes a speedy recovery.