This year it is expected that somewhere in the area of 16% of Americans will dress their pets up in costumes. For those of you not too familiar with the US population that’s somewhere in the area of 50 million households dressing a pet up. While the bulk of these pets will be dressed up around Halloween we are also starting to see plenty of folks purchase costumes to celebrate Christmas and Thanksgiving as well.
While it looks like a heck of a lot of fun to put your cat in a costume for the holidays and snap a few pictures, it is important to understand that this can be a very stressful and potentially dangerous situation for your feline friend. Cats are incredibly sensitive creatures and wrapping them in clothes or sticking something on top of their head can be quite dramatic if you don’t go about it carefully.
Anyone considering a costume, especially for a cat, should make sure they fully understand that the bulk of cats will not enjoy this experience. To reduce the drama as much as possible and ensure your cat has a positive experience you should learn how to choose a costume for your cat using the tips below.
Tip #1: Understand Your Cat & Their Senses
We humans have a number of senses: eyes, ears, taste, smell, touch. Cats also have all of these senses and they use them to help find their way around and navigate life in general. When we humans put on a costume we consciously make a decision to limit some of our senses in exchange for the look. Putting costumes on a cat is basically depriving them of their senses without any understanding of why. This limits their awareness of their surroundings which basically makes them feel like they are in danger.
This is a core reason why most cats do not enjoy this process. Given this knowledge aim for costumes that will have the least overall impact to the senses of your cat & to their ability to move around. Don’t cover the ears up if possible, leave the whiskers alone, make sure it won’t restrict the senses from their paw pads, etc. Basically think about the best way to limit the amount of environmental change your cat experiences when stuck in the costume.
Tip #2: Aim for the Minimum Number of Pieces
Cat costumes seem to be getting more and more complex by the year. We’ve seen an evolution from the original one piece hat with a chinstrap to all sorts of costumes that are made of three and four pieces. While the multi piece costumes usually tout ‘easy on and off’ features, you’re still going to have a more difficult time getting a cat into a multi piece costume.
If your social media feed can stand it, aim for a one piece costume. Bow ties and collars are simple and a lot of them are designed with simple break away technology like collars to ensure the safety of your cat.
Tip #3: Consider How It Is Put On and Taken Off
Given the sensitivity of cats and the likelihood that they won’t particularly like their costume you should focus on costumes that are extremely easy to both put on and take off. This means you should focus your search to costumes that are put on using only simple Velcro attachments that can be pulled on and off in a matter of seconds.
Not only will this be a heck of a lot less traumatic to put onto your cat, but if your cat doesn’t like it the chances of getting it off your cat without an incident (bites/scratches) increase significantly. Be sure to review this in the details of any product you’re considering.
Tip #4: Buy the Right Sized Costume
While there are some cats out there that don’t mind costumes one bit, there are a heck of a lot more that are going to have a hard time wearing one, especially a costume that is overly constrictive and feels tight on them. Be sure to measure your cat in all of the relevant places before you order your costume and be sure to choose the respective size. If you’re not sure how take a look at this video:
If they don’t have the right size don’t order something too small and try to jam your cat into it. Costumes are also known, just like human clothes, to run both small and large compared to the manufacturers notes. If the costume is too small definitely don’t try to squeeze your cat into it anyway.
Tip #5: Avoid Costumes With Small Parts
A lot of costumes out there are intelligently designed and they don’t have small pieces. On the other hand there are plenty of costumes out there that have frills, hairs, small buckles etc. Anything that can easily pop off the costume can easily be eaten by your cat.
It might even happen by accident while they are trying to pull the costume off with their teeth. If your cat happens to eat something she isn’t supposed to it could cause a ton of pain (it could even be fatal) and it also could cost you a small fortune to get it removed. Hopefully you’ve got cat insurance.
How Do I Get My Cat Into the Costume?
Getting cat clothes for cats onto said cats can be quite an effort, believe me, I know. If you’ve ever tried to put a harness on a cat you’ll have some good experience already, but putting on a full one piece or a multi piece costume can take some time, patience and some assistance. I recommend getting assistance if you can. Key things that will help:
- As noted above, be sure you measure your cat first and buy a size appropriate costume
- The simpler the costume the easier it is going to be (big reason the simple hat/beard is my #1 pick)
- Avoid anything with a mask on it, I know I didn’t pick any in my top 10 (link below), but I’d skip it in general
- Buy your costume early and introduce your cat to it over several days: let her sniff it, feed her treats while it is nearby, drape it over her and feed her treats
- Put on the easiest pieces first to see how your cat reacts, take it slow and don’t force it
- Be patient, it may take a few attempts to get the costume on to your cat
- If your main purpose is to take pictures, plan ahead and have everything ready to go the second you get the costume on
- Unless your cat seems 100% comfortable with it I’d recommend removing it after all your pictures are done
Wrapping It Up
So should you put your cat through the drama of a costume given the above? My personal opinion on this topic is that if your cat has been in costumes and outfits her whole life then go for it. Or if you test it out one time on her and she doesn’t mind one bit then have at it.
Still always consider the tips above though. If on the other hand your cat clearly freaks out whenever you put even the harness on her then you’re probably not going to have very good luck with a costume of any sort and you might want to dress up yourself instead.
If reading through this has made you feel a costume is simply too much work then check out some festive cat collars instead!
As a final tip, never leave your cat alone in a costume, no ifs and or buts. If you are not going to be home and can’t keep an eye on your cat then you should absolutely remove the costume before leaving the house. Even with easy to put on and take off costumes there’s no sense tempting fate and potentially letting your cat get stuck due to the costume getting caught on something.
Have you dressed your cat up before? If so, how’d it go? Would you recommend that other people put their cat in a costume?
If you have any additional thoughts on dressing your cat up in general or for the holidays then please leave a message or email me directly at Craig@StuffCatsWant.com. I’ll be sure to update the article to reflect your thoughts.
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