I know it’s kind of a thing in some circles to dress cats in fancy costumes, put tiny little hats on their heads, and generally bling out these naturally beautiful creatures.
If you’re into that kind of thing and your cat tolerates it, great! No harm, no foul. But if you’re thinking about getting a Halloween costume to put on your cat, I’d urge you to think twice about that. If thinking twice doesn’t dissuade you, keep thinking.
Well, let’s begin at the beginning: If your cat isn’t used to being dressed up, forcing her into a costume is a trip through feline hell. Cats don’t just use their eyes to find their way around; they use their ears, noses, paws, and even all the fur on their bodies. Putting clothes on a cat who’s used to running around in the costume the creator gave him deprives him of the full range of his senses.
Cats may be predators, but they’re small and they know they’re prey animals, too. When you block a cat’s ability to detect what’s around him and you limit his natural range of motion by decking him out in a jacket and tie, a frog costume, devil horns or whatever, you’re causing him untold stress.
If you think your cat doesn’t like wearing a collar or harness, just wait until you see him react to wearing that oh-so-cute little getup you bought at the pet store.
A lot of costumes, especially the more cheaply made ones, have parts that your cat can swallow, leading to a range of consequences from an embarrassing case of string-butt to potentially fatal intestinal obstructions. It’s all fun and games until somebody ends up at the emergency clinic!
Are Instagrams of your cat in a $5 costume really worth a $5,000 vet bill?
I’m not exaggerating about that $5,000. I work for a pet insurance company and every day I see claims for foreign body ingestions. God only knows how many cats (and dogs) need emergency surgery and hospitalization for "FBIs," as vets call them, but end up getting euthanized because their people can’t afford the treatment that would save their lives!
Here’s another thing: What happens if your costumed cat happens to escape while trick-or-treaters are knocking on your door and you’re handing out candy? Not only are you dealing with an escaped cat, which is difficult enough, but an escaped cat who is freaked out by the noise and chaos and handicapped by a costume that limits his movement. This sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.
Instead of making your cat wear a costume, why not dress yourself up as a cat instead? You’ve got lots of options to choose from, starting with the baggy tiger suit for little kids, running through the Hello Kitty look or your favorite cartoon cat, all the way up to sultry cat costumes complete with tail and fabulous makeup! Or dress yourself up as a witch and your kid (or your niece or nephew, or your neighbor’s kid) as a cat so he or she can be your little "familiar."
If your cat has been wearing costumes since she was a kitten and she doesn’t stress out about it, I don’t see the harm, even if I do think the whole idea of putting clothes on pets is kind of silly. But please, don’t just randomly decide it’d be awesome to shove your cat into a geisha costume and expect it to end well — for you or for your cat.
What about you? Would you dress up your cat? Have you dressed up your cat before? How did it turn out? Would you do it again? Let’s talk in the comments.
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About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.