Costume-Shopping 101


Halloween Cat Costumes

As we approach the last weekend before Halloween, I know some of you may be scouring the pet stores for Halloween costumes for your cats — or for something for your cat to pose in for the Costumes and Shades category of the World’s Coolest Cat Show.

As one who’s been dressing up the cats for over ten years, so I thought Id share some insights that might help you make an informed decision when you’re shopping for costumes.

How will the costume be used?
Is this something you’re going to pose the cat in for a contest photo or Halloween card? Or will your cat wear it trick-or-treating or around the house? If its for a photo, you should consider costumes that photograph well when your cat is sitting facing you, as in the pose above.

Most pet costumes are designed for wearing, not posing, with the main design on top (the back) of the pet (see the wiener dog at right). This is great for pet parades, and specifically, for dogs in pet parades. However, this type of costume isn’t the best for photos — you need to photograph the back of the cat in order to see these costume — which means all you’ll see of your cat is the back of her head. If you take a photo with your cat facing you, you won’t be able to tell what the costume is.

Sleeveless T-Shirts
There are a couple of different costume types that lend themselves well to photos. One is the t-shirt. In the witch example above, I wanted something colorful to match the hat, and this t-shirt fit the bill. Skeezix is actually wearing the tee backwards, so that part of the design shows in front.

Sleeveless t-shirts like this are the most comfortable for cats to wear because they permit a full range of motion in the shoulder area and your cat is less likely to slither across the floor like a snake while wearing this type of shirt.

“Posing” Costumes
The second costume type is a posing costume that is strictly for the purpose of photographing your pet. Your cat will not be able to walk around in it. It hooks (usually with Velcro) around the back of the cats neck, and has leg-holes through which your cat will step with her front legs into the costume. Most are set up with fake arms creating a funny illusion, as in the costume below from

I’m a big fan of this design, since many cats tolerate it fairly well, and they produce great photographs. Additionally, the sizing is somewhat more forgiving than wearable styles important if you’re ordering online.

Another option is to stick to headwear. Petsmart, for example, has a nice array of cat hats, including this one that sits between the ears:

It’s important to consider the ears, because about 98% of cats will not tolerate having their ears mooshed down, and they will shake the hat off repeatedly before you can ever snag a shot. Because of this, you should either get a hat that covers both ears completely so that the ears sit unencumbered within the hat (as in Skeezixs witch hat above), or get a hat that is cut out around the ears. Don’t be shy about grabbing the scissors and snipping larger earholes.

Costumes for Wearing
If you plan on having your cat wear the costume for any length of time, I recommend something sleeveless and unfussy, like this one designed by Whisker City:

This allows for a full range of motion in the arms, and there is no fabric draggging that could trip up your cat. Ones that attach with velcro at the neck and chest provide easy-on/easy-off access.

The most difficult part of shopping for cat costumes and clothes is figuring out what size to purchase. There are no standards of measurement, and what is considered an x-small by one brand is another brand’s “medium.”

There typically are two measurements that are used to determine size: the length of the back from the base of the neck to the tail, and the chest measurement. Of the two, the chest measurement is the most important — if Fluffy is a bit of a widebody, you don’t want to have to corset her up to squeeze her into the costume like you’re making sausage. Also take into consideration your cats coat and add an inch or two if your cat is a longhair. When in doubt, go the next size up.

If you’re shopping in the store, its always a good idea to eyeball the costume for size before you buy (and please, fold it up nicely and return it to the package when you’re done). If you’re shopping online, it can be a bit of a crapshoot, but if you’ve had luck buying a particular brand in the past, its good to stick with that brand. Make sure you know the stores return policies before you buy — often, Halloween costumes are not returnable (especially after Halloween). One of my favorite retail outlets is Chi-wa-wa Ga-ga in New Orleans. Its a mom-and-pop shop that provides over-the-top customer service. You can provide your cats exact measurements when you place your order and they will telephone you to discuss what size you should order. Their fulfillment is super-fast, too.

For tips on photographing your cat, see my World’s Coolest post. Here’s the short list:

  • If your cat detests costumes, don’t force the issue.
  • Have everything set up and ready to go before you bring in the cat.
  • Provide lots of treats and toys; make it fun.
  • Be vocal and profuse in your praise. Believe or not, most cats do love to please their guardians.

Don’t forget: if you’re taking a Halloween photo, you should enter it in the Costumes and Shades Category of Catster’s World’s Coolest Cat Show. Because the degree of difficulty is somewhat higher than, say, the Sleeper Category, there are fewer entries and your odds of winning are higher!

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