I Dress Up My Cat All the Time and He Loves It


Editor’s Note: Kristen Dunleavy is a contributor to Catster’s sister SAY Media site, xojane.com. This article first ran on xoJane, but we’re rerunning it (with permission!) so you can enjoy it.

I am a pretty legit cat lady. I need you to know this up front.

In recent conversations with a few different people, including my boyfriend, I’ve casually brought up the fact that I’ll probably die alone save for a house full of felines. The response has been the same from everyone: “Hahaha, yeah.” Like, no one even tried to convince me otherwise.

When I was 12, my family moved into a new house and our backyard faced a vacant sheep farm. Unbeknown to us, this sheep farm housed about 20 stray cats. I promptly began the arduous but necessary process of naming them all. Every night, I’d make a giant platter of leftovers and lead the strays to the empty lot next door to save my parents the embarrassment of becoming known as the Cat People. (It never worked.)

We had a Mango and a Kiwi and a cat named Mr. Boombastic who lived in the sewer. We even had a three-legged cat named Squid. (I developed a healthy sense of irony at a young age.) We managed to find homes for most of them, and to this day strays will randomly appear on my parents’ deck. Word travels fast in Catlandia, I suppose.

When I moved in with my boyfriend Greg in 2009, it was my first time living in a catless household. Who would I sing Catz Bop* versions of pop songs to? Action had to be taken. About a week before my birthday, Greg said he had to give me my gift early. I figured it was either a cat or a Vespa. (My birthday is in May; I’m still game for a Vespa.)

Greg came to the front door holding a skinny orange cat as though it were a baby. We eyed each other, the cat and I. We both tried to contain our elation, but we wanted suss out the situation a little further.

Cats are like roommates, in a way. For the most part, they don’t give a shit about you and your needs. They pay rent on time and kindly overlook all the crap you leave in the sink. In return, you mention nothing of their late-night gentleman callers who reek of cloves. You respect each other’s space, but you’re not BFFs and never will be.

This has never been true for Nezbit. From the beginning, he would follow Greg and I around like a puppy. He runs to the door and greets us when we arrive home from work. He has a loud, Siamese-like cat voice and responds with, “WOW! WOW! WOW!” anytime you talk to him. Once, when I had to move his litter box several times, I assumed he’d retaliate by dumping in the sink, the classic pissed-off cat move. Nope.

I figured he’d be a good candidate for a harness, as I believed part of my life’s work was to train a cat to take walks. (I’d successfully trained Squid to shake hands, an impressive feat for a tripod.) By this time, Nezbit had almost doubled in size and required a medium-sized dog harness. He loved going outside on our deck and would flop around with the harness on. He didn’t care for the walking aspect, but he didn’t mind the harness at all, either.

Logically, I knew that if he were cool with a harness, he’d probably be interested in T-shirts. And so began the ongoing feline fashion expedition that my life has become.

To Nezbit, getting dressed is just another form of attention, somewhere in between aggressive cuddling and making biscuits on my belly when I’m lying on the couch. He turns into a blob of fluff and simply allows me to place his arms through the T-shirt holes, and then rolls around as if to say, "I got dressed today. I accomplished something." Which is often more than I can say for myself.

Cat clothing isn’t really a thing, so Nezbit wears mostly clothes intended for dogs. It turns out that animals’ clothing sizes are just as meaningless as people’s, so finding flattering outfits can be challenging. He’s more Corgi-sized than Chihuahua, so it’s a toss-up as to what will work and what will wrap him up like a cat burrito.

Nezbit now has a wardrobe that rivals mine. He has Halloween costumes, pajamas, and even a tuxedo that he dons for special occasions. A few Christmases ago, I constructed a manger and wrapped him in swaddling clothes so he could be the Big Baby Jesus on our holiday card. He also ran for president last year, in case you missed it. One day, I’d like to create a Nezbit calendar. (Watch out, 2014.)

There are a lot of people who stand against dressing up animals, because they think it borders on some form of abuse. But Nezbit legitimately ENJOYS his clothing! He would never hesitate to let me know if he’s displeased with something.

Still, to quell your fears, I always remove his clothing before I leave the house, and 80 percent of the time he’s naked anyway. He knows how to disrobe if the situation calls for it. Dressing up is just a special treat, like playing Blanket Monsters (Nezbit’s favorite game).

Where do you stand on the cats and clothing debate? Do you have a special pet in your life who loves T-shirt time? Let us know in the comments!

* My cat interpretation of One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful”: “Nezbit, you light up my world like nobody else/The way that you flip your tail’s got me overwhelmed/The way you yowl in my face, it’s not hard to tell/You don’t know, you don’t know you’re beautiful.”

Read more goodness on dressing up your cat:

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