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Should I Dress My Cat Up for Christmas, or Does the Costume Cause Stress? Tips & Alternatives

Written by: Kristin Hitchcock

Last Updated on January 19, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat in winter costume

Should I Dress My Cat Up for Christmas, or Does the Costume Cause Stress? Tips & Alternatives

It may seem like a fun, festive idea to dress up your cat for Christmas. However, most felines do not like wearing clothes, and it can cause them stress. That said, if your pet is trained and well-practiced with costumes, they may not mind.

Here, we explore the many reasons that you may not want to dress your cat up at Christmas or other times. We also look at general expectations regarding cats wearing clothes.

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Reasons to Avoid Dressing Your Cat

There are several reasons that you should avoid dressing up most cats, no matter the holiday. The top one is stress. Many cats dislike clothes and find them restrictive. Cats cannot undress themselves, and they may not really understand that they don’t have to wear it forever. Clothing can also get in the way of common feline activities, like grooming.

Cats are easily stressed, and stress can directly cause a range of health issues. Extreme stress can lead to behavioral problems, including compulsive disorders.

Stressed cats often hide and may even hiss. Getting the costume off of your cat can be a challenge, especially if they have slowly become more stressed while wearing it. Even wearing an outfit for a short period can make your cat extra anxious for as long as a week. Anxiety can lead to more hiding, aggression, and a loss of appetite.

Think of the holidays through your cat's perspective to understand this can be a stressful environment. Photography ©Mark Rogers Photography.
Image Credit: Mark Rogers Photography

Costumes may also not be the safest things to have around your cat. Many have loose parts or choking hazards. Most cats will chew and scratch on them, leading to small pieces coming off. Stomach upset and even blockages can occur if your feline consumes too much of the costume. Blockages can be deadly and require surgery, which can cost thousands of dollars.

Some cats may also be allergic to the dyes or materials of the costume. It may lead to itchy skin and hair loss. These problems are often minor, but some cats scratch and dig too much at itchy skin, leading to sores and secondary infections. Purchasing a random outfit from a pet store or online doesn’t ensure that it’s safe, and you should always supervise your cat while they’re wearing it.

Finally, many cats also don’t like being dressed up. While you may think that they look cute, you have to consider whether your opinion should outweigh your cat’s feelings!

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When Can You Dress Up Your Cat?

That said, dressing up your cat isn’t always a bad thing. If they’re trained from a young age, some cats can be quite tolerant of wearing costumes and may keep them on for long enough to take a few pictures. While you should never leave your cat in a costume all the time, you may be able to do a quick photoshoot if your cat is calm and relaxed.

Always watch your cat’s behaviors and reactions when they’re wearing the costume. Many felines are only fine with wearing an outfit for a brief period. Be sure to take off the costume before your cat becomes stressed. You want to end the session on a happy note to avoid your feline from associating clothes with stress.

cat wearing lion costume
Image Credit: InnovativeImages, Shutterstock

Simple accessories are often better than a full costume. Look for things that are lightweight and non-restrictive, like a special collar. Even something like a Santa hat is often more acceptable to your feline than an entire outfit.

Some cats with very short fur (or no fur at all) must be kept in warm clothes during the winter months. In this case, your cat is likely used to wearing clothes and may not mind wearing something themed for the holidays. However, that doesn’t mean a full costume is a good idea, as many are not as high quality as functional cat clothes. They may be less comfortable and more likely to cause health problems. Even if your cat wears jackets regularly, it’s still a good idea to supervise them when they’re in a costume.

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Alternatives to Festive Cat Costumes

In the end, it’s your decision whether you want to dress up your cat. Most cat owners will find that costumes stress out their felines and just aren’t worth the potential for anxiety and health issues. It’s best never to force your cat to wear anything. Prioritizing your cat’s comfort is crucial.

That doesn’t mean your cat can’t be festive, though. There are plenty of ways to celebrate Christmas with your feline without resorting to costumes. Simple accessories are ideal for having your cat be a bit more festive without making them wear a full outfit.

Cute ginger cat in red christmas sweater
Image Credit: GolubaPhoto, Shuttestock

You can also decorate their space, such as setting up a red-and-green cat tree or scratching post. Be sure that all the decorations are safe, of course. Lights often aren’t good options, as cats can easily chew through the strings (especially if it’s somewhere they typically play).

Festive treats are well-loved by many cats, though, whether you make them at home or purchase them at a store. You can bake cat-friendly Christmas cookies, for instance.

Cats are often just happy being part of the family during the holidays. However, this time does tend to be a bit hectic. Make time to cuddle or play with your cat, depending on their personality. Try not to let their needs slide.


Some cats do not mind cat costumes, especially if they wear clothes regularly. However, many will find wearing outfits stressful. Anxiety can be a big problem for cats, and it will stick around long after a stressful event. Therefore, you should prioritize your cat’s well-being and avoid bringing out the costumes if they don’t like them.

Instead, it’s best to choose festive activities that won’t cause them stress. If you do decide to try a cat costume, keep an eye on your feline for signs of stress, and never leave them unsupervised.

Featured Image Credit: Svetlana Rey, Shutterstock

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