Last year, the subject of dressing up cats sparked a lot of debates in the Cats of Instagram community. In fact, Halloween and Christmas (which are now coming soon) are the periods during which people are the most susceptible to put a costume on their cats. I didn’t write about my opinion on this last year, but here it is for this Halloween. In this article, I will explain why I’m against dressing up your cats and why I’d argue that you shouldn’t do it too! This article was inspired by the blog post that my friend @XafiandAuri wrote. Before starting, here are some disclaimers:
  • Here I won’t be talking of specific garments that may be useful for your cats, such as clothes for naked cats that would feel cold without them, clothes used for medical reasons (like for preventing a cat to lick itself), or harnesses that let cats safely explore the “outside world”, etc.
  • I don’t consider collars, bandanas (around the neck) and bow ties as costumes, since they are not too invasive for cats. What I consider as a costume is anything that prevents the cat from having natural movement or that covers essential body parts, such as its ears.

Why I’m against it

No purpose

Firstly, the only purpose of dressing up cats is to make them look cute! This means it doesn’t have any benefits for your cat. A cat doesn’t care if it looks cute or not: it is something that people do only for themselves. In a world of social media, Instagram especially, people will dress up their cats to make them look cute, and get more likes. This doesn’t result in any benefit for your cat, it doesn’t provide any advantage for them. Do you want them to look cute? Fair enough, that would be ok if it didn’t cause any negative side effects! But it definitely can have negative repercussions on your cat, as we will see in the next paragraphs. norwegian forest cat
Néline in a lion costume.

Harmful for cats

Restriction of body movement
Anything that restricts the cat body movement could be a cause of stress for your cat, especially if it is not able to remove it by itself. In fact, a cat in the wild is both a prey and predator: it needs to be able to flee at any moment. Therefore, restricting its movement will cause stress to your cat. The same thing applies to costumes that cover their heads: it will restrict the cats’ ability to sense the world around them, by having their sight and hearing restricted! Often, when people dress up their cat, they don’t realize that their cat is experiencing stress. In fact, cats (like many other prey animals) can “freeze” in a stressful situation, meaning that they will simply stop moving. What people often think as “my cat is not bothered, it doesn’t try to go away” could be an extremely stressful situation for your cat. Naturally, in all the other situations in which your cat actively tries to remove the costume, starting to run everywhere, or trying to eat the costume are all signs of high discomfort.
Security
Cat costumes are often made with synthetic materials that can cause allergies, that may be flammable and may be decorated with small and/or dangerous parts that the cat could swallow. When these costumes are made, the security of your cat is very rarely taken into account.
Smell
Covering a part of the fur of your cat with tissues will change its smell. Cats are very sensitive to smell and after putting a costume on them, they will need to groom themselves for a long time to get back their normal smell! This could lead to overgrooming and is again a stressful situation for your cat.
Relationship
Forcing your cat to do something that it doesn’t want to do or that provokes stress may slowly break your relationship with it. In fact, cats are extremely good at making negative associations, meaning that they could associate the costume that you made it wear to you, as you are the person putting the costume on. The negative association will not only be on the costume, but also on you. Remembering well negative experiences is another example of their strong survival instinct. This means that if you keep doing it, you may slowly damage the relationship with your cat. For all these reasons, the risks of putting a costume on your cat far outweigh the benefits. That’s why I would never put a costume on my cats. norwegian forest cat
Praline in a vampire costume.

Common excuses

“My cats like it, they know that they will get treats”
I agree that cats are smart animals and you can make them tolerate it by giving them treats. But is it worth it to train your cat to have his body movement restricted in order to look cute? If you want to train your cat, teach it some tricks: it will be an occasion to create a positive relationship with your cat while also training its brain.
“My cat doesn’t mind”
Are you sure? Maybe your cat is in a freezing situation and you didn’t notice it. I agree that some cats may not get stressed about it but, nonetheless, if you take a picture and share it you are helping to make costumes for cats the norm on social media. By doing this, you are influencing other people to consider it normal and possibly encourage them to do the same. For example, before joining Instagram I have never seen a cat in a costume or wearing a bow tie. It’s important to be conscious that anything you publish on social media can have an impact, especially if you have a large follower base. The risk of normalization is that people will end up putting costumes to their cats even if it obviously stresses them, just because everyone else is doing it.
“I put it for a few seconds, and take it off just after a picture”
Is it worth to stress your cat just for a picture? If you take the costume off just afterward, you probably already realize that your cat does not enjoy it wearing it. Do you value a cute picture for social media more than your cat’s well-being? norwegian forest cat in a halloween picture
An Halloween picture with Néline.

Animals

To conclude, cats are not dolls. In my opinion, by owning them we don’t automatically gain the right of doing anything we want to them. We own them in the sense that we are responsible for their well-being, and this should always be our priority as their “owner”. Therefore, as the animals they are we shouldn’t treat them as dolls that need to look pretty. We should instead treat them as independent living beings, with needs that are different from ours. I hope that if you wanted to dress up your cat this article will make you reconsider your decision. There are a lot of ways to make awesome Halloween pictures without having to dress up your animals. Final disclaimer: after reading this blog post don’t go and insult every person that dress up their cats! They may not realize that what they do can be harmful to their cats: you could share this blog article (or any other blog articles on the subject) with them. Moreover, consider that what may look like a costume could be worn for medical reasons: don’t make assumptions and judge people without knowing their stories first. Other articles on the subject Why I decided to stop dressing up my cats by @Kafka.the.kat Dressing up cats – why you shouldn’t be doing it. by @XafiandAuri I have a confession by @lillmanlulu_luigi_and_co