With the Holidays just around the corner, we are all thinking of ways to make this time extra special. Not just for our friends and family, but also for our pets. Delicious treats, their own Christmas stockings, presents… Anything to make them feel included.

Some of us like to go the extra mile and dress our cats in costumes that match the occasion. Just look at these cute Halloween bat wings for cats, or this elegant kitty Santa costume. Adorable!

But is it okay to dress up your cat? And, if so, how to get your cat to wear a costume in the first place?

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Can Cats Wear Clothes?

Before we go into the whole question of costumes for cats, let’s first consider whether cats can wear clothes in general.

While it is uncommon and definitely unnatural for cats to wear clothes, there are definitely situations where it can be deemed acceptable, or even necessary, to put clothes on a cat.

Consider for instance an orphaned kitten or sickly cat that needs help keeping warm. Or a cat with skin disease that needs to be stopped from scratching itself. A recovery suit for cats can help tremendously in these cases.

Adventurous cat owners who like to take their cat with them wherever they go will often put their cat in a harness. Some cat harnesses are quite simple, but most are elaborate enough to be considered clothing. Like this cute strawberry cat harness, which looks more like a sporty vest.

The most important thing to note is that these types of clothing serve a purpose to the cat in question. The clothes are there to protect them and keep them safe and warm.

Safety First

Speaking of safety, there are a few ground rules you have to follow when it comes to cats and clothing. When shopping for cat costumes or clothes, always make sure that it is:

  • Not too tight, so it doesn’t restrict movement or breathing;
  • Not too loose, so it stays on and they don’t trip over it;
  • Not too warm, so they don’t overheat;
  • Not covering their paws;
  • Open around the mouth, nose, eyes and ears (i.e. avoid hats);
  • Open around the tail, so they can keep their balance;
  • Open around their bottom, so they can still use the litter box;
  • Made with breakaway straps, so they don’t accidentally hang themselves.

Is It Okay To Dress Up Your Cat?

Now let’s consider the question whether it is morally acceptable to dress up cats in costumes. The most important thing to note is that costumes are by definition non-functional and, therefore, not of any use to the cat.

How you answer this question really depends on your own philosophy and how you view your relationship with your pets and animals in general. Do you feel ownership over them? Are you their servant? Or something in between?

Personally, I lean more to the “servant” side of things. My cats are dependent on me to keep them safe and healthy, both physically and emotionally. I take that responsibility very seriously, so I would never want to do anything to cause them discomfort or stress just for my own amusement.

That’s why I feel that it is acceptable to dress up cats in costumes ONLY if they are clearly and unequivocally not bothered by it, and it is left for special occasions. As soon as a cat starts to show signs of discomfort, or a cat owner starts assembling a cat wardrobe, I’m out.

If you want a vet’s opinion on the matter, please read this article.

How To Get Your Cat To Wear A Costume - Necktie

Tips For Dressing Up Your Cat

For those of you that still want to try and put a costume on your cat, I do have a few tips and tricks to help you achieve that in a peaceful, non-traumatizing way.

Start With Something Small

Since your cat likely isn’t used to having anything on its body, except maybe a flea collar, you shouldn’t start with anything too elaborate.

Instead, go for a simple necktie or cloak. These are more similar to an actual collar or cat harness. Your cat will still be comfortable and more likely to tolerate it, especially if you have already trained them to walk on a leash.

It is best to start this process when they are young. Older cats are more settled in their ways and less likely to tolerate being messed with.

Slowly Introduce Your Cat To The Costume

Don’t put the costume on your cat straight away, or you will risk having your eyes scratched out. Slowly introduce them to it by simply placing it in their vicinity. This will give your cat the chance to learn that this new thing is not a threat to them, but a natural part of their environment.

When you’re ready to take the next step, get out the most delicious cat treats you can find. Gently attempt to put the costume on your cat, but as soon as they start fussing, take it off again and give them a treat. Leave them be for a while and, once they’re settled again, repeat the process.

If you do this a few times every day, your cat can get used to it bit by bit. Depending on your cat’s personality, the whole process can take days, weeks, or even months. Most cats, however, never fully get used to it and will always put up some sort of a fight.

Do Not Force The Situation

Getting your cat used to wearing costumes can take a very long time, if you ever get there at all. Despite what you may want, your cat has to have final say on the matter. And they will let you know how they feel.

If your cat keeps struggling, runs or backs away, or stiffens up whenever you put a costume on them or while wearing one, then it’s obvious that they are not enjoying any of it.

Remember, your cat didn’t ask for this. You are doing this for you.

Please don’t be the type of person that forces their cat to wear a costume they clearly aren’t comfortable in. You may not be doing them any physical harm, but it could still be considered abusive, depending on the circumstances. When in doubt, just ask yourself: would I want someone doing this to me?