Why You Shouldn’t Dress Up Your Cat for Halloween

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Black cat with candies in halloween bucket

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Halloween is my favorite time of year. For me, it’s more about decorating than dressing up. My cats wholeheartedly agree. I’ll occasionally balance a little witch hat on one of their heads (with no ribbons on the neck or tape to make the hat stay on) or attach a Halloween-themed bow tie to their collars for a cute photo op, but after a disastrous experiment with a caterpillar costume on my cat, Jack, we all decided that costumes are a definite no-no.

We love our cats and want them to be part of all of our holiday festivities, but cats see things differently. What’s fun for us can be confusing and scary for them. Even if your cat seems to enjoy wearing a costume, at best they’re probably just tolerating it.

4 Problems With Dressing up Your Cat for Halloween

Sometimes we forget that cats are not just little people. For a cat, being in a costume can be everything from simply annoying to absolutely terrifying. Here are four reasons you shouldn’t make your cat wear a costume.

1. Restriction of Body Movement

Imagine being trapped in clothing you can’t squeeze your way out of. If that makes you uncomfortable, it’s no different for your cat. Certain costumes don’t allow your cat to move around freely or see, hear, or smell the world around them.

Whiskers can get squashed, and a cat could even get injured trying to wriggle out of the costume. It also limits a cat’s ability to communicate, making it hard for you to tell whether they’re anxious or scared.

2. Skin Discomfort

Some cats are extremely sensitive about anything touching their coat. Costumes that bind or press against certain areas of the body can cause anything from to discomfort and itching to actual pain. Some costumes could even cause an allergic reaction that requires a trip to the veterinarian.

3. Choking Hazards

Costumes with features like little ornaments, buttons, and fasteners (just to name a few) can be a choking hazard—especially if the cat is determined to get out of the costume they don’t want to wear. If your cat manages to swallow any of these little pieces, it could lead to a dangerous (and expensive) intestinal blockage.

4. Stress

Forcing a cat to do something they don’t want to do—especially if it’s mainly for your own entertainment—causes unnecessary stress. Not being able to move around freely or being made to wear something that compromises their senses and natural movements can cause anxiety and fear.

That stress is bad enough, but it could also hurt the relationship you have with your cat. Cats create associations between every negative experience and the person that put them in that experience. Forcing your cat to wear a costume against their will risks can damage the trust between you and your cat.

When To Clothe Your Cat

Certain hairless or thin-coated breeds, like the Sphynx or Devon Rex, might need a little help keeping warm, especially if they live in a cold climate. Make sure the clothing you put on your cat fits just right—something too tight can restrict your cat’s natural movements, while something too loose could be a tripping hazard. Always keep an eye on your cat when they’re wearing clothing to make sure they don’t accidentally overheat.

A cat who has just had surgery could also benefit from a lightweight sweater or shirt. The clothing will protect any shaved spots from exposure and can also help them leave their stitches alone. I once had two foster kittens who had a really rough time after their spay surgeries and absolutely would not tolerate wearing a cone, so I made them little onesies from a pair of socks. They looked silly, but it did the trick.

The Bottom Line

Unless there is a medical or behavioral reason for your cat to wear clothing, it’s best to just skip it. Your cat’s coat is there for a reason, so dressing them up doesn’t benefit them one bit.

Halloween night is for giving out candy and watching scary movies—not taking your cat to the emergency vet because of a costume mishap. And the stress your cat could be feeling really isn’t worth it. So leave the costumes to all the little ghosts and goblins at your door, and let your cat enjoy Halloween au naturel.

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About Annie Butler

Annie Butler has worked in the pet industry for 20 years and is the former editor of Catster magazine. A cat lover since she was a little girl, she has always had feline friends in her life. She and her husband share their Southern California home with their four cats and an ever-changing clowder of foster kittens.