Is it Inhumane to Dress Up your Pets for Halloween (or Any Occassions)?

Yay! The night before Halloween! Excited neighbors putting up deco, kids getting their garbs ready for treat-or-trick-ing, and you just got a set (or more) of costumes for your pet(s).

From sailor dogs, teddy cats, superhero pets, to monsters and everything in between, how can anyone resist dressing up your doggies or kitties for this fun occasion? 

After all, tis' the season to take pics of your beloved pets and Insta them up dressed as a spider. Or bubbling with excitement to parade Fido around the neighborhood in a custom Ted costume. 

But here's the age-old question... is it cruel to dress up your pets for Halloween?

Here are my few cents on this matter.

Firstly, every pet is different.

My Droozy would just love any sort of attention she can get. Put a little bow in her hair or an outfit over her and she'll just get all excited when you smile and fuss over her. She would then jump around, acts silly, and lovin' it.

Meanwhile, my not-so-mini-Minnie, being a fat, lethargic cat she is, wouldn't mind almost anything at all. Any feline wear to her is like an extra padding for her to get comfy to sleep in.

As for my fiesty feline Nidalee, she just pretty much hates anything extra on her. She will definitely chew any pets wear you try to put on her, even a new collar. The only thing she accepts would be her approved, triple-tried-and-trusted, elastic heart collar found here. Nothing else.

In the end, it all comes down to preference. Some people love ballet while some people are more into rough and tumble sports like football.

There’s nothing wrong with either activity or person, they are just very different.

When you’re deciding whether to dress your pet in a costume, keep the above analogy in mind.

If you put your dog in an outfit and his tail goes between his legs and he looks fearful, he clearly doesn’t enjoy it, so you should remove the costume.

Just like if you put a kid in a ballet class and she hated it, you would take her out of the class.

So, how do you know for sure if your pet is stressed out and not happy to be in a costume? Here’s some easy-to-spot warning signs…

Warning Signs that Your Dog is Stressed Out Due to Being in a Costume

  1. Tail Between Legs—A tail between a dog’s legs is a definite sign that he is unhappy and stressed out.
  2. Panting—Heavy panting is a sign of anxiety and feeling stressed and is similar to having a panic attack. If your dog is panting and it’s not hot weather and your dog is not running around then think twice about if they are relaxed.
  3. Biting or Snapping—Even the friendliest, most well-behaved dog can quickly go from gentle and sweet to biting and snapping if he feels uncomfortable and stressed out.
  4. Being Unable to Move—Most dogs aren’t used to wearing clothes, which means a full body outfit can make them feel as if they are paralyzed. If your dog refuses to move while in a costume, he is stressed out.
  5. Chewing Costume/Rubbing on the Floor—Trying to take off a costume by chewing on it or running it off is a definite sign that your dog is not happy.
  6. Whining/Whimpering—Whining and whimpering is a dog’s equivalent to crying. If your dog is crying only while in a costume, clearly he is upset or distressed.

Warning Signs that Your Cat is Stressed Out Due to Being in a Costume

  1. Aggressive snapping—Even the chill-est, most well-behaved cat can quickly become irritated or aggressive if he absolutely hates the costume.
  2. Being Unable to Move—Surprise! Most cats aren’t used to wearing clothes either, which means a full body outfit can make them feel as if they are paralyzed. 
  3. Chewing Costume/Rubbing on furniture or rolling on floor—Trying to take off a costume by chewing on it or running it off is a clear sign your cat is just hating it.
  4. Meowing—A cat is generally cool and quiet. They communicate mostly through body language with their own kind. Meowing is their way to communicate with us hoo-man. So if they start meowing excessively after you have put anything on them, it's a sure sign for them asking you to remove the costumes.
  5. Tail language—Your cat might whip her tail or drop low to the ground if she’s feeling uncomfortable or irritated.

If you pet shows ANY of the signs listed above while in a costume, I advise that you remove her from the costume immediately.

She is not happy, and the stress of being in a costume can quickly lead her to turn to unusual behaviors like biting and becoming aggressive.

However, if your pet doesn’t show any of the signs above, there’s a good chance that she really doesn’t mind being in a costume. If this is the case, there’s certainly nothing cruel about keeping her dressed up.

Just be sure to keep an eye on her behavior throughout the night.

If at any point the costume does become too much for her, please do the responsible thing and take it off immediately.

With that dealt, it is also important to make sure the costume is safe for your doggy or kitty.

Safety Tips for Pet Halloween Costumes

  1. Pay Attention to the Costume Material—There’s no way that you’d want to wear an itchy sweater all day long. And the same applies to your pet. It’s important to think about the types of materials your pet’s costume is made out of. If the material isn’t comfortable and you wouldn’t wear it, don’t put it on your pet.
  2. Make Sure the Costume Fits Appropriately—A costume that is too snug will not only be uncomfortable, but can also cut of your pet's circulation. On the flip side, a costume that is too big puts your pet at risk for getting tangled up and slipping and falling. Make sure the costume you pick fits your pet comfortably.
  3. Beware of beads, pom-poms, and plastic—It’s natural that a pet will want to chew things off his costume if something is dangling off of it. Details like beads, googly eyes, and pom-poms are cute, but can put your pet at a serious risk for choking if eaten. Give your pet costume a once over for any choking hazards before you put it on your pet.
  4. Be Mindful of Your Pet’s Body Temperature—Costumes add an extra layer on to pets that already are covered with a layer of warm fur. It’s important to keep an eye on your pet to make sure he isn’t overheating. If you notice him panting heavily (even more so for cat), or staggering unsteadily, remove the costume for a while to let him cool off.
  5. Never Leave Your Pet Alone in a Costume—Getting tangled, choking, overheating…there’s a lot of things that can go wrong if you leave your pet unattended in a costume. If your pet doesn’t mind being dressed up, that’s great! But, just because he’s comfortable in a costume doesn’t mean you should ever leave him unattended in one.
  6. Make Sure Your Pet's Eyes, Nose, and Mouth are Uncovered—The last thing you want to do is to obstruct your pet’s airways or prevent him from being able to see where he’s going. Choose a costume that covers his body, not his face.
  7. Less is More—Some costumes cover a pet from head to tail. They might be cute, but they are probably also heavy, restrictive, and uncomfortable. I personally think less is more, and I think your pet will agree with me! Pick up a cute bandana, put on a half-body sailor costume, or grab a Halloween-themed spidey that fits your pet. All of these don't completely cover your pet, leaving them cool and less encumbered. 

Be Safe, Have Fun, and Be Mindful of Your Pet’s Needs

Halloween is meant to be a fun for everyone - including your pet!

And there’s no harm in dressing up your pet and getting him involved in the festivities… as long as he doesn’t mind participating.

That being said, Halloween can be a stressful and dangerous night for your pet.

Strangers constantly knocking on your door may stress your pet out.

Chocolate and other Halloween candy and make your pet very sick.

And the chaos of Halloween parties and having guests over can easily overwhelm your pet.

This is why it’s so important to be mindful of your pet during this fun and exciting holiday.

Happy Halloween, and stay safe from ze' creepies! Woof!