Pet Halloween Costumes - Should You Be Dressing Up Your Furry Friends?

Halloween fancy dress might be an integral part of our seasonal celebrations, but should we extend this human tradition to our pets? Find out more about why dressing up your pet in a costume isn’t necessarily such a good idea.

Dressing up your Dachshund as a hot dog, or your cat as Purrlock Holmes might seem pretty funny — but is it really such a good idea? A lot of retailers might now stock pet costumes, but many pet charities and vets caution against dressing up your pet. That’s because costumes can be uncomfortable, restrictive and cause unnecessary stress. So before you decide to buy your pet a Halloween costume, bear in mind that many cats and dogs don’t enjoy wearing them.

Are pet Halloween costumes really for the pets?

From positive reactions on social media to simply enjoying how cute they look, pet parents have lots of different reasons for dressing up their pets. But no matter how well-meaning the intention, it’s important to remember that dressing up our pets rarely benefits them. You might think your cat or dog looks cute in their Halloween costume, but your pet is probably uncomfortable and possibly even stressed.

There are plenty of other ways you can get your pets involved in the celebrations without dressing them up. Switch out the dog Halloween costumes for a small bow tie or bandana on their collar, or make your cat or dog a spooky treat. Remember that many pets find Halloween a stressful time anyway. From the fireworks that can accompany this time of year, to unfamiliar decorations and loud parties with people in fancy dress, adding a pet costume into the mix can create additional stress.

Common problems with dressing up pets

From Halloween costumes to everyday outfits, the trend of dressing our pets is becoming more common. But before joining in, it’s worth considering some of the potential problems first.

Clothing can feel very restrictive to our pets and may get in the way of daily activities like moving around, going to the toilet or grooming themselves. Some Halloween costumes for pets can even restrict their vision, hearing or breathing. Ill-fitting outfits may get caught on furniture or your pet might get tangled up in them and panic. Costumes made from crinkly fabric, or anything that makes an unfamiliar noise, can potentially upset your pet, too. 

Most pets already have a fur coat of their own, so additional layers can stop them from being able to control their body temperature. While some breeds with thin coats like Greyhounds may benefit from a warm layer in winter, flat-faced breeds like French Bulldogs and Pugs can easily overheat and should never be dressed up. 

Some pets may also feel stressed by the unfamiliarity of wearing clothing and it’s important that owners watch for these signs, which can sometimes be very subtle. In dogs, yawning and a slumped posture can be signs of stress, as can showing the whites of the eyes. In cats, panting, over-grooming and hiding may indicate they’re anxious. Your pet’s ability to use body language to communicate with both us and each other can also be impaired by wearing a costume, which may lead to nervous or defensive behaviour.

Does your pet ever need to wear clothing?

Some pet clothing can have a practical purpose and is used to keep your pet comfortable or safe. During cold weather, some pets with very thin coats can benefit from wearing a warm coat or sweater. Boots can also help to protect your dog’s paws from the cold and prevent chemical burns developed from walking on road grit containing salt.

If your pet is recovering from an operation, surgical vests can stop them licking or chewing their stitches. Usually your vet will advise if this option will suit your pet. Always make sure any vest is well fitted, so there’s no risk of your pet getting tangled.

Pets aren’t fashion accessories

If you’re thinking about dressing up your pet in a Halloween costume, it’s best to stop and think first. Is the outfit designed to keep them safe or warm? If it doesn’t tick either one of these boxes, then it’s best to avoid it. Remember that our pets really don’t need or want fancy dress — they’re already adorable enough as it is!

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