It’s National Dress Up Your Pet Day! It was created in 2009 by Colleen Paige, a celebrity pet lifestyle expert and animal behaviorist. I have a few friends who dress up their dogs but know only a very few people who can put clothes on their cats without major hissy fights breaking out. I know that here in the Austin area many dog owners dress up their canine companions in all kinds of outfits for the costume contest and parade at the annual Dogtoberfest. Granted, the proceeds of the event go to local animal rescue groups and it is all in fun as well.
As with a number of pet-themed holidays, you, as the pet owner, should take into account your pet’s safety, health, and comfort. Here are a few things to keep in mind for National Dress Up Your Pet Day:
- Perfect fit. Don’t put your pet into an outfit that is too small just because it’s cute. The costume should not impede your pet’s movement in anyway. This can injure your pet as well be dangerous. (Example: A Great Dane in an ill-fitting costume can easily trip trying to get out of it, and by doing so hurting itself and others in the process.) Also it’s mean.
- Breathe in, breathe out. No costume should impair your pet’s ability to breathe in any way. Ensure their nose and mouth is never covered. Note that brachycephalic pets (i.e. short-headed pets like bulldogs, pugs, Himalayans, Persians, to name a few) are more likely to have breathing difficulties such as brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome.
- Hats…optional. Be discerning with accessories. Don’t impair your pet’s ability to see and hear with hats, for example. The same goes for booties. While many find it funny to watch dogs or cats walk funny in booties, the pet does not likely find it so amusing. (It feels extremely odd for them not to feel the ground directly beneath their paws.) If you want your pet to wear booties on a regular basis, you need to desensitize your pet to them first.
- Loose bits. All those frills, ruffles, buttons, sequins, and extra ornamentation to the costume may look snazzy but may look like something to chew on to your pet. These small parts can be easily swallowed. Anything loose or dangling that can be chewed or torn off can cause a choking hazard.
- Less is more. You don’t have to only buy whole costumes. I know several owners who keep an array of bandannas and sweaters on hand for their dogs. A dog can look just as smart and jaunty with a well-chosen bandanna as he can with a full costume. A friend of mine can put a tie on her cat and he looks absolutely dashing.
- Keep watch. Don’t leave your pet unattended in a costume. They could get hurt, stuck, or chew on something they should not.
- Special considerations. Trying to put a full costume on a senior pet that has arthritis, for example, may experience pain and will definitely not enjoy the experience. Young pets frequently lack motor coordination skills and could easily get tangled up in a costume. Both senior and young animals may have trouble regulating their body temperatures and thus could overheat.
- Quitting time. If your pet becomes unhappy and uneasy while wearing a costume, it’s time to stop. Playing dress up is not worth making your pet stress out.
- No coercion. If your pet does not like to wear clothing, as many do not (including cats), do not force your pet to wear costumes. That’s mean and not cool.
- Have fun. If your pet does like dressing up and is not at all stressed out by it, by all means, go all out. Have a photo shoot. Set up a fashion show with a catwalk, even if dogs are the only contestants. Take photos with your pet and your friends. Enjoy yourselves!