All new! You can see these tips on how to get your cat to wear a costume on video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9VKST1-Hv0
As you know, I love dress up! And I seem to be one of the few. Most cats dread holidays like Halloween, when the humans eagerly put costumes on themselves… and their pets. Some of you humans would never subject your kitty to a costume if she didn’t want to wear it. Others just want their cats to bear with them for a five-minute photo shoot. My post today is for the latter group, but you have to promise me that if your cat really, really hates it, that you will drop the idea completely. Okay?
So here you go: my tips on how to get your cat to wear a Halloween costume.
- Make sure the costume is safe. Even if your cat is only going to have it on for a few minutes, he could strangle himself, or pull out and swallow strings, or otherwise injure himself trying to get out of the costume. If your cat is a chewer or string swallower, get a costume that doesn’t have strings or chewable pieces on it. A costume that slips on with elastic or fastens with Velcro is usually a safe choice and won’t hurt a cat who is trying to wriggle out of it.
- Make sure the costume fits. I am a small cat, under 7 lbs. Outfits that fit me are usually snug on 10-lb. Binga and would never in a million years fit a 20-lb. boy cat! Measure your cat before you go shopping. Also… use your eyes because sometimes the size says one thing, but just looking at it, you know it would be either too big or too small for your cat. If it’s too small, it will be really uncomfortable for your cat, and if it’s too big, she’ll just walk right out of it. Measure your cat around her neck, her chest just behind the legs, and the length between her shoulders and base of her tail. Keep these measurements with you when you shop. Cats can wear dog outfits, but keep in mind that they may fit differently on your cat.
For the record, I generally wear an X-small dog’s size. If it runs large, I wear a XX-Small. Larger cats will probably be a Small, and if you have a male Maine Coon, you might even need a Medium!
- Simpler is better. My favorite outfits are nice dresses that slip on, so my ideal Halloween costume would be some variation on that, like maybe a fairy princess or a ballet dancer! If you think your cat will be difficult to coax into a costume, maybe you can just use a cape that fastens around his neck, like a Superman cape. Or maybe you can just put just a nice tie or a fun clown collar around his neck. You don’t have to be fancy, and your cat will probably be happier.
- Think hard before getting something to put on your cat’s head. Most cats really, really hate having something on their head, especially if it smushes down their ears or covers their eyes or face in any way. Even I don’t like most hats, and I need lots of bribing to wear some of them. The hats I’ve worn most successfully aren’t really hats at all — they are headwear of some sort that tie under my chin that leave my ears free, even though you can’t see them. My pirate hat, for example.
- I probably shouldn’t even need to mention this, but no masks. Ever.
- Now comes the good part: bribery! Before you put the costume on your cat, let her become familiar with it. Allow her to sniff it and check it out. Give her a treat while you’re doing that, or make it part of her playtime. Put it on the floor and let her look at it — with more treats and fun. Casually drape the costume over her, unfastened… and give her your best treats for allowing you to do that. This should be done over the course of a few days’ time.
- Before you do your photos, prepare. Figure out where you are going to take photos, and make sure the background is clear from distractions. You don’t want to put your cat through all this trouble and then find out the dirty laundry is behind him! Maybe even take some test photos to see how the lighting looks. When you are going to do the actual photo shoot, make sure you have everything handy: the camera, extra batteries for the camera, the costume, any props, and the treats. Everything should be ready before you go fetch the star of the photo shoot, your cat.
- A note on the treats: if you are rewarding your cat with food treats (as opposed to play), make it something they really like, but not something they go crazy over. If your cat gets too excited over a treat, it will be hard to get him to sit still. My favorite treats are freeze-dried poultry of any sort. I like fresh, sliced turkey even better, but I go nuts when I smell it. It’s really difficult for me to Stay when I smell it, even though I am trained to do that. So imagine trying to get your untrained cat to sit still for something extra delicious! Pro tip: do have some of your cat’s super-favorite treat ready for after the photo shoot, as a reward for a job well done.
- Also make sure you praise your cat lots. Most of us cats don’t thrive on praise the way dogs do… but we aren’t immune to it! We like to know we are doing well.
- Be patient throughout every step. Remember, you are the one who is asking your cat to do this crazy, unnatural thing, and your cat is only obliging you. So keep your temper in check and don’t show your frustration. Be kind and polite. And if you can tell your cat really hates being forced to wear the outfit or it is stressing her out, take it off and forget about it. We cats think no amount of treats are worth being upset and miserable — and your photos will look sad instead of fun. So know when to quit.
I hope you have liked my tips — and I hope no kitties get mad at me for giving them!