The love affair between humans and cats dates back thousands of years. Humans have a long history dressing up or decorating their pet cats and cats have begrudgingly complied. Ancient Egyptian cats belonging to royalty wore jeweled gold collars and gold hoops in their pierced ears. From the 17th century on, pampered cats from Paris to Toyko wore silk and satin bows. The earliest photographic evidence of cats in costumes dates back to the Victorian era with early LOL type cat images from England, Europe and the United States. English Photographer Harry Pointer started the trend in the 1870’s and American photographer Harry Whittier Frees continued the trend for cats dressed in ridiculous outfits doing human activities.
The human desire to anthropomorphize their pets is nothing new, but with the advent of the Internet and digital age the rage for dressing up cats shows no signs of abating. We can blame marketing for some of this trend. According to the National Retail Federation, pet parents will spend approximately $330 million on Halloween pet costumes. The spooky holiday is the most popular occasion for dress-up, and this year the market has exploded with choices from high-end designer to lowbrow kitsch. Witches, kings and clowns, pirates, and mermaids oh my!
Layla Morgan Wilde with a feline model wearing couture pet fashion from Ada Nieves
But what does the dizzying array of pet costumes say about our culture? Is it contributing the celebrity cult of the cat and if cats could talk: would they call Halloween costumes heaven or hell? In my experience as a cat behaviorist, I’ve rarely met a cat that willingly enjoys being swaddled in synthetic fibers, not to mention the humiliation of humans laughing at them while dressed as a giant bumblebee or hotdog.
Who am I to be the Halloween pet fashion police when I confess to making tiny Santa hats for my cats? Granted, one disdainful look and clever head flick later the gig was up. I managed to snap one photo before the cats hightailed it out of there. However, my geriatric cat Merlin, loves his amber and healing crystal collar that is as decorative as we go. Someone gave me a Hello Kitty hoodie for dogs that fit Merlin to a T. He refused to face the camera, so it looks like this Halloween my cats will be going au naturel. What could be more purrfect than a sleek fur coat with natural glow in the dark eyes?
If you opt for playing Halloween dress-up with your cat, play it safe. Every cat is different but there are safety concerns every responsible cat owner needs to be aware of. Respect your cat by thinking like one. What do they want? Never force your cat to wear a costume. If your cat doesn’t mind dressing up, make sure the costume fits comfortably, is kept on briefly and within sight in case of “wardrobe malfunctions”. Make sure the costume does not impair vision, hearing or mobility. Cats do not like having their ears covered. The rely on their rotating “satellite” ears not only for hearing but to navigate their environment. Watch for loose thread or pieces that could create choking hazards. Most costumes are made of synthetic and flammable materials.
The safest way to have Halloween pet costume fun is to edit your cat photos in a fun and free photo-editor program like PicMonkey.com
Will you dress up your cat this Halloween?
Layla Morgan Wilde is the writer, photographer and holistic cat behaviorist behind Cat Wisdom 101. Head over to read more about her cats and their lives.