Ask Nancy: How Do Animals Feel About Clothes and Costumes?
Many people will be celebrating Halloween here in the US…and around this time of year, I often get questions about how our companion animals feel about wearing clothes and costumes, like this one:
I have the cutest Halloween costume for my dog, and I want to show it off at my kids’ Halloween party, but my friend says it is wrong of me to confine her in clothing. What do you think?
As I often say about many questions about animals: Each animal is an individual. So we can’t generalize about this question…or most others. And we also need to be careful not to put our human projections and ideas onto an animal, either positive or negative, such as:
Clothes and costumes are demeaning to animals and we should never make them wear them
Our animals are our babies/fur kids and it’s fine to dress them as such.
Over the years, I’ve talked with many animals about the subject of clothes and costumes, believe it or not!
Their responses are as varied and individual as the animals:
I love wearing my clothes…it means I get to go to work with my person and visit people and make them happy! (a therapy dog)
I hate my jacket…it feels scratchy and uncomfortable. (a friends’ small dog)
I love my sweaters and jackets…they keep me warm. (Abby, my chiweenie…she shivers all winter unless she has her warmies on…she’s a desert dog!)
I don’t mind wearing them, because they make my person happy and she tells me how pretty I am in my clothes. I get lots of extra attention when I wear my dresses. (a pug who has been an animal teacher in my classes)
How dare you put such a thing on me…it’s undignified. (Afghan hounds I have known…) 🙂
Get this thing off of me! (cat who was wearing reindeer antlers for Christmas)
I like my little shirts because they help my skin be more comfortable. (cat who was being treated for skin problems)
I like my soft winter sweater but I don’t like the jacket with the scratchy velcro and the hood. (animals can be very specific with their preferences…just like us!)
I love wearing my jingle bells and parade costume–it makes me feel special, and I love hearing people say how beautiful I look. (pony who participated in holiday children’s parades)
So…with the clothes/costume question, and many others…Ask The Animals. You may be surprised what you find out!
And…these may be obvious to most of us…but they bear repeating as a reminder:
Animal Safety Tips for Halloween:
1. Keep animals indoors, especially if there is a lot of trick-or-treating in your neighborhood.
2. Unless your animal is really friendly and loves kids in weird looking get-ups, give them a safe place to hang out–a bedroom or other quiet area-while trick-or-treaters are around.
3. Only dress your animals in costume if you’re sure they either like it, or at least are willing to tolerate it. If you’re not confident about your communication, use your intuition, be aware of their behavior and body language, and use your common sense.
4. This may be obvious–but keep candy away from your companion animals. This includes chocolate, which is toxic, but also other candy, which can also make animals sick.
If you celebrate Halloween, have fun, and keep your animals safe!