Embracing their role as man’s easygoing best friends, dogs don’t generally mind Halloween costumes. In fact, they tend to enjoy dressing up if it means more attention and belly rubs. As for your cat? Chances are your feline friend will not be amused by that elaborate triceratops costume. Not in the least.
“There are certainly a lot more cat costumes on the market these days. But that said, I don’t think cats enjoy dressing up any more than they used to,” says pet lifestyle consultant Sandy Robins.
Costumes that cover the majority of the body, head, or ears can be especially distressing for cats. “You can tell whether your cat isn’t enjoying the process via body language,” says cat behavior consultant Jennifer Catpurr. “Are her ears swiveling back? Is her tail thrashing? Is she slinking low to the ground or not wanting to move at all? If so, take the costume off. Your cat’s discomfort isn’t worth the cute outfit.”
Still want to try celebrating Halloween with your cat this year? Put down the Kitty Perry wig and try these feline-friendly costume ideas.
1. Make a Spooky Backdrop
In the age of Instagram, let’s be honest: the purpose of a cat costume is mostly for a photo, no? With that in mind, keep your cat comfortable and let the props do the work. “Make a backdrop with some fabric and pumpkins for a photo opportunity,” says Robins. “If your cat is the type of cat who will walk the runway and strike a pose, rub a little catnip on your camera lens and you’ll get a great shot. Or, if you have two cats, rub catnip on their noses and you’ll get kisses.”
2. Take Cues From the Fur
By letting your kitty’s natural fur color do most of the work, you can make a big impact with smaller, less obtrusive accessories such as bows and headpieces. “Make an orange cat a pumpkin or a white cat Hello Kitty—so cute it’s scary!” says Catpurr.
Avoid using hair dyes—even if they are all natural and vet-approved. While fine for most dogs, these dyes don’t sit well with cats. “The problem with these dyes is that you have to wash them out with shampoo,” says Robins. “And the one thing cats dislike more than dressing up is taking a bath.”
3. Add to the Harness
If your furry friend wears a cat harness, this genius idea from Catpurr is a no-brainer: Attach a small stuffed animal to the top, and you have yourself a cat pony. Technically, this is a Halloween costume, but we see no reason why the cat pony couldn’t make an appearance every Sunday afternoon.
4. Upgrade the Collar
Swapping out kitty’s everyday cat collar for something more seasonal is an easy upgrade. That said, make sure it doesn’t have any ornaments attached that could get snagged and cause a potentially dangerous situation.
5. Try a Front-View Costume
If you’re up to date on your Internet cats, you’re probably acquainted with the pirate cat and his amazing outfit, which makes him look like a little Jack Sparrow from the front. What you might not know is that this viral costume is actually one of the easier get-ups to pull off. Because it only covers the front of the body, cats are more likely to tolerate these trendy costumes, says Catpurr.
6. Remember: Comfort is Key
Above all, you shouldn’t sacrifice your cat’s comfort for a funny photo or a Halloween-party talking point. Most cats won’t be happy or comfortable in an elaborate costume. However, if your cat regularly wears a harness—or is simply exceptionally amendable to other clothing items—he may tolerate wearing cat costumes that cover his back and snap under his belly, says Robins. “Try it out for a short period of time, and reward with a treat,” she advises.
Monica Weymouth is a writer, editor and certified Weird Animal Lady. She lives in Philadelphia with her two rescued Shih Tzus.