January 14 is National Dress Up Your Pet Day!
Okay, so most cats won't tolerate quite as much dressing-up as the one pictured above, many will let you put something on them. And you'd be surprised how many will!
Some cats enjoy wearing clothes; the cat above doesn't look distressed at all over her pretty party dress. Some cats even need to wear clothes: there are lines of clothing designed to add warmth for hairless and short-coated cats such as the Sphynx, Peterbald, and Rex breeds of cats.
The keys to getting your cat to wear clothing are choosing the proper design of clothing, and properly introducing the cat to the item.
Choosing Clothing For Cats
Much of the pet clothing you'll find in pet supply stores is made for dogs. And there's a reason for this: most manufacturers see more profitability in producing clothing for dogs, so that's where they concentrate their efforts. It's not easy to find clothing specifically designed for cats.
Some, but not all, dog clothing will work on cats. Dogs are more barrel-chested than cats and have shorter torsos. Their shoulders also tend to be larger than a cat's shoulders. And catwear needs to fit more tightly, so the cat can't escape from it unless choking. So adjustability is key in adapting dogwear to catwear. Large hook-and-loop (like Velcro®) closures are helpful, as they can be adjusted to fit tightly around the torso and chest. These are the areas where most pet clothing fastens.
Cats won't always take to wearing anything that makes their body too heavy. So steer clear of pet clothing with lots of embellishments. Plain and simple works best for cats. Of course you want to put cute little dresses with tutus on your girl kitties; who wouldn't? For us old maid cat ladies, our cats are our children, and we would likely have been insufferable "helicopter" mothers to human children. But if you want your cats to be happy, stick to the plainer designs for them.
Obviously, the back-end needs to be open so as not to interfere with kitty's potty-going. All four of the cat's legs should be able to move freely. And the clothing should fit tightly enough not to get caught on things, so your cat won't get it entangled and choke on it. The neck shouldn't come up too high, either.
Most pet clothing manufacturers provide a sizing chart for measuring your animal. Carefully measure your cat using their guidelines and keep a record of those measurements. Pay close attention to any diagrams with the size chart, as different makers may have you measure your cat in different places. There are no standardized sizes in pet clothing.
Introducing Your Cat to Wearing Clothing
Now that you've chosen the right article of clothing for your cat, it's time to introduce kitty to it!
Some people have tried to put clothing on their cats, only to find that the cat flops over and plays dead in it. But instead of persevering, they'll take that clothing off their cats and never try again! There is a proper way to introduce your cat to clothing.
Cats like to do things at their own pace, and they're always suspicious of anything new or different in their environment. But, remember, they're also curious! When you first get a piece of clothing for your cat, show it to kitty and let him smell and inspect it thoroughly. Kitty may even want to play with it a little. You want the cat to be familiar with the clothing and not sense it as something foreign.
Next, choose a time when you're having a nice cuddle session with your cat. This is when your cat will be most relaxed and accepting. If the clothing has a hook-and-loop closure, open it before beginning this session and leave it open; sometimes that noise that it makes when you pull it apart can startle a cat.
Gently lay the piece of clothing on your cat during the cuddle session and continue talking and petting while you're doing so. The cat probably won't even notice it. On first introduction, perhaps that's all you do with the clothing.
On the next session, try fastening the clothing around your cat, always continuing to talk and pet as you do so. Make a little fuss over how pretty the cat looks in his new clothes. I know this sounds silly, but animals have a sense of pride in how they look, especially cats. They love being told they look pretty, or handsome, or beautiful. Make sure the cat associates the clothing with this fussing over how beautiful they look.
Let the cat become accustomed to the feel of the clothing against his body. Sometimes this means they'll flop over in it and play dead. Other cats may try to find a way to get out of it. If your cat is treat-motivated, it couldn't hurt to provide a little treat every time you put the clothing on him.
With each session, let the cat wear the clothing a little longer. Get out your camera and take pictures of your cat in his outfit. Keep telling kitty how beautiful he looks in it, and keep giving those treats when it's on him. Wearing the clothing should always be a positive experience for your cat.
Even with this methodology, not all cats will adapt to clothing -- about half will, and half won't. You won't know which camp your kitty falls into until you try it! But some who initially don't care for it will at least grow to tolerate it, if you've gone through the proper procedure to introduce kitty to wearing clothing.
Express Your Preferences in Cat Clothing
Have you ever tried to find clothing for your cat and become frustrated that all you're seeing is clothing designed for dogs? Would you like to see clothing designed specifically for your cats, with a cat's needs and body shape in mind?
If so, we want to hear from you! Tell us in the comments below what types of clothing you'd like to see for your cats. Old Maid Cat Lady is working on designing our own line of couture catwear -- "cature" if you will -- and we need to assess the demand for it. Each piece will be custom-made to order, so it really will be couture catwear. If you have photos of items you've seen online but haven't been able to find, use this link to send those to us, as well.
Catwear isn't for every cat, and it isn't for every cat guardian. But some of you want clothing for your cats and are having trouble finding it. We want to help you by offering something that you'll really like and use for your cats.