A Guide to Pet-Safe Halloween Costumes for Cats

A black cat wearing a pair of bat wings

Halloween is a wonderful time of year, whether you're into the scary stories and movies, the sweet candy and treats, or the spooky and fun Halloween costumes, there is bound to be something about the Halloween season that will put a smile on your face. For some, the best part of Halloween is having an excuse to dress their feline companion in the cutest outfits possible. While I, just like the rest of the internet, do enjoy a cute costumed cat picture, it’s important to keep safety in mind when dressing our pets. So let's go over the basics for dressing your cat safely during the Halloween season.

Do Cats Like Wearing Costumes?

Generally speaking, the answer is no. Most cats don’t like wearing clothes or being dressed up in general. That said, cats are similar to humans in that each one is different and has its own personality. Some cats like the extra attention, some cats don’t mind the costume, and some cats will hate the entire dress-up process altogether. It’s important to know your cat and be able to identify when it’s becoming agitated or stressed out. If at any point during the dress-up process your cat shows signs of being stressed, stop the dress-up process immediately and consider a different costume or no costume altogether. 

A cat looking intimidatingly at the camera

We love our cats, please don’t upset them just for the sake of cute cat pictures. Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Identifying Stress in Your Cat

Knowing the signs of a stressed-out cat isn’t just useful when you're dressing your cat up. It’s information that every good cat owner should be familiar with so that we can better understand and care for our feline friends. So let’s run through a quick refresher on signs of stress in cats. 

Here’s something to keep in mind before we begin, cats are very good at hiding their stress from others. This is a holdover from their time in the wild where showing signs of stress made them easy targets for other predators. As a result, we have to be extra observant when dealing with our cats, especially when putting them in situations that are likely to stress them out.

The first things you’ll want to keep an eye out for are subtle changes in your cat’s behavior. This will vary from cat to cat but a couple of common ones are scratching at things they normally don’t scratch at, such as furniture or people, as well as hiding or meowing a lot when they previously didn’t do either. Here are some additional behaviors to look out for when trying to identify stress-- 

  • Over/under eating
  • Hissing/growling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Refusing to engage with people, places, or things they usually would.

Here is another way you can identify your cat's current disposition using visual cues. You can sometimes get a grasp on how your cat is feeling based on their facial expressions. For example, if your cat’s ears are flat, their whiskers are pointed outwards, and their pupils are wide, there is a high likelihood that your cat is stressed out. If your cat’s back straightens and he/she begins to hiss alongside the previous traits mentioned before, your cat is likely afraid. If you see any of these signs in your cat during the dressing process, stop immediately and try to calm your cat down. If you want to know more about cat body language, check out this article from Purina.

A relaxed cat

Closed eyes and relaxed whiskers often mean your cat is relaxed. A relaxed cat is a happy cat! Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Reducing Your Cats Stress

If your cat becomes stressed during the dressing process, you're going to want to reduce that stress and get back on your little buddy's good side. So how do you do it? First, you’ll want to give your cat some space. Our first instinct as pet owners may be to reach out and try to hold and cuddle our little babies. Unfortunately, cats may see this as a threat and respond by hissing, biting, or scratching. Naturally, we want to avoid this. Let them do their own thing for a while and calm down on their own.

After some time has passed you can try playing with your cat using a ranged toy, something like a ball or soft cat toy on a string. If your cat approaches and joins in the fun they have likely relaxed a bit. You still shouldn’t go in for cuddles and hug so soon. Let the cat readjust to you. Also, don’t get discouraged if your cat doesn’t play with you immediately, give it some time.

A woman cuddling with her cat

The hugs and cuddles will come, I promise. Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Safe Costume Ideas For Cats

Now that we know about cat costume safety, let's go over some costume ideas that have the lowest chance of stressing your cat out. One of the safest options for your cat is a themed collar. A collar with pumpkins or bats on it is a great choice. Collars are a great choice because most cats are already used to wearing collars, so there is a much lower likelihood of your cat getting stressed out when you put it on them. It is also very easy to put on and take off, so if your cat doesn’t like its new collar, you can remove it with little to no hassle. 

Next up is the classic bowtie. Just like the collar bowties go around the neck, so your cat may be more comfortable with it since it resembles something it’s used to. Be sure to get the right-sized bowtie and make sure it isn’t too tight around the cat's neck. Comfort is key!

Finally, you can go with a cape or cloak of some kind. As long as it doesn't button up all the way around the cat's body your cat might just be fine with it. Try cloaks made from different materials and see which ones your cat responds to best. This one will be the hardest to get your cat into as they typically don’t like clothes being stuck to their fur.


A black cat in a pumpkin bucket

Just need a caption here for this adorable spooky kitty! Some cats really don’t need a Halloween costume, take this cute kitty as an example! Image courtesy of Cutewallpaper.

In general, you should keep your cat’s costume simple. Don’t dress them up in elaborate witch outfits and avoid costumes that restrict your cat's movements. Hats are a really hard sell since cats don’t typically like having things on their heads and figuring out a way to keep it there will likely cause your cat some discomfort or stress them out. Read your cat's body language and keep their feline feelings in mind. Never force your cat to do anything that stresses them out or causes them discomfort. 

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