Why I Dress Up My Cat for the Holidays — and You Shouldn’t

Cat outfits are a bad idea for at least 95% of the cat population but some rare felines don't mind them at all.

Christmas trees, sparkling merrily with ornaments. Festive wreaths and garlands adorning walls and doors. Red and green everything. Disgruntled cats wearing Santa hats and ugly sweaters. It’s the holidays again, and everyone is getting in the mood … except for the cats. Anyone who writes about our feline friends will tell you it’s not nice to dress them up for the holidays. They hate it — it’s uncomfortable for them, unnatural, and it destroys their natural dignity. But cat companions keep doing it, like a fetish that can’t be denied. Like everyone else who is fairly knowledgeable about cats, I think stuffing them into festive outfits is a bad idea. Well, it’s a bad idea 95% of the time. Then there’s my goofball Somali, Summer, who barely notices she has anything on.

Summer is a natural model who will do anything as long as either treats or playtime is involved. Whereas most cats can barely tolerate clothes or costumes for more than the minute or two it takes to snap a quick photo, Summer can (and has) worn a dress or elaborate harness for a couple of hours and gone about her business as if nothing was amiss. When I approach her with costume in hand, she does not wince or run. She stands there like a mannequin, passively waiting while I slip it over her head and insert her dainty little arms through the sleeves. She just doesn’t care. It’s just part of her normal, everyday life. She knows if she really hates something, I won’t force her to wear it — and she rarely hates anything.

Still, I feel guilty while snapping away as Summer prances for the camera in her silly outfits because I know how rare her attitude is — and that her photos are probably encouraging people to try the same thing on their very much less cooperative cats. For every Summer, there are about four Bingas — a cat who will tolerate a costume for a minute or two, when her very short temper runs out — and about 95 Boodies, who are so costume averse that you feel badly about even thinking of putting a funny collar on them. I did put hats and costumes on Sparkle occasionally, but she would look at me with such abject hatred that it discouraged me from making a habit out of it.

So while you are cooing over the adorable photos of Summer, and the semi-cute photo of Binga (who tried to bite me when I took off the hat), let me give you this bit of advice: don’t try this at home! Do as I say, not as I do. Your cat probably hates getting dressed up and will have a much happier holiday sharing your leftover turkey and helping you wrap presents without the indignity of doing it in reindeer ears or a Santa hat.

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