Things have changed dramatically for pets over the years. Where they used to only be allowed to exist outside the home as property or guards of the family, they’re now largely considered part of the family unit — with many enjoying the same comforts as their humans.
The pet industry has experienced a huge boom in recent years, with pet lovers everywhere happily spending billions on the comfort of their beloved animals. From toys to treats, exercise equipment to cushy beds, family pets are living the good life for sure!
One topic that is up for debate, though, is the act of putting clothes on animals. While it can be cute and funny to see fur babies dressed like humans, some animal advocates and experts warn that it’s not — and it can potentially even be dangerous. Others think it’s harmless and all in good fun, and so the debate goes on.
Especially when it comes to our feline friends and their finicky nature as a species, there are those that argue that putting clothes on cats is cruel. Others disagree, but who’s right in this debate? Is it cruel to put clothes on cats, or are some people just being too sensitive? That’s what we’ll discuss in this post.
Is it Cruel to Put Clothes on Cats?
Personally, I’m an advocate for cats being free and natural, the way they are in the wild. They’re equipped to handle the elements of nature with the fur they’ve been given, and have survived for millennia without our help. However, I do realize that my opinion isn’t shared by everyone, and that’s ok!
There are certain times, though, that putting clothes on cats is either helpful or necessary, so I’m not totally biased in my opinion. That’s why I’ve decided to write this from both points of view: so each side can see the other’s reasoning.
I’m going to break down the debate over whether or not it’s cruel to put clothes on cats. We’ll start with times it might be ok to dress up your kitty, followed by reasons it’s just plain cruel. Ready? Let’s explore this a little further!
When Clothes on Cats is Ok
Sometimes putting clothes on cats isn’t the worst idea. Let’s explore some examples of when this might be the case:
There are times when putting clothes on a cat might actually be beneficial for their health. For example, if they’ve been shaved for a medical procedure and it’s cold out, or you need to restrict their access to an injury, putting a little sweater or shirt on them can be super helpful.
This can also apply to hairless cats in cold weather: they don’t have fur to keep them warm, so it’s helpful for them to have an additional layer of protection from the elements. Also, putting a lightweight shirt or jacket on is helpful to
protect their sensitive skin from sun exposure during warmer months.
Your Cat Enjoys It
While most cats are finicky by nature and likely won’t enjoy being dressed up, there are always exceptions to this. Some cats are totally fine with wearing clothes, in fact they even look forward to it! If your cat is one of these mythical creatures, putting clothes on him should be fine.
Breeds like the Ragdoll, for example, are more likely to be cool about wearing clothes. Their super Zen personalities allow them to adapt to most situations, without being bothered by much at all! However, always remember to check in with your kitty. If she’s unwilling to comply, don’t push it!
There are some cases where putting clothes on cats makes things more convenient for the owner. For example, with littermates who look identical, it can be hard to tell them apart! While some people choose to put collars on their cats to identify them, others choose clothing.
This is fine, but again, only if kitty agrees. If he’s fighting to get out of your chosen outfit or seems grumpier than usual while wearing it, figuring out another way to tell him apart from his twin is probably a better idea.
When It’s Cruel to Put Clothes on Cats
There are times when putting clothes on cats is just wrong. Here are a few examples of this:
They Obviously Hate It
Cats make it known when they’re unhappy — just ask any cat owner who’s ever got the notorious side-eye from their kitty! It’s easy to tell when your feline friend isn’t into something, so pay attention to what he’s trying to tell you. Failing to do this might hurt your bond and cause your buddy not to trust you, which you definitely don’t want!
Signs your kitty is unhappy might include being more aggressive than usual, going potty outside the litter box, or refusing to move after being forced to wear your chosen kitty attire. If they fight, freeze, or otherwise avoid being dressed, don’t force it. Having a cat mad at you is no fun at all, as any cat person will tell you!
It Restricts Their Movement
If your cat reluctantly agrees to wear the clothing you’ve chosen, make sure it doesn’t restrict their movement. Cats are agile, flexible, and active animals — they need the freedom to pounce, run, climb, and jump to their heart’s content. Stopping them from doing this may result in anxiety, depression, or general discontent, so don’t! If you opt to keep them clothed, supervision is necessary to avoid accidents.
Any clothing worn by cats needs to leave them free to do their kitty thing, so keep an eye on their behavior and movements if you’ve decided to put clothes on them. If they look awkward, stiff, or otherwise out of sorts, that outfit probably isn’t a good idea.
They’re Hiding From You
Many confusing feline behaviors are actually their way of communicating with us in kitty speak. For example, inappropriate urination (going outside the litter box) is often a cat’s way of telling us that there’s a medical problem that needs our attention. Another example of this is hiding, especially when this isn’t normal behavior for your cat.
If you make a habit of putting clothes on your cat and are noticing that they’re hiding more often than usual, it’s time to stop playing dress up. Cats hide when they don’t feel safe or want to avoid something, and in this case, that something is you. Let your kitty know that you can be trusted again by leaving the clothes to the humans, and he’ll come out of hiding in his own time.
The Deciding Factor
Ultimately, whether it’s cruel to put clothes on cats falls down to two things: your opinion, and the wellbeing of your cat. If your kitty is happy to play dress up and otherwise healthy, free to move as he likes, and seems content with life in general, there’s no reason why you can’t put clothes on him.
If, however, you’re seeing any of the signs I mentioned earlier (obvious distress, hiding, aggression, restricted movement, etc.), leave the poor kitty alone. Having a healthy, happy cat that trusts you is far more important than making them look cute — they’re much cuter when they still love you, anyway!
As a cat owner who would never dream of dressing my cats (unless it was medically necessary, of course), I don’t really like the idea of humanizing animals in the first place. However, I can empathize with different opinions — as long as the animals are safe, healthy, and happy, that is!