If you’re planning on dressing up a pet in a costume this year, but don’t know if that’s “weird,” there’s good news. You won’t be the only one looking at animal garb this Halloween. According to research from the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights, 18 percent of all people who plan to celebrate Halloween in some capacity will be putting their pet in a costume. Prosper Insights Executive Vice President of Strategy Phil Rist also highlighted this part of the survey. “One of the biggest trends this year is the growth of spending on pet costumes. Out of the 31.3 million Americans planning to dress their pets in costumes, millennials (25-34) are most likely to dress up their pets, the highest we have seen in the history of our surveys.”
The Practice has Its Critics
Despite its popularity, a lot of people say you should never dress up a pet. If you look at the fine print, most of these warnings include a contextual judgment about exploiting pets for entertainment and then naming issues that seem mostly avoidable if you’re careful. Nothing is ever 100% safe, right? We’re not going to try to tell every pet owner how safe they need to be with their pets, but we do think you should know what to keep an eye on if you plan to put a pet in costume this Halloween.
Three Steps for Dressing Up a Pet in Costume
- Know Your Pet.
A few animals seem to really enjoy their costumes and many animals are willing to tolerate them, but more than a few absolutely hate wearing anything other than their own coats of fur. Especially if we’re including cats in the discussion. You may not truly know how your pet will react until you give it a try, but you can probably make an educated guess. If you have a generally pliable and agreeable animal for a pet, there’s a better chance for success. Animals that are more finicky, standoffish, and/or easily overstimulated are more likely to throw a fit. Along with not subjecting your pet to something they obviously hate, what you really need to watch for is the “silent suffer”—who tries to hide their discomfort from you.
- Use Safe Pet Costumes.
Again, this goes double for the silent sufferer, but you want to be extra mindful about how your pet is carrying the costume on their body and in what ways they can get at the costume itself. Make sure the material is sufficiently soft or otherwise isn’t likely to hurt the animal’s skin. Make sure the costume isn’t so thick and insulating that it causes overheating. Make sure there aren’t buttons or other items that can be chewed, swallowed, and/or choked on. Make sure the pet’s range of motion isn’t restricted and that there are no facial impediments especially around the eyes.
- Don’t Make it a Habit.
The most common problem with pet costumes is the skin irritation, but we’ve found that this isn’t as much of a concern when you’re only putting the pet into a costume for a few hours, once or twice a year. (January 14th is National Dress Up Your Pet Day.) To be fair, we do know pet owners who keep their animals in clothes for much of the winter and claim their animals appreciate the extra insulation. But it can be especially problematic to continue the practice into the warmer months in which overheating becomes a much bigger risk.