Pet costumes are a booming business during the Halloween season, with cat and dog lovers pawing through store displays for creative and creepy masquerades for their four-legged friends. Popular picks include favorite cartoon characters and jungle animals. Bats, pumpkins, skeletons, and other traditional Halloween icons are also prevalent for pet costuming.
Why not? How cute can a fancy or frightful costumed kitty be? And how adorable might a caped superhero or pretty princess dog appear?
Although costuming for pets can be fun and festive, a few common-sense cautions may be in order to keep both canines and felines safe during the trick or treating and other Halloween festivities. After all, no responsible pet owner wants to see Halloween turn into a genuine nightmare or an emergency veterinary hospital visit.
The overriding principle, when it comes to picking pet costumes, is knowing one’s own pet and his or her personality.
“Some pets have temperaments that will tolerate our desire to dress them up in costumes, but many prefer their birthday suits,” explained Dr. Yvonne Bellay, Animal Welfare Program Manager for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection. “Putting them in costumes can cause undue stress for the animal, not to mention dangers that you may not immediately think of like allergies or choking.”
Certain cats and dogs will put up with wearing Halloween costumes. Others may be happier to sport a simple seasonal bandanna instead.
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6 Halloween pet costume safety tips
These costume cautions are aimed at keeping pets safe, while preserving the festive fun of Halloween costuming for trick or treating and related seasonal holiday events.
1. Beware of pet masquerades that restrict the animal.
A cat or dog needs to move freely. He or she must be able to see, hear, breathe, speak, and move about easily. Fussy straps, non-stretch fabrics, and too-tight costumes can upset pets on Halloween.
2. Skip the mask.
Curiously, many pet costumes come with masks. These are generally a poor idea for pets, and most cats and dogs are unable to wear such facial coverings calmly and safely. A smart pet owner is likely to leave the mask off. Plastic masks are especially risky, as these may crack or break, leaving sharp edges.
3. Consider using pet-safe makeup instead of complex costuming.
Washable non-toxic can be super for decking out a cat or dog for Halloween. Even watercolor paints or markers can be used for stenciling or freehand designs. Best of all, these colors will rinse off easily after the holiday party or trick or treating is over.
4. Try pet costumes on before Halloween.
A cat or dog costume must fit properly for safe and fuss-free wearing. The outfit must be comfortably snug, without causing harmful chafing or restricting any movement. Special caution is warranted with itchy or scratchy fabrics as well.
5. Look for dangerous dangling parts or attachments.
Loose straps, jingly bells, flapping fringe, and glitzy sequins may sound appealing for a pet’s Halloween costume, but these can all become hazardous choking or strangulation hazards. A simpler get-up may be considerably safer.
6. Use the dog’s own leash and collar for Halloween events.
Even if a pet costume includes a neck strap or waist sash, his or her own collar is the safest bet. Leave the dog’s identification tags on it for extra security, particularly if the pet has not been microchipped.
Certainly, extra supervision is essential when celebrating Halloween with pets. The calmest domesticated animals can become scared and skittish with all of the activity and distractions. A cautious owner keeps a steady hand on the leash, just in case.