Q: I read a column you wrote a few years back about how dressing up pets for Halloween is a bad idea. Could you tell that to my wife? I think it’s cruel, but she says it’s no worse than dressing up infants and since our cats are her “fur babies,” she’ll keep on doing it until someone gives her a good reason not to. Please help my poor cats!
A. We all vary in the degree to which we’re willing to treat our pets like children, mascots or even walking billboards for our own brand of personal self-expression.
Some of us (myself included) will happily stitch up a cute costume pets will gamely wear for trick-or-treat, charity parade or photo op. Others will shake their heads at the absurdity of it all. A percentage of you may even claim that this kind of holiday foppery is inherently disrespectful to our animal friends.
Most of us will agree that dressing up is all in good fun — as long as “no animals were harmed” in the making and wearing of the costume in question. That means nothing too hot, heavy or cumbersome. It also means anything our pets might consider significantly stressful is totally off limits, too.
A vocal group, however, holds that pet owners who subject their pets to Halloween shenanigans risk disrespectfully humanizing them. Pets, they say, don’t want to be dolled up like a lobster in a pot or trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey. Pets do feel, they contend, and their contentment and pleasure is every bit as important as their pain and suffering. After all, no animal would ever elect to don a pink wig and polka-dotted dress in the absence of human intervention.
Though we can all agree that our pets’ feelings matter, others among us agree with your wife. It’s no different from dressing up our human babies like pumpkins, they say. They claim it’s no more humanizing than giving a pet a human name or putting a sweater on her in the winter.
For my part, it all depends on the comfort of the costume, the pet’s personality, and whether or not the owner’s intentions are to lovingly exhibit her pet’s adorability.
Anything else is probably disrespectful and rightfully deserves our condemnation.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.