Clothing for your cat

The market for cat clothing has boomed in recent years, but is cat clothing really a good thing?

Cat in a wooly jumper

Do cats need clothes?

Domestic cats originate either from middle-eastern desert regions, where daytime temperatures are very hot and nights are very cold, or from european regions where they would live through freezing winters. Because of this genetic heritage, your cat is perfectly capable of surviving in a much greater temperature range than you are. If the indoor environment is warm enough for you then it is certainly warm enough for your cat, and if it is too cold outside your cat will find shelter or come indoors.

Hairless or short-hair breeds

Some breeds of cat, like the Sphynx, which have no noticeable hair might seem like good candidates for requiring clothing to replace the function of fur. In reality, indoor house temperatures are perfectly warm enough for cats, even without fur. If you keep breeds like this they will appreciate warm spots near radiators or even heated beds, but they do not require clothing.

Is there a genuine reason why clothes are bad?

Much of a cat's ability to maintain a correct body temperature relies on it being able to fluff up its fur in cold conditions (to trap warm air) and grooming in hot conditions to dampen the fur (aiding evaporation and cooling). By putting your cat in clothes you are preventing the cat from using its natural cooling and warming mechanisms.

All cats need to mark their territory (the house) by rubbing up against objects, not just to let other cats know they live there but also to develop a sense of familiarity and safety. By making your cat wear clothes you may be interfering with this process, which could result in nervousness and other behavioural problems.

Clothes can also interfere with a cat's natural movements, which at best is an annoyance for your cat and at worst could cause a mis-judged jump, or get your cat caught on objects, causing strangulation, distress, or physical damage to your cat.

Cat wearing very bright clothes
Dress your cat like this and few real cat lovers will be impressed

Cats that enjoy clothes

In most cases, cats which appear to be comfortable wearing clothes have either been taught to wear clothes, or are reacting positively to another stimulus. Being petted and groomed by its owner at the same time as being clothed results in a state of enjoyment, purring, and compliance. The cat puts up with being clothed because it is getting intimate attention, and maybe even treats, and the owner thinks the cat likes being clothed because it is purring and responding positively. This type of behaviour reinforcement can even result in a cat becoming noticeably excited and happy when clothes are presented. Given the choice, all these cats would quite happily take the petting, attention, and treats, and leave the clothes behind.

Social stigma

Most cat owners who clothe their cats enjoy showing them off to visitors, or posting pictures on social media sites for others to see. Whilst you will certainly get a few friends or visitors commenting on how 'great', 'lucky', or 'cute' your cat looks, there will be a far greater number of unvoiced negative opinions. Plenty of people, including most cat owners, will look at your efforts as distasteful, and even abusive towards your cat. No matter what your intentions or opinions on cat clothing, or even if you think your cat enjoys wearing clothes, do you really want people feeling sorry for your cat and thinking of you as a bad owner?

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