Do Cats and Dogs Like Wearing Clothes?

Pets: They're great the way nature made them, and somehow even better when we anthropomorphize them and dress them in human-like clothes. Whether it's a Halloween costume, a cozy holiday sweater, or just a fun everyday look like a bowtie or bandana, putting clothes on our pets is one of the great joys in life—for us, anyway. But how do our pets feel about playing dress up?

Some animals seem to love it, some seem to hate it, and some seem completely unfazed by, well, everything in life, but that includes being dressed up. Here's what we know about how dogs and cats react to wearing all the adorable outfits you buy them.

Dogs

Reasons some dogs love wearing clothes:

For warmth:

When it comes to the clothed or naked debate, the biggest factors effecting dogs' feelings on the matter are the weather and their genetics. Simply put: Many shorter-haired dogs actually enjoy wearing extra layers in the winter, for exactly the same reasons we humans do. On the flip side, many large, hairy monster dogs get uncomfortably warm when they're dressed up in sweaters.

Chihuahua dog in knitted sweater lying down on tree roots
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If your dog is feeling sweater weather, he'll give you some clear clues. If your dog (who is otherwise fine with the outdoors) is resisting your attempts to get him to go outside when it's cold, that's a sign he might benefit from a sweater. If he's shivering or constantly curling in a ball in your house, particularly if you keep the temperature set low, you should definitely consider adding extra layers.

When you're shopping for a dog sweater, whether its purpose is explicitly to keep your dog warm or just to help him look extra adorable in your Christmas card photo, look for a comfortable fabric, like a blend of washable wool and cotton or acrylic, and make sure the sweater fits—it should be snug, but not too tight.

For attention:

Chihuahua dog at the picnic
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Another reason some dogs dig dress-up? You (and everyone else in the room/house/world) shower them with even more attention than usual when they're getting their costume on. Dogs in general thrive on human attention. For dogs who have come to associate getting dressed up with getting the attention they crave (the bright smiles, the oohs and awws, the Instagram photo shoots, the extra pets), getting dressed up becomes a happy time.

For stress relief:

Dog hiding under blanket
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Compression vests are an effective treatment for anxiety in dogs. For dogs who have benefitted from the use of a compression vest, wearing clothes can bring on good vibes and memories of other times when putting clothing-like things on their bodies has been a good thing.

Reasons some dogs hate wearing clothes:

If they're too tight:

Close-Up Portrait Of Pug With Sweater Against Wall
credit: Adam Gage / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages

Even a dog who loves (or is at least neutral about) getting dressed up will start to wig out if the outfit is too tight. You know the way you feel when you squeeze into jeans that don't quite fit anymore and you're uncomfortable all day? Now imagine feeling that way and having the self-control of a dog. That's why they go full spaz in tight clothes.

If they make it hard to see, hear, or otherwise function in the world:

Lobster Chihuahua
credit: Posh_portraits/iStock/GettyImages

This is another one that might seem obvious, but that you have to be mindful of if your pet seems especially averse to wearing clothes. Poor fit (like a droopy hoodie) or wild accessories (like the googly eyes bouncing off the top of the cute lobster costume) can get in the way of your pet's ability to see, hear, or move, which is enough to freak anyone or anything out.

Cats

Reasons some cats love wearing clothes:

Portrait of Sphynx cat on table wearing pink pullover and funny glasses
credit: Westend61/Westend61/GettyImages

For...apathy?

There really aren't a lot of explanations out there for why some cats might enjoy wearing clothes. If your cat seems chill with being dressed up, you'll have to chalk it up to her specific personality.

Reasons some cats hate wearing clothes:

If the cat overheats:

Portrait Of Cat Wearing Sweater And Knit Hat At Home
credit: Thongchai Thana-Anan / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages

Cats are actually really amazing at regulating their own body temperature. This means that, unlike dogs, even short-haired cats don't typically need any help staying warm during the winter months.

If the cat loves playing Houdini:

Cats are great at getting themselves stuck in weird things and then wildly twisting and getting themselves out. For a cat who particularly loves the art of the escape, taking clothes off becomes a game.

Clothes can stress cats out:

Dressed up cat
credit: Asurobson/iStock/GettyImages

On the other hand, not all cats always enjoy the act of wiggling out of things. Some cats feel stressed out, and even a little trapped, when you put clothes on them, so the panicked meowing and frantic scratching isn't part of the game; it's a genuine cry for help.

If the clothes make it hard to see, hear, or otherwise function in the world:

Mrs. Claws
credit: Shannon M. Lutman/Moment/GettyImages

Just like with dogs, clothes that make it hard for a cat to use her senses are bound to be unpopular. Poor fit and obtrusive accessories can get in the way of your pet's ability to see, hear, or move, which is understandably uncomfortable.