Should we dress our pets up?
The topic of dressing pets up is one of perennial debate.
You will not find many owners dressing pets up in Singapore. Thankfully, owners are sensible enough to realize that the hot and humid weather here would make their pets extremely uncomfortable.
Dressing a pet, while understandable at times necessary, is an inconvenience.
Should we dress our pets, and if so, when?
A. Why people dress their pets : ten perceptions to debunk
I begin by stating that I am a fervent pet-lover and would never dress my dog in the cloying weather we have here.
However, before we give owners who do the thumbs down, we should empathize with their reasoning. It would put us in a better place to explain the disadvantages of keeping a pet dressed and debunk a few perceptions.
1. A pet is like a child.
Devoted owners love their furry children. For those who do not enjoy the good fortune of having children, a pet takes their place.
Dressing up is a human need that owners project on their pets. Owners need to realize that pets do not have the same needs they do.
2. Owners are afraid of the cold.
Further, the cold overwhelms them. They assume that pets feel the same discomfort.
Sweaters are the most common clothing owners put on their pets. Again, pets do not have the same needs as humans, as I will explain later in this article.
3. They want to make pets conversation topics.
Apart from harsh, cold weather, owners have a need to make pets conversation topics.
We know that owners who have pets make friends easily. I get to know a few new people each time I bring Cloudy to the park.
Owners have a need to connect more with their friends. What better conversation topic than a dressed-up pet?
That being said, there are other matters we can talk about.
4. They genuinely believe that their pets like it.
Owners genuinely believe that their furry companions like dressing up, especially if they put up no resistance to having clothes put on.
No resistance does not necessarily show willingness.
5. They show off a pet's personality.
Clothes show what a pet is like. A macho sweater may capture a tough bulldog's personality. Sunglasses show off the chic of a chihuahua.
That being said, clothes are not as close to an animal’s nature as some may think.
6 Pets love mimicking their owners
Some owners see their pets following them around and believe that their pets simply love imitating them.
Pets are loyal creatures that want the best for their owners, so they will follow them around constantly. But it does not mean that they want to imitate their fashion sense.
7. Clothes serve as protection.
Many caring owners want to protect their furry charges from the cold. Hence, they buy the prettiest sweaters for them to wear during the fall.
As I shall explain in the next section, pets are adequately protected, so owners need not fear.
8. Dressing a pet adds variety.
For some owners, dressing a pet up adds variety to routine. It is a fun activity for all and a pleasant change.
Again, a dressed pet is being tolerant.
9. Dressing a pet presents a bonding opportunity.
Dressing a pet up gives owners an opportunity to connect with their pets, and is rare time spent.
Pets, however, may spend more time being uncomfortable than bonding with their owners.
10. It also presents a photo opportunity.
Pets in pretty clothing, doubtless, present wonderful photo opportunities.
However, notice the grouchy faces in many pet photographs.
Do you dress your pet?
C. Why a pet should shed his clothes
Credible reasons aside, a pet must shed clothes when possible. There are reasons why, as George Orwell put it, animals should go naked.
1. Clothes cause itchiness.
Clothes cause extreme itchiness. An extra coat of hair on top of the ones a dog or cat already have may cause skin irritations that make them scratch.
The worst part of that is that the poor animal is not able to soothe those itches, with another thick covering over its skin.
2. Extreme discomfort with flea bites
Flea bites are already extremely itchy, so if another layer of clothing covers them, the annoyance worsens.
A flea bite, more itchy than a mosquito’s, is a dubious pleasure.
3. Their coats are protective enough.
As mentioned earlier, earnest owners want to protect their pets as much as possible.
However, dogs, especially double-coated ones, have enough protection during the winter months. Nature did not forget that animals need protection from the cold.
Only a few hairless breeds of dogs and cats, such as the Chinese Crested Hairless, need a sweater for added defense.
They also have an extra layer of fat that acts as protection.
4. They do not need it for their self-esteem.
Woe betide us if we were to run naked on the streets.
That humorous picture aside, clothes bolster our self-esteem. We want to prevent awkward situations and, of course, avoid spending the night in the county jail.
However, pets have no need for that self-esteem.
A little girl on why we should not dress pets
D. How can we dress a pet without causing discomfort?
If dressing up a pet is a must, then do so while subjecting them to as little discomfort as possible. There are, fortunately, some ways to strike a balance.
1. We can let them wear booties on hot days.
Booties are a relief when heat from the pavement sears an animal’s foot pads.
In Singapore last year, the Pollutant Standard Index hit the very unhealthy range of 400. I had to stay home with a mask on, and Cloudy teared.
She could not go for her walks for several days, which made her angst-ridden.
Booties were a solution to block the assault of the searing heat. Do bear in mind to use these only when necessary, because they block the animal’s sweat glands in their paws.
2. They can wear very little clothes.
Make any clothing absolutely minimal. Even a crested hairless only needs a sweater.
Fashionable collars are available, so there is no need to dress the dog up to the nines.
3. Dress them only on special occasions.
Wait for special occasions to dress a pet. Take off any clothes as soon as possible.
National Dress Your Pet Day, on January 14, is every owners’ chance to show his pet off. It is also in the middle of winter.
However, do remove clothing as soon as the festivities are over.
4. Do so only if your pet feels comfortable.
Only dress or accessorize a pet if it feels comfortable. Remove any accessories if it begins to scratch uncomfortably.
5. Avoid clothes or accessories that prevent excretion.
Some owners dress their pets in clothes that block excretory pathways. They should avoid doing this, unless they are ready to remove clothes regularly to let their dogs ease themselves.
6. Never paint your pet.
Some owners enjoy shaving hair off pets and getting their skin painted.
Again, this causes skin irritation and allergies, in the same way face paint does for some of us.
Reasons for dressing a pet
Pets are like children
Clothes are necessary in extreme weather.
Clothes cause itchiness.
Clothes are a defence against cold weather.
It is entertaining on very special occasions.
They cause more discomfort if there are flea bites.
They become the center of attention.
A pet's coat is already protective.
Owners think that pets like dressing up.
They do not have a need for self esteem
They show off a pet's personality.
Owners believe that pets love imitating them.
Dressing a pet adds variety to routine.
These are bonding and photo opportunities.
If there is an absolute need to dress a pet, do so with discretion and the pet’s comfort in mind.
Do share your views about dressing pets.