People working in advertising, media and entertainment often seek the advice of the RSPCA when they’re working with animals, as they want to make sure all animals are handled safely and responsibly. Some states and territories even require production companies to seek special permission to use animals in commercial filming or production.
You may have seen media coverage over the past week about the importance of making sure your pet isn’t caused any harm by wearing costumes or pet clothing. Social media is full of images showing dogs and cats in costumes, hats, and various other items that may bring their human owners ‘likes’ and ‘shares’.
In the digital age where some animals have more followers on social media accounts than their human celebrity counterparts, it’s important to always keep each animal’s welfare front of mind.
The RSPCA has put together some basic tips to help you understand and get to know your pet’s behaviour to avoid putting them in a stressful situation.
Your pet comes first. The welfare and needs of your pet should always come first, and some pets may actually react negatively to being dressed up as a dinosaur, teddy bear, or whatever trend is floating around on social media. Don’t compromise your pet’s comfort or wellbeing for a photo or video.
Avoid dressing up cats – generally, cats will not enjoy or tolerate wearing a costume.
Functional or silly? Functional and necessary clothing, such as winter coats, are great for pets when they are a comfortable fit, well made and well tolerated. It’s another thing if your pet starts to become stressed or agitated by non-functional, non-essential clothing, such as a costume. Don’t ever put makeup on a pet – it could be harmful if ingested or if it gets in their eyes.
Check the quality. Many pet costumes and accessories on the market are made cheaply, with synthetic materials that can quickly become hot and put your pet at risk of overheating, as well as potentially becoming irritating to their skin. Always check the labels to learn how a costume is made and whether it also presents as a fire risk.
Know the signs. Getting to know your pet’s behaviour and the signs they show when distressed is crucial. Signs of distress in your cat include rapidly flicking their tail and flattening their ears, and the warning signs in your dog can include flattening and pulling back their ears, ‘whale eyes’ where they show the whites of their eyes in the far corner, and tucking their tail between their legs. If your pet also tries to run away from you when you are attempting to put a costume on them, take it as a clear sign they’re not interested in wearing the outfit.
Be smart. The RSPCA is not saying you can’t dress up your pets on occasion! It’s more about the importance of reading your pet’s behaviour and not forcing them into costumes that will cause them distress or harm.
Never leave your pet in a costume unattended and only use it for a short period of time.
The golden rule of pet costumes is clear: Take care, supervise closely and always consider the needs and wants of your pet before playing dress ups. Always watch their body language and identify signs of distress.
- Dr Bronwyn Orr is with RSPCA Australia, an independent, non-government community-based charity providing animal care and protection services. The RSPCA relies on donations from the public in order to carry out its work. To donate visit RSPCA and follow the links. You can also ring the RSPCA Donation Line on 1300 RSPCA1.