Sweaters for Cats: Fashion Statement or Feline Necessity?

By Lindsay Lowe

If you’ve ever searched for “cats in sweaters,” you’ve likely been overwhelmed by the sheer cuteness of those tiny felines in knitwear. But, let’s get real—do cats really need to wear sweaters?

According to Dr. Susan Sikule, owner of the Just Cats Veterinary Clinic, the answer is a resounding “no.” Cats are naturally equipped with their own fur coats, designed to keep them warm and cozy. Adding a sweater to the mix could actually cause them to overheat and disrupt their ability to regulate their body temperature.

But that’s not the only concern. Sweaters can also hinder a cat’s freedom of movement and increase the risk of accidents. Imagine a cat leaping onto a tree branch, only to get snagged by its sweater. Or a curious feline attempting to remove the sweater but getting tangled up in the process. Mieshelle Nagelschneider, a cat behavior consultant, warns that cats are masters of mischief and can easily get themselves into trouble.

Moreover, wearing a sweater can cause stress for some cats, leading to a myriad of issues. Nagelschneider suggests that a stressed-out cat might have accidents all over the house simply because it’s wearing a sweater. Clearly, the cons outweigh the pros.

However, there are a few exceptions. Some hairless cat breeds, such as the Sphynx, may benefit from a sweater in particularly cold outdoor environments. Additionally, vets may recommend sweaters or T-shirts for cats who have undergone surgery or have had their hair shaved off. In these cases, a sweater can help keep the cat warm and prevent them from licking their incisions.

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If you do find yourself needing to dress your cat, it’s essential to ensure that the sweater fits properly. Nagelschneider advises against it being too loose, as the cat could easily escape, or too tight, as it may cause discomfort. The key is to find a snug fit. And remember, not all cats are fond of clothing, so it’s crucial to go slow and respect their boundaries. If they resist wearing a sweater, it’s best not to force them.

If your cat does tolerate wearing a sweater, they’ll likely need some time to acclimate to it. Start by having them wear it for short periods and gradually increase the duration as long as they remain calm and relaxed. Nagelschneider suggests engaging in playtime while your cat is wearing the sweater to distract and encourage them. Use a wand toy to activate their hunting instincts and build confidence.

But here’s the most crucial part—never leave your cat unsupervised while wearing a sweater. Be present to handle any emergencies or issues that may arise.

Ideally, you should strive to protect your cat from the cold to the best of your ability. As a general rule, if you feel cold, chances are your cat feels cold too. Even outdoor cats require adequate shelter to shield them from chilly weather and potential frostbite.

To ensure your cat stays warm, follow your instincts. If your cat shivers, tucks its limbs tightly under its body, or seeks warmth from heat sources, it’s a clear indication that they’re too cold. Use common sense and keep the heat on when you’re away. And on cold, rainy days, it’s best to keep your feline friend indoors rather than subjecting them to the unnatural feeling of a sweater. Let’s just say, the general consensus is a “no” to sweaters for cats.

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Read more about dog sweaters in winter