Dressing Up Cats Can Cause Them Stress – Experts

at lover Johan Eskandar Mohamad Najib used to enjoy dressing up his feline pets in different outfits and accessories as they appeared adorable and photogenic in them.

Then one day, he realised that dressing up his pedigreed furry friends was causing them stress and even trauma and vowed not to do so anymore.

According to experts, pet owners should refrain from dressing up their cats as it can elevate their anxiety levels, which will make them more susceptible to life-threatening illnesses. To put it simply, both costumes and accessories restrict their natural movements and make them less capable of expressing normal behaviour such as grooming.

Sharing his experience, Johan Eskandar – whose social media handle is @johanandhiscats and who has some 303,000 followers on his Instagram account that is devoted to guiding Malaysians to be better cat parents – said he used to be easily drawn to clothes and accessories sold in pet stores or online shops as he knew his cats would look cute in them.

“One day, however, I noticed one of my cats just froze and looked gloomy when I tried to dress it up. After further examination, I found that some of my cats did seem uncomfortable and even stressed when I adorned them with ornaments and accessories even though they looked cute in my eyes,” he told Bernama recently.



Johan Eskandar, 31, who owns 30 cats including breeds such as Scottish Fold, British Fold, Maine Coon, Selkirk Rex, Cornish Rex, Munchkin, American Bobtail, Sacred Birman and Sphynx, opened a cat studio in Shah Alam in 2016 to educate the public on how to care for their cats. However, the studio, said to have been the first such establishment in the world, closed down after operating for eight months as he wanted to protect the well-being of his cats. 

Johan Eskandar Mohamad Najib.

“The response (from the public) was good. But there were too many people (in my studio) and some of them didn’t follow the rules I had set and my cats appeared uncomfortable,” he said. 

Johan said it was fortunate he was able to sense his cats’ discomfort in the early stages, adding he no longer puts on clothes or accessories on his beloved pets.

He said even wearing a cat collar can cause stress to the animals.

“The cat collar itself can pose a danger if it is not put on properly. If you have to put one on your pet, make sure you can place a finger between its neck and the collar to ensure it is not too tight and does not suffocate the cat.

“Many cat owners forget about this and let their cats wander outside while wearing a cat collar. Their action can endanger the animals as they can get caught on a fence or a tree branch which can result in injury,” he said.     



Kitty’s Care Animal Clinic and Surgery founder Dr Muhammad Naim Md Kasim said domesticated animals such as cats can feel stressed when humans disrupt their normal behaviour.

“Humans like the idea of their cats adapting to their lives. For example, they put mittens on their cats’ paws and find it cute. However, cats need to sharpen their claws as that is their normal behaviour,” he said.

According to the veterinary doctor, the stress experienced by humans and cats is very different because stress in cats can be more drastic.

For instance, a person under stress will eat when he/she is hungry but when a cat is stressed, it will refuse food even when it feels hungry.

“Cats can also become fearful when they are stressed. They also experience significant fur loss,” said Dr Muhammad Naim, adding there is still no data on stress in cats as most cat owners are not aware of this issue.  

Pointing out that cats, like humans, can be either friendly or moody, he said cats with a friendly disposition can easily adapt to new environments. The more emotional ones, however, are prone to stress which can affect their health. 

Among the factors contributing to stress in cats are changes in their food and litter boxes or introducing a new cat into their environment.

“When a cat is stressed, it will even be afraid to urinate, especially when there is a change in the type of litter used. Some cats may withhold urination but others may protest by urinating outside the litter box. When the frequency of urination is disrupted, it can lead to the formation of kidney stones.

“Stress can result in different physiological responses in cats, subsequently causing their immune system to weaken. When this happens, cats become more vulnerable to developing life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney stones and diabetes,” Dr Muhammad Naim added.



Meanwhile, Nurul Ain Abd Hamid, who owns S.I Shelter in Shah Alam, said many of the new feline “arrivals” at her animal shelter developed kidney stones due to the stress of being holed up in new surroundings.

“They were previously healthy cats but after coming to my place (shelter), they refused to urinate in the litter boxes provided as they were not used to it, thus the kidney stone problem,” she said.

Nurul Ain, who has over 100 cats in her care, said cats under stress usually experience fur loss or have spiky or clumped coats.

“The easiest way to tell if a cat is stressed is by observing its fur… if a cat is not stressed, its fur will not be spiky, nor will the cat shed a lot when held,” she explained, adding the cats in her shelter are treated lovingly to make them feel more secure and comfortable. 

She added that based on her experience, cats that are carriers of viruses that cause life-threatening diseases such as parvo or feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) must always be stress-free to prevent the virus from becoming active. 

“Stress can cause the previously dormant virus to flare up. This is because stress weakens the cat’s immune system, hence it will not be able to fight the virus,” she said.


Translated by Rema Nambiar


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