Animal Costumes = Animal Abuse!

Imagine I have a small child who can’t communicate with me verbally, or prevent me from physically abusing them. Imagine I buy that child a hot, uncomfortable, ludicrous comedy costume for my personal entertainment. Imagine I force it onto the child’s body, and when they wriggle and struggle and cry, I say, ‘Oh, never mind, you’ll soon get used to it.’ Imagine I then take photos of their baffled, miserable little face, or videos of them struggling to move around in said ludicrous costume. Imagine I splatter these all over social media, inviting the whole world to mock and laugh at my child, and inspiring others to torment their own helpless children in similar fashion.

What would you think of that? You would, I hope, be horrified and disgusted, report me to social services, get my child removed to safety, and me banged up in prison.

Now substitute the word ‘pet’ for ‘child,’ and suddenly it’s all OK. ‘Oh, how cute, how funny, how precious!’ you may cry when you see images of unfortunate pets suffering in ludicrous costumes. ‘Just look at the expression on its face! Oh, I must share this with all my friends! I must torment my cat/dog/hamster with one of these ludicrous costumes so I can get lots of likes on Facebook and YouTube!’

Well, you certainly won’t get any ‘likes’ from me – in fact, if costuming pets to make them a laughing-stock is your idea of fun, I want nothing to do with you. I deplore, loathe and detest this stupid fad. It may be pretty low down on the continuum of grotesque cruelties humans inflict on animals every minute of every day; nonetheless, it is a cruelty, part of a mind-set that believes animals exist purely for our pleasure and entertainment, so it’s fine to do whatever we want to them irrespective of the effects on their well-being.

Don’t get me wrong: I completely approve of clothing and/or shoeing animals when it’s necessary for their warmth or protection, or as part of their work. But this silly, growing dressing-up trend has nothing to do with animal welfare, and everything to do with human whimsy and fundamental misunderstanding of animal needs and rights.

For instance, yesterday I was particularly appalled to see a Hallowe’en costume for cats that makes them look like a giant spider. Sure, on the most superficial level it does look very funny, and lets you play hilarious practical jokes on people; but if you stop to think from the cat’s point of view, it’s a total disaster. Even if the cat is placid and doesn’t overtly object, once it’s been put in this costume, it’s stuck. It can’t scratch if it gets itchy. It can’t groom without choking on synthetic fibres. It can’t remove the ludicrous costume when it gets too hot. And if (like the cats in the advertising video) it’s allowed to go out and about, it’s in constant danger of getting caught up, injured or killed – especially if someone freaks out at the sight and attacks it. What a great Hallowe’en decoration: your cat-tarantula kicked to death on the street outside your house, or dangling, strangled, from a tree in your garden – just imagine how your kids would love it!

No. Animals are animals, not small furry people; they deserve to be respected and treated according to their nature, not hurt and held up to ridicule. Animals don’t want, don’t understand, and seldom need, clothing. Animals don’t ‘get into the spirit’ of human festivals; they don’t understand what’s going on, and are more likely to be frightened or agitated than to enjoy wearing a festive sweater or having a pair of foam reindeer antlers strapped to their head. They don’t understand – nor do humans who dress up their pets understand, or apparently ever stop to think – that apart from being uncomfortable, these ludicrous costumes are terribly dangerous, that they can catch on objects, or brush against candles/heaters and burst into flame. Imagine how well that’d go down at your birthday party: a terrified, agonized cat in a blazing tutu doing the wall of death round your lounge, or your dog’s elf costume snagging on the Christmas tree and pulling it down in a great smash of baubles on top of itself and your children.

And I don’t understand why anyone would wish to torture a beloved animal companion by inflicting this kind of thing on them. Animals are, in their own right, beautiful, cute and frequently very amusing; they need no artificial embellishment. As readers of my blogs and Facebook posts will know,  I love to share the doings of our Henry Wowler with the world, and many people seem to enjoy hearing about them – but it’s all his own, pure feline behaviour while he is, and always will be, dressed only in his own fur (oh, and a microchip, the only thing we’ve ever succeeded in making him wear – he won’t even tolerate a collar). I mean, look at him: I wouldn’t dream of insulting such a perfect being, demeaning his natural dignity, or making him unhappy/uncomfortable, by forcing him to wear some ludicrous costume for foolish people to laugh at.

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Last but not least are the environmental considerations. While our planet is on fire and we’re facing a massive global climate crisis, pet clothing companies are wasting untold resources of energy, water, petroleum by-products etc on producing this pointless, non-biodegradable novelty tat for people with more money than sense. It’s the kind of consumerism that has GOT to stop if humanity, collectively, wishes to survive into the next century.

So I implore you: please, please, if you care about your pets, don’t dress them up! Boycott these harmful, wasteful products, delete images of them from social media, and discourage other people from buying them. If you’ve got that sort of money to spare, give it to an animal welfare charity instead – and do join me in campaigning to at least raise awareness of the dangers and undesirability of pet dressing, and at best, getting these horrible products taken off the market altogether.

Animals Matter: Of Mice and Men (and Cats)

For all that I love cats, I must admit they have some less than lovable habits. For instance, in common (I suspect) with most cat owners, since acquiring our feline lodger Henry Wowler, we also acquired a Mouse Problem. (Yes, I know. Cats are supposed to get rid of mice – hah!).

‘He’s got big ears,’ said the vet, when I took him for his first inoculations. ‘I bet he’ll make a good mouser.’ Alas for us, and the local wildlife, he was right. The Wow ‘made his bones’, so to speak, on earthworms – which, right from the start, he proudly brought in through his cat-flap (a mixed blessing if ever there was one) to play with. His delight at his first major kill knew no bounds – even though we knew it was only a puff of breast-feathers from a blackbird exploded by a sparrow-hawk. But inevitably, the mice (or parts thereof) began to appear in the kitchen (where he’s confined overnight to keep the gore off our soft furnishings)… as, inevitably, I had to resign myself to mopping up after his nocturnal hunting expeditions.

On the one hand, I can’t help admiring his skill, diligence and perfect physical adaptation for killing small creatures: his huge, sound-funnel ears, keen nose and big brilliant eyes that miss nothing; his lightning reflexes; his incredible patience (reminiscent of an Inuit seal-hunter crouching for hours over an ice-hole); and of course his paws and mouth full of deadly weapons. On the other hand, disposing of his victims is a pain in the bum.

House rule is, if it comes in alive, he loses it – assuming we get to it before he does. (Unfortunately, if it comes in dead he often loses it as well, usually by batting it under the fridge beyond claw reach where it lies, undiscovered, until the growing stench or suspicious swarms of flies alert us to its presence). This has led to many a ludicrous Tom-and-Jerry-style chase as Wowler and I (creature-catching glass in hand) fight for possession… and a couple of occasions when Jerry has given both of us the slip and holed up in the cavity under the electric fire in the living room hearth.

The first time this happened, we had no humane traps; so I pushed in a paper tissue for Mousie to make a bed, two jam-jar lids of water and birdseed, and barricaded it into a luxurious prison behind walls of video cases and books. Then for £4.50 we bought a twin-pack of The Big Cheese, a simple plastic rocking trap, ready-baited, with a lid that snaps shut when triggered by the weight of the mouse inside. At least, that’s the theory – and indeed, we did catch it a day or two later and (much to Henry’s chagrin) returned it to the wild.

However, the second mouse was much more cunning. Evading the two Big Cheeses set for it either side of the fridge where it had taken up refuge, it waited until Wow and I had cleared off then found its way to the living room and took up residence in Mouse Motel (as I realised when Henry mounted a permanent guard on the hearth-rug). Twice, this Mousie managed to steal the peanut butter with which I’d re-baited the Big Cheese without tripping the trap… clearly, sterner measures were called for. So I bought a Procter Brothers Ltd. Pest-Stop Multicatch trap – at £4.50 for a single unbaited trap, it’s more expensive than the Big Cheese but a far more robust affair; a grey box that can hold up to four mice, with an internal metal ‘bridge’ that flips up behind to stop them getting back out the way they came in. Advantages are that it doesn’t need to sit on a perfectly flat surface – and it can’t be accidentally tripped by a nosy cat. (Disadvantage is, unlike the Big Cheese, you can’t see at a glance whether it’s tripped… and if you forget to check it regularly, it soon stops being humane!).

Anyhow, yes! As soon as Mousie had munched the room-service portion of seeds provided, (well, I felt sorry for it), it succumbed to the lure of peanut butter and chocolate biscuit in the trap and this time we had it. A fine, big handsome mouse – well, I suppose it would be after several days of nothing to do but kip in the warm and pog out on seed and peanut butter – and we felt very guilty about evicting it into a freezing cold night to burrow into a heap of leaves in the woods. Am now confidently expecting it to start hanging round in our garden at night, hoping the Wow will catch it and bring it back in for another stay in Mouse Motel – bit like an habituated convict who doesn’t want to leave prison.

Meanwhile if you, like us, have an issue with uninvited ‘mouse-guests’ but can’t bear to kill them or leave them to the un-tender mercies of your cat, I can recommend the Pest-Stop Multicatch – it works, and it doesn’t hurt a bit.