Spokane resident Shirley Alexander has been dressing up her cats, Chloe and Oliver, since kittenhood.
For this Halloween, the felines are each donning a bandana and a witch hat, but the costumes change from year to year.
“They seem to like it,” Alexander said. “They are little hams.”
Apparently, Alexander is not alone in this ritual. There have been at least four Halloween pet costume contests around Spokane since last weekend, including Tuesday’s benefit for SpokAnimal at Excel Grooming Salon.
A National Retail Federation survey found that 15 percent of the 170 million Americans who plan to celebrate the holiday today will also dress up their pets – spending more than $370 million on that undertaking.
Katie Kelig, 23, plans to join the crowd this year. Penny, her 5-year-old dachshund, will be dressed as a green fairy princess.
“I don’t think she minds,” said Kelig, who is a Spokane County animal protection assistant. “It’s not her everyday thing, but it’s just wings, so it’s comfortable enough.”
And yes, Kelig plans to take Penny out trick-or-treating.
Dressing up in themed, shiny or ornate costumes, however, is not for all animals.
“Some pets love the attention and wearing a costume and posing for a picture is in their nature,” said Nancy Hill, president of the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service Hope Foundation. “Other animals can be stressed, frightened or feel constrained.”
People should leave the decision up to the pets, experts say. If the cats, dogs, hamsters, hedgehogs or guinea pigs are willing, here are some of their tips:
•Halloween garb should not constrict movement or hearing, or impede a pet’s ability to breathe, bark or meow.
•If your furry friend seems distressed, you’ll want to ditch the costume.
•Make sure your pet’s costumes don’t have any small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces the animal could choke on.
Diane Swiader, Excel Grooming Salon co-owner, said Tuesday’s benefit, costume contest included, was her first, but she planned to grow the event in years to come.
Three dogs attending the gala were destined to be contenders: a Chihuahua dressed as a taco, a Rottweiler in a hippo getup wearing a pink tutu and a black Lab sporting a bumblebee costume.