Six tips for making this Halloween scary good for your pets

Don’t be frightened, but Halloween is just around the corner. So, if you’re planning on getting your cat or dog into the spirit of the spooky season, now is the time. If your pets feel comfortable, you could dress them up in a simple (or not-so-simple) costume, or skip the costume altogether and celebrate with some ghoulish DIY toys, haunted pet houses or a fun pet bed.

To get your pet ready for Allhallows Eve, we’ve gathered some great advice from two members of the Best Friends team who are pros at helping pets feel comfortable in costumes, along with some ideas for celebrating the holiday costume-free.

When costuming pets, take it slow. This advice comes from Lori Fusaro, Best Friends photographer in Los Angeles, who often makes cats and dogs at the Best Friends Lifesaving Center in Los Angeles feel comfortable in all kinds of fun get-ups.

“I bring out the costume way before the day they will actually wear it and always let them sniff the costume first by leaving it out where they can see and smell it,” says Lori. “For dogs, I’ll drape it on them or put it in their bed. For cats the same things apply, but I also spray catnip on it.”

Attention cat adopters. Erin Miner, marketing manager at the Best Friends Lifesaving Center in Atlanta, has put pets at the center in some epic outfits. She has some words of advice for the feline crew. Some cats (more often than dogs) are simply unwilling to wear a costume, and Erin says you’ve got to be OK with that. In fact, she puts costumes on cats only after she knows they’re really relaxed. (If your cat isn’t into costumes, keep reading. We’ve got you covered.)

Brown dog wearing a fabric tulle collar

Treats help everything. Erin suggests having treats on hand for your pet while you’re costuming them. And why not? They deserve a few treats just for being good sports. Plus, treats may be just the trick to get them into the costume in the first place.

“A lot of the dogs think putting on the costume is a really fun game, so I try to distract them with toys or treats to keep them from chewing on the costume,” says Erin.

If the costume fits … Your pet’s comfort, says Lori, should be paramount. “Too big will feel strange to your pet. Too small can be stressful or even harmful.” Be sure to choose a costume that’s lightweight enough so your pet can move and simple enough that it doesn’t inhibit your pet from seeing or communicating with you.

Start simple. Lori and Erin are big fans of keeping pet costumes minimal. “T-shirts are great,” says Lori. “You can even use human tees. Bandanas are another easy way to dress up your cat or dog. Wigs are always my favorite for costumes. Glasses come in a big second. I love just playing around and seeing what works. I rarely buy pet costumes because I like to create my own.”

Two dogs wearing wigs

If your cat or dog feels at home wearing a costume, you could try taking it up a notch with a head-to-tail ensemble. How cute does Tuggy look all dressed up like a sailor?

Got a favorite sports team? Dress your pet up in the team’s jersey. Check out this L.A. Dodgers fan (at the center in Atlanta, no less).

Cat wearing a L.A. Dodgers shirt and sunglasses

Use a unique dog or cat bed instead. Halloween is a great time to invest in a fun pet bed for your cat or dog. Not only will it last long after the witching hour is over, but it’s an easy way to create Instagram-worthy Halloween pics. Talk about stress-free pet costuming: Here, Piccola gets into the spirit (well, technically it’s a shark) while simply relaxing in her bed.

Small dog in a shark bed

How to take frighteningly good Halloween photos of your pets

Give them Halloween-themed toys (and treats). Take a trip to your local pet store and stock up on Halloween-inspired toys. If you’re a DIY person, you could also make a ghost cat toy, fashioned from cut-up old sheets tied with string (and including a little cotton and catnip for its head). A word of caution: Make sure that your spooky toys are safe for your pet.

Cat playing with a homemade toy that looks like a ghost

As for treats, your favorite pet store probably has them, and there are plenty of great online recipes for homemade ones, too. In fact, why not make or buy some toys and treats for pets at your local shelter so they can enjoy Halloween, too?

Make a haunted house. Target’s pet haunted houses flew off the shelves this year, but have no fear. Take a look at what’s available at your local pet store, or fashion a DIY haunted house from a cardboard box, dressed up with some paint and a little creativity.

Two kittens playing on a haunted house toy

For a crazy Halloween photoshoot, you could even create a cool backdrop to go with your pet’s costume. Here’s a kitten superhero who can leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Kitten dressed up as Wonder Woman

And how’s this for a scary good idea? Perhaps October 31 is your day to adopt a pet. Now, that’s a Gotcha Day you won’t forget!

Adopt a pet near you this Halloween

Photos by Melissa Lipani, Lori Fusaro, Sarah Ause Kichas, Erin Miner, Kelli Harmon and Nicole Hamilton