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Your dog is not a doll (& neither is your cat)

Lessons in pet expenditure and pet health, with a little bit of financial advice thrown in!

I'm always amazed by the range of pet accessories, particularly dog accessories. There are instagram influencers and businesses promoting and selling pet accessories who have tens of thousands of followers.

Why are pet accessories so popular? Why do we want to dress up our pets? There's even a Dress Up Your Pet Day on 14 January and many people dress up their pets for Halloween. But it's not just these events that people dress up their pets for, it's happening on the regular.

Clothing for pets used to just consist of jumpers and the like to keep pets warm in winter or dry in wet weather. But now the market has expanded to include things like bandanas, crowns, eyewear, costumes, jewellery, wigs, bowties, hats, shoes, capes, bags and so on.

According to RSPCA UK, "functionality must always come before fashion and the clothing must have a clear welfare benefit when dressing animals".

"Do cats and dogs really love the attention or does the clothing craze say more about the owners' needs?"

There is even a popular social media trend of posting pictures of dressed up cats and dogs in unnatural scenarios (with some accounts having followers in the millions!). Speaking on this trend, RSPCA Australia Scientific Officer Bronwyn Orr states:

"Posting a picture of your cat and dog dressed up or with makeup on, for a lot of people that might seem really quite funny or cute. But it obviously goes completely against the dignity of the animal and their natural needs and instincts."

Some stats... people are spending a lot of money on pet accessories

It is estimated that Australians spend $13 billion on pets every year. A whopping $1.6 billion of that is on pet products and accessories! How does that compare to other expenditures?

  • It's over half of the estimated $2.6 billion spent on veterinary services.

  • It's just under half of the food expenditure (estimated to be over $3.9 billion per year).

  • It's slightly more than the $1.4 billion spent on healthcare products (eg flea and worm medications, supplements).

  • It's significantly less than expenditure on alternative healthcare treatments, which is only $0.3 billion.

When I consider those stats, I think $1.6 billion spent on pet products and accessories (food bowls, bedding, leads, litter trays, toys and clothing) is a lot of money, especially when it's a just under half of what's spent on food and just over half of what's spent on veterinary expenses.

So why are we dressing up our pets?

According to Associate Professor Pauleen Bennett, the head of La Trobe University's Department of Psychology and Counselling, "pets are much more part of the family now, so instead of dressing up our kids we're dressing up our pets... It feels warm and fuzzy to know that people are laughing at the same things you're laughing at, that they think your pet is cute.

We want to be heard, we want people to know that we exist. We want to be part of a community."

It could be that thing called anthropomorphism, attributing human characteristics to animals or objects. It helps us to feel more in control and connected to our environment.

Health implications of dressing up our pets

According to vets, dressing up pets can result in health concerns, such as stress, overheating and skin conditions.

Add to that that most pet accessories are made of unnatural fibres, plastics and dyes that can cause increase your pet's toxic load, causing your animal harm. Read about your pet's toxic load and why it's important here.

Speaking of pet health, there are better ways to spend your money...

Health starts on the inside

As Robert Urich said, "a healthy outside starts from the inside".

With that in mind, I ask you to consider this...

  • Is that latest on trend dog or cat accessory going to do anything for your pet's health or wellbeing? Is it going to provide them with happiness? With good health?

  • Do you dress up your animal for your animal, or for you?

  • Your dog and your cat are not dolls. You might think your dog or cat looks cool, but seriously, they don't give a shit about playing dress ups.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀


What do pets want?

Our cats and dogs want to feel love, have healthy tasty food, be able to do what dogs and cats naturally do. They don't want to be treated as a fashion accessory.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀


They want to be looked after, cared for. If they get ill, it's your responsibility to provide them with the necessary care so that they can get better. So on that note, let's chat about finances for a bit...

How much money are you spending on pet accessories? $30 for a scarf? $80 for a collar? $40 for a crown? $100 for a designer jumper? Every week, month, season, year?

Are these items for practical purposes eg keeping your short haired pet warm in winter? Or are they purely for fashion, to create cuteness? (Your pet is very cute without the dress-ups you know).

By foregoing a few of those “trendy” items, or by only purchasing practical items that your short haired pet actually needs say 2 coats / jumpers for the winter season) you could save enough for some professional care that helps them feel better. You could even spend some of that money on preventative care, to help your animal be as healthy as possible, for as long as possible.

Here are some ways that you can invest in your pet's health and happiness instead...

  • Invest in good, healthy, natural food.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

  • If you're drawn to buying toys and treats, buy toys that allow your domesticated wolf and wild cat to behave in a way that nature intended, and treats that support them nutritionally.

  • Treat your cat or dog like they are animals, not like dolls. Nurture them. Give them love. Give them space. Give them fresh air, sun light. Allow them to be who they are.

  • If they're unwell, care for them using safe, natural treatments (as a stand-alone or as a support if pharmaceutical medications are necessary).⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀


It's these things that your animal wants. It's these things that support your animal's physical and emotional wellbeing. It's these things that your animal needs to be healthy.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀


Because health (and happiness) starts from the inside, and is supported by what you do on the outside.

"We have to keep in mind … a dog is a dog, a cat is a cat, we have to respect that."

Still of the view that dressing up your animal is perfectly ok? If so, please consider the RSPCA Guidelines on pets wearing costumes.

Would you like to explore more ways that you can honour your cat or dog for who they are and help them have optimum health? Check out my Optimum Wellness for Pets course here.

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About Ruth

Ruth Hatten is a Holistic Animal Care Mentor with qualifications in animal naturopathy, pet nutrition and energy healing. She helps animals using holistic principles and natural remedies, including naturopathy, nutrition, plant medicine, energy and spirituality. Ruth believes that animals can thrive when they are supported in this way.​

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