October 23, 2011

Dressing up your cats and dogs for Halloween

Fido and Fluffy steal the show at Halloween, because 'it's never not funny' seeing them rock their tiny costumes.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - Coming up with creative costumes each year for her 18 cats can be a bit challenging for Hilda Taylor.

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Judy, a long-haired Chihuahua owned by Karen Gallagher of North Yarmouth, as a bumblebee.

Courtesy photos

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Bingo the cat, in his blue wizard costume, belongs to Hilda Taylor of Portland. His costume pairs dog pajamas with a doll’s princess outfit.

Additional Photos Below


ARE YOU PLANNING to dress up your pet for Halloween? Snap a photo of your furry friend in costume prior to the big day and send it to features@pressherald.com no later than 5 p.m. Friday. Be sure to include your name, your pet's name and the town you live in, and we'll include it in an online slideshow at www.pressherald.com.


AS THE POPULARITY of Halloween costumes for pets grows, there have also been pet costume contests popping up around Maine. Here are a few of the ones scheduled around southern Maine this year:

• ONGOING -- Online Halloween Photo Contest, Fetch, 195 Commercial St., Portland. Fetchportland.com; Facebook.com/fetchportland; 773-5450. Fetch presents its 12th Annual Howlaween Pet Photo Contest. To enter, post a pet photo on Fetch's Facebook page. Prizes (not yet determined) will be awarded. There will also be in-store trick-or-treating on Halloween day.

• ONGOING -- Online Howl-O-Ween Pet Costume Contest, Petco, various locations around Maine. Petco.com. From now until Halloween, there will be weekly winners -- for both cats and dogs -- and a grand prize (undetermined) will be awarded. Some stores will have in-store photo booths as well.

• THURSDAY -- Seventh Annual Halloween Party, 6 to 7:30 p.m., Planet Dog Company Store, 211 Marginal Way, Portland. Planetdog.com; 347-8606. The free party includes the Best Homemade Costume Contest, with first prize being a Bowser Bed worth $100. Other prizes as well.

• SATURDAY -- Howloween!, 2 to 4 p.m., Pet Life, Northgate Shopping Center, 91 Auburn St., Portland. 797- 0779. Games and a costume contest, with prizes going to the best owner-pet costume combo. Also, a bake sale to benefit H.A.R.T. -- Homeless Animal Rescue Team of Maine -- will be held.

So sometimes, Taylor has to look for ideas and costumes in places she'd rather not talk about.

Like when she's describing the blue wizard costume she whipped up one year for Bingo, one of her kitties.

"They are basically pajamas for a D-O-G," said Taylor, who runs a business in Portland called Urban Catsitters. When asked why she launched into a spelling lesson, she said, "Because Bingo is sitting right here."

Apparently, what he doesn't know won't hurt him, as Bingo looked proud and even a little smug posing in his wizard outfit.

Another of Taylor's cats, Rubin, also seems to enjoy posing in his Halloween garb.

She's got a photo of him with a tiny farmer's hat balanced precariously on his head. She didn't even need to fasten it.

"He didn't move. He loves to be photographed, and he doesn't seem to mind dressing up if he knows there's a great picture involved," said Taylor.

Every year, it seems more and more people are expanding the boundaries of Halloween by dressing up their cats and dogs along with themselves and their children. Or sometimes, instead of themselves and their children.

And more and more pet stores and animal organizations are holding Halloween pet costume contests, so proud owners can show off their creativity and their kitties or canines.

To find the reason for all this excitement about animals dressed up for Halloween, all you have to do is look at a picture of Bingo. Or Rubin.

Or any other costumed critter.

"It's never not funny," said Kathy Palmer, owner of the Fetch pet supply store on Commercial Street in Portland. "Halloween is for families and for kids, but for a few minutes, when they're dressed up, the animals get all the attention."

Palmer and other animal lovers say it's important to be sure not to put anything on your animal that restricts movement or breathing, or otherwise causes discomfort.

By following those guidelines, you'll find that pets will put up with a lot in terms of dressing up for the amusement of their owners.

"My dogs are therapy dogs (at Maine Medical Center in Portland), so they're dressed up a lot anyway," said Lori Sirois of Portland about her two pugs, Sissy and Puggy. "I think they see me coming and just say, 'OK, let's get this over with.' "

Sirois has won a few costume contests with her dogs over the years, and she says it helps to be handy with a needle and thread. She often gets her inspiration from children's costumes, then adapts those ideas to her pugs.

One year, for instance, she dressed up Sissy and Puggy as Raggedy Ann and Andy, with red yarn for hair and matching outfits. This year, she made lion costumes for them -- who says pugs aren't fearsome?

And she's already got an idea for next year. You know those Anne Geddes photos of babies in pea pods or flowerpots? Sirois has some pug-sized flowerpots for Sissy and Puggy to sit in, and she'll create flowery costumes with fabric petals fastened to the dogs.

"I'm going to call them pug-tunias," she said.

If you can't think of a costume or aren't handy with a thread and needle, you can go to the store or online and choose from hundreds, if not thousands, of costumes.

One year, Taylor dressed one of her cats -- a white one named Cleveland -- in a dog costume she purchased. It was supposed to be a knight, but Taylor thought the shiny purple outfit made Cleveland look more like Prince, the singer.

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Additional Photos

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Karen Gallagher’s dog Fawn, wearing a spider costume

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Hilda Taylor’s kitty Rubin, who always wears a bandana anyway, adds a doll hat to become a tiny, furry farmer.

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Cleveland, whose owner is Hilda Taylor of Portland, is wearing a dog costume that is supposed to evoke a knight – but Taylor thinks it makes him look more like the singer Prince.

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Lori Sirois of Portland brought her two “pugs in sheep’s clothing,” Puggy and Sissy, to a Halloween party for pets and their owners at Planet Dog last year.

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Ashlee Sawyer of Portland with her “surfer dude” dog, Oliver, at last year’s Planet Dog party.


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