Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Quick & Easy DIY Cat Onesie (For Over-Grooming Kitties)

While I don't believe putting your cat in a onesie is a long-term solution for over-grooming, I've definitely found there are times when it can help, and save you BOTH a little sanity.

Since I first posted pics of Lily in a hastily-modified baby onesie almost two years ago, I've had a bunch of requests for a tutorial.

This was Lily less than 10 minutes after being put in her first onesie.

This is a ridiculously easy DIY (all you need are scissors!), so here's a quick rundown, plus instructions for putting it on your cat when you're done.

First, find the smallest zipper onesie you can:

The zipper is very important; I've tried one with snaps before, and they just don't work. (You cat can get a leg through the gaps.)

Lily is quite small and only weighs about 9 pounds, but the 0-3 month size is still pretty big on her:

 So if you have a tiny cat, look for a preemie size. Otherwise, this one should be fine for up to a 15 pound kitty, easy.

Once you have your onesie, check to see if it has a stitched zipper catch on the leg:

This prevents the zipper from going too far down. If your onesie *doesn't* have one, you'll need to stitch one on yourself. Nothing fancy; just run the thread around 6 or 8 times.

Now cut off the onesie feet BELOW that stitch line. 

I cut mine pretty short, so feel free to leave more on if you want more coverage on the back legs. (And you can always trim off more later.)

Now, with the zipper side up, cut a small slit on the left side of the zipper, just above the crotch. (You don't need to cut it quite as far up as mine.)  Make sure you only cut through the top layer of fabric.

Flip the onesie over, and continue that cut through the crotch and up the back side, like this:

Now cut out a square or triangular shape, like this:

Since the onesie goes on your cat backwards, this is actually the belly side, so that flap is how much of your cat's belly you want exposed. I advise starting with a much smaller amount, since you can always trim off more later. (I did this in a hurry, so it's far from perfect.)

Flip the onesie back over, and it should look something like this:

And here's the back again - which will be the front on your cat:

You can cut the sleeves shorter, if you like, but I prefer to just roll them up. That way you can extend them if your cat tends to over-groom her arms, like Lily.

And that's it!

So you've got a cat onesie. 

Now how do you get the cat in it?

If you have a relatively mellow cat, this is quite easy. I've put onesies on Lily by myself many times, but for the sake of the photos, I'll have John assisting.

First, lay your cat on her back on the back of a recliner or couch (or anything padded)  - or have someone hold her on her back, like this:

Start by sticking her back legs through the leg holes,

 ...  then carefully pull her tail through the crotch slit. 

Next stick her front paws through the arms:

Now, with a firm grip on either side of the onesie edges, flip your kitty over and set her on a table:

Don't drop those edges!

Don't worry; she'll forgive you. 


Now button the neck snap, and zip up the back. Stick your hand in there, though, to prevent the zip from catching any fur:

When you're done, the back should look like this:

This one makes Lily's legs look ridiculously short:

I had a hard time getting a picture of the back while she was standing, so John decided to help:
 Thanks, John. 

As you can see, though, her belly is exposed through to the top of the tail, which means she can visit the litter box without any fabric getting in the way.


Which reminds me: because the onesie goes around the back legs, expect your kitty to walk a little funny for a while. ("Have those cameras ready, sports fans!") And if you have a high-walled litter box, odds are she'll be reluctant to step over it, so watch out for "accidents"!  
(Ask me how I know. >.<)

But how do you stay mad at DAT FACE?

So, yeah, just to be safe I recommend taking the onesie off your cat for a few hours, at least once a day. We've been alternating with an inflatable collar or a Thunder Shirt, which works since Lily's hot spot is on her back this time:
(In the past her bad spot was always on a leg, so the Shirt didn't help.)

If your cat's problem area can be covered by a Thundershirt , then I highly recommend it. They run very small, though, so if your cat has a big belly, it may not fit.

I don't think the Thunder Shirt has helped with Lily's over-grooming (she just licks it, too), but at least she seems a little happier/more active in it versus the collar or the onesie.

And finally, I realize there are many, MANY treatments for over-grooming, so rest assured that John and I have tried almost all of them. We believe Lily's is mostly caused by a poultry allergy, but a stressful clinic stay seems to be the culprit for this latest flare-up.

All that to say: please don't mistake this DIY as a health recommendation for your own pets. It's just a tool I've found useful on occasion, like when we're waiting for new allergy meds to kick in, or trying to get an especially bad spot to heal. I hope it helps some of you, too.

Here's to healthy kitties!


Come see ALL of my craft projects on one page, right here!


  1. Onesies on a kitty is ridiculously CUTE!

  2. My cat just had a cyst removed on his back and the vet recommended a baby onesie as well. I didn't want to spend the money AND I have in my possession a large stash of ribbing so I sewed a tube and cut leg holes in it and hemmed the neck and bottom. It only had to cover the stitches on Servo's back so he didn't get at them. He hated it every single minute he had to wear it, but it worked. Best of health to you and Lily!

  3. that cat has universes in her eyes.... so pretty.

    i am glad you have found a solution that helps. my husband and i have resorted to disposable diapers for our dog on occasion, whatever works, right?

  4. Aw, Lily is a Star! What a beautiful kitty girl. 😸
    It's very nice of you to share this. I'm sure it will help many kitty parentals who are facing the same problem. And for those of us who aren't, we get great kitty visuals and a really strong urge to try to put our kitty into costumes. But I won't. I value my life too much. My kitty Calpurnia is not quite as laid back as Lily.

  5. What a beautiful kitty! I'm glad she seems to be having some improvement. I'm curious - that's what we up here in the Great White North would call a sleeper - a onesie is a shirt that comes down over the bum and snaps over the crotch - no legs! Regional difference maybe?

    1. Isn't it trippy how some things are like that, I still get flack for my "thongs" and my "kangaroo". I'm in Alberta and I've always called the legless ones diaper shirts, where as onesies and sleepers are the long ones and the term is basically interchangeable, except that I tend to think of sleepers as heavier, in terry or fleece. Kind of the prelude to the poly fleece footy pajamas, where as the lighter cotton daytime wear ones tend to be the onesies. :)

    2. Ok, I know that thongs = flip-flops, but what the heck is a kangaroo (outside of the marsupial, of course)?

    3. From BC, and a kangaroo to me is a sweatshirt with a pouch-like pocket on the front

    4. And when I say pouchlike...the hands go in from the sides, not the top. That would be silly. I'm sure everyone has them; you just don't call them kangaroos.

    5. I've always heard them called 'hoodies' here in the mid-west US

    6. We also call them (hoodies) "bunnyhugs" in the Great White North (I think mostly Saskatchewan calls them that).

    7. Thank you so much for the "bunnyhug"! I'll take that word. It's mine now. :D

    8. Yup. I'm stealing "bunnyhug" as well!

    9. I'm English, and I always called the legless ones vests, and the long legged ones babygrows :-)
      Lily is such a pretty girl, I'm glad you've found something to help her.

      ~ Rachel CrazyMum ~

  6. Not sure if you're tried this for stress relief, but if not I'd recommend trying a Feliway Diffuser. One of our cats has some bladder/UT problems that seem to be stress related and my vet recommended trying Feliway and it has definitely helped her! She's a high-stress kitty (somewhat skittish, hides from loud noises and strangers), but the diffuser has definitely helped her calm down a little bit.

    It's possible if her hotspot is stress related that Feliway may help.

  7. These photos win the internet. They've cheered me up no end - Lily in a onesie is the cutest thing I've ever seen. Dat face though! I've never even met her and I adore her!

  8. Awwwww -- such beautiful Lilly pictures! That girl just cannot take a bad picture. Thanks for the DIY!
    Maureen S

  9. The things we do for our kitties. My 17 year olds are currently wainting impatiently for me to visit the grocery store so I can mix up some wet food with pumpkin to combat their constipation. (Come to think of it, I'm out of Citrucel to combat my own!) My female had a spot that she worried at excessively for a short while, but I've no idea what caused it, and it hasn't re-curred, so I hope we won't be facing any worse on that front. My pair are just old. >^_^<

  10. Now that I have stop giggling at Lovely Lily and her onesie...I'll bite. How do you know about "accidents" in a onesie?
    And no, you can not stay mad at Dat Face! Really - those lovely blue eyes would make even the most grumpy person smile.
    Thanks for sharing Lily's goofiness with us! What does Tonks think of Lily's wardrobe?

  11. Im glad you guys have found something that works to help Lilly! and Oh my word so pretty! <3 I am going to keep this in mind i have two cats a kitten and an adult cat who don't seem to over groom and for that I am thankful but knowing my brothers cat it would be happy to wear a onsie for the sake of wearing it.. she is the melowest lovey cat ever and likes to crawl up your face to be as close to you as possible..kinda freaks out you at five am when you wake up wondering why someone is trying to kill you with a warm brick to the face...its just snowball.. cant sleep in a lap must be the chest nearest the face..i think she is secretly psycho lol.. then you wonder who opened the door and let the cat in.. DUN DUN DUUUUN (i swear sometimes that cat has thumbs and opens the door herself)

  12. What a beautiful Kitty!! And so well behaved to let you put that on her! My poor Oscar has been working away at his legs and belly for a bit now. He is a monster size cat so I don't even know if I can get something to fit him. I also don't think I would be able to even get this on him. He would never let me hold him like that to work it on him. But this is wonderful and very helpful

  13. OMG, Lily is so adorable in that onesie. The shot from her back showing the zipper going all the way up is so precious!

  14. I put a onesie on my cat when he had a lump removed and wouldn't leave his stitches alone. He looked adorable. :)

  15. Someone said Cat with thumbs- Reminded me of Mercedes Lackey's S'kitty stories. Cats with thumbs- in outer space......

    1. Link to Skitty Stories on amazon:

  16. I don't think I had previously realized JUST how tiny Lily is! She's so adorable! I hope she gets to feeling better soon

  17. So adorable! I always love Lily posts!

  18. Karlie, I was going to comment on that too. I think it's a parent/non-parent thing. Baby onsies as you think of them, long t-shirts with crotch snaps, are sold labeled as onsies by at least one national brand and are commonly called onsies by parents in at least TX, OK, & FL. In addition to you up north, so I don't think it's regional.

    I think what happened is that started selling adult footie pyjamas and people called them onsies because it is a term they'd heard for baby clothes, recognized the footie jammies as baby clothes, and slapped the wrong name on them because admittedly, it sounds better than adult footie pyjamas, adult sleep& plays, or adult sleepers.

    So, I hate to tell you this, Jen, but I don't think anyone calls that article of clothing a "onsie" of we're talking about buying baby clothes. :-/ I know I expected the t-shirt&crotch snapping kind and was surprised to see a sleeper in the tutorial.

  19. I thought I was smart in buying a footless onesie with snaps, but Pete just put his feet through the holes like you said. It's back to Goodwill in search of a zippered onesie! Pete pulls big chunks of hair out by the roots on his back, so we really need a good solution. I'll have to find a picture of him in the old "coat of shame"..... :)

  20. While I think the onesie mod is far cuter, if anyone is looking for a new sew/cut version, there are a couple of "post surgical pet garments" out there. Unfortunately, children sized clothes doesn't always fit some breeds (eg Shelties, the torsos are too long for the depth of chest, unless they make extra tall onesies now- I've looked in awhile)

  21. these are footie pajamas...a onesie is a tshirt that snaps between the crotch :)

  22. I've always heard these called "onesies" as well, at least in casual conversation, even if they aren't sold that way. I don't think it really matters, though, it's clear enough what you're talking about. Also, REALLY adorable.

    Our recently-deceased lady cat (RIP) haaated her thundershirt--she'd just go all stiff-legged and pretend she couldn't stand anymore. Just flop and roll. The instructions insist that they'll outgrow the flop but never in our experience. It did help a bit with her storm anxiety, or else she just didn't run and hide because she refused to acknowledge her legs.

  23. I tried that on my cat Stevie when she kept on biting her stitches from an operation on her abdomen. The collar stressed her out so much I couldn't stand it. She would panic and struggle frantically to get out of the collar and hurt herself. She wasn't super happy with her onesie as well, but a lot more relaxed and she started eating and drinking again.
    Adding to the onesie discussion, isn't this actually a romper? (^^)

  24. I love how Tonks is in the background of a lot of the pictures seeming to enjoy poor Lily's discomfort. And even if she doesn't enjoy it, at least there's amusement in this strange activity right? :)

  25. Thank you so much for the tutorial, very helpful as my cat overgrooms as well. We call them onsies here in Australia, but I think they're sold under different names.

  26. Thank you for this idea. We have been struggling with over grooming, and the collar the vet gives you requires so much supervision. He was just licking off all the topical meds. No matter how many allergens we eliminated from his diet, the raw areas kept coming back. We tried the onesie out of desperation. We put it on at night, when no one can watch him. Then during the day, we let him out under supervision to get sun on those areas. The combination really helps, and he doesn't even fight the onesie anymore. He manages to keep the fabric clean and still use the litter box ok. However, the sores drain into the fabric, so we are washing one every day. Anyone who doesn't own their own washer and dryer should consider getting more than 2 for starters. My friends' only objection was that I couldn't find a more dignified pattern for a male cat than pink owls. Of course, the cat wants to kill anyone who puts clothing on him, I highly doubt the colors matter. Thanks for sharing about this. I was starting to feel like I was doing something wrong to make my cat so anxious, because nothing the vets recommended seemed to help. It helps to know, via commenters, that so many other people struggle to help their cats through this.

  27. I was looking for this post and I'm glad I found it--it gave me an excellent idea for my own poor suffering cat.

    Luka's a baby compared to Lily (she just turned over a year old this past November), and her problem isn't overgrooming--it's scratching. The poor thing had a bad reaction to fleas brought in by a baby kitten we rescued in late September, and even now, in January, she's been scratching at the worst possible place: the very front of her neck, and under her chin. Under her chin isn't so bad, and she seems to be willing to let that one heal up fine. But the spot on her neck is horrendous. It's officially gotten too big for the dreaded e-collar to sit on and protect.

    At my wit's end, and even beginning to wonder about if it's possible to get just one foot on a cat declawed, I remembered Lily and the onesie.

    While I've got some gauze, some topical spray to put on it, and I've got a product called Vet Wrap on the way in the mail (to hold it all securely in place to keep scratching legs from getting to it), I also bought a cheap baby turtleneck. My hope is that it's going to cover her enough that even if she scratches at it, between the Vet Wrap and the turtleneck, she won't be able to get to anything, and she can hopefully just let it heal back up! And after that, I have the distinct feeling that I'm going to have to buy some Soft Paws to cover her nails to keep her from going back at it.

    Until then, here's hoping that Luka and Lily both stay spot-free in the future!

    1. Many years ago I had a kitten get a huge reaction to a flea collar - she had scabs all around the neck and she scratched it a lot.

      I cut the elastic top off of a men's athletic sock and made a wrap for the neck, so that even if she did claw at it some she wouldn't open up the wounds. Worked pretty well. These days an athletic sweat wristband might work too.

  28. I was looking for ideas for my cat, because the inflatable collar just keeps her aggravated and sleeping all the time. I was going to retrofit a baby onesie I got at the dollar store, but I will be going back to get the longer footie pj's instead. What an awesome idea! Thanks and hope Lily's over grooming gets better.

  29. Thanks for the idea. Does your cat's legs ever get bound up the in the arms? Also, have you had any issues with the litter box or is the space you cut good enough to keep anything off the cloth. Thanks.

    1. The arms thing, yes; it helps to roll the sleeve cuffs up a bit, if you can.

      The butt flap cut-out is large enough for the litter box - Lily never got anything on the onesie - BUT, you may find your cat avoids the box more when s/he's wearing the onesie, because it *feels* like it's in the way, even when it's not. We always try to give Lily frequent monitored breaks just for this reason.

  30. My poor cat can't eat with the plastic collar on her head, and I need a way to keep her from licking her stitches! Also, as a semi outdoor cat, I think this cat outfit would work way better at helping her heal from spaying. THANKS!

  31. I know this is a very late comment, but thanks soooo much for this! My kitty had emergency surgery last week (the doofus swallowed a needle) and is confined to a very small dog crate while the stapled incision heals. Of course, he chewed out one staple and was irritating the others. The cone of shame did not work in the small space, and we had trouble finding one small enough for him. I had made one of these for another of my cats who was overgrooming and I stuck Sebastian in it as a desperate last resort. It works perfectly! He hasn't touched the incision in days and can still move around the crate and eat unlike when he was wearing the cone. The only issue was that he is a long cat and I discovered he needed a 9 month old size so it didn't slip off his shoulders. He did have a temper tantrum when I first put it on, but after an hour or so he barely notices it. I can't recommend this enough and my vet says it's the smartest thing she has seen for post surgery recovery. Thanks so much!

  32. I thought this information was useful, at first. I appreciate the effort that went into publishing this project. Thank you for sharing. However, I have to say this did not work well for me.

    I purchased a 0-3 months onesie based on this recommendation and followed the given instructions. Unfortunately, the onesie was not the right size for my 11 lb cat. The issue seems to be that the length of the onesie is not long enough. I even put the onesie on my cat's back, checking that the length was accurate before making the cuts in the fabric and going ahead with the project. The length seemed fine... until it was on him.

    I would suggest for people who attempt this to try the onesie on their cat before making any cuts into the fabric. This way, if it doesn't work out for you you won't be stuck with something that you cannot return for a full refund. Please don't trust the accuracy of this based on the weight of your cat alone.

    I am going to look into Cover Me by Tui. The reason why I didn't do that option right away is because it's more expensive and most pet stores don't sell them, so it needs to be shipped. My cat is experiencing anxiety and allergies simultaneously and over-grooms himself. He has three spots in particular on him, two on his legs, near his paws. In the case of my cat his legs need to be covered right to his paws, so they get a chance to heal before we find a more permanent solution to his ailment, to solve it from the root cause.

    Any further suggestions are welcome! Hope others find what works well for them!

  33. Thanks for this guide. Really useful. My cat came home with a proper cat one from the vet, but that got dirty very quickly so I needed one to change her into. It actually fits better than the vet one! She doesn't over-groom but just had surgery and has to wear it when unattended for ten days. She is a very small cat so has a preemie one. I got second hand clean onesies. People with babies often have loads and sometimes other new mums don't want a second hand one, but a cat doesn't mind! I asked on an internet forum and had a pile within fuve minutes. She looks very cute, but is very unimpressed!

  34. My cat has been over grooming and has ripped out so much hair and caused scabs so have just put her in her onsie. One question, she doesn't have a litter box and does her business outside. Is it safe to let her outside in the onsie? We will remove it for a few hours a day (supervised) but would be good to be able to leave the cat flap open for her to do her thing.

    1. If your kitty only goes outside for short periods of time, then yes, I think you're safe to leave it on her. I'd be more concerned if she was outside all day.

  35. Thank you so much for posting this! My cat has to wear a Freestyle Libre glucose monitor for the next 14 days, and this is going to be a lifesaver! We tried going with just a regular onesie, and he keeps taking it off.


Please be respectful when commenting; dissenting opinions are great, but personal attacks or hateful remarks will be removed. Also, including a link? Then here's your html cheat sheet: <a href="LINK ADDRESS">YOUR TEXT</a>