When Cheddar says “cheese” for the camera, you’ll notice he’s often wearing clothes — but this is not just a feline fashion statement.
The 6-year-old orange tabby from Chicago, Illinois, has had consistent skin issues since he came into owner Nykol Tolstych‘s life, so the fashion designer came up with a creative way to keep him comfortable.
“[Cheddar is] always scratching and licking himself until he bleeds,” says Tolstych, who works in a real estate office by day. “After multiple vet visits over the years I finally found a vet that was able to do a blood test, which revealed that he has 17 allergens.”
Sadly, daily allergy injections, steroids and antibiotics all failed to help Cheddar get better and, at times, he has needed stitches to repair his self-inflicted wounds.
“So to keep him from tearing his skin up, I keep him covered in clothing and a cone,” says Tolstych, who first told her story to Metro.co.uk.
The clothes protect the cat and also the earth, since they’re made from scraps of projects she has fashioned for humans (and sold online on Etsy).
“He often matches the clothes in my store, or garments I have designed for clients!” she says in an email to PEOPLE. “It’s a fun way to recycle fabric and make use of scraps that would otherwise go to waste.”
And while many cats would say, ‘Get meow-t of this thing!’ — not this guy. He’s totally okay with being in fashion.
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“Cheddar is extremely docile and gentle, so he doesn’t mind the clothes at all,” she says. “The clothes go on after I’ve changed his bandages, so it is similar to changing a baby’s diaper — sometimes he gets fussy but he ends up snuggling in a blanket right after.”
The flannel-wearing kitty is healthy and active otherwise, she adds, noting he likes to play fetch and follows the 23-year-old “around the house waiting to be pet and loved.”
Speaking of following, due to the positive reaction to Cheddar’s threads on social media — one tweet received over 160,000 likes — Tolstych’s hands are now working faster than ever.
“I have been working all week to design and produce my first run of small pet clothes — they will be available on my store at etsy.com/shop/nykolstitch sometime this weekend,” she says. “I LOVE doing custom work — pet or human — and can be contacted through my website at nykolstitch.com!”