By Nancy Dunham
When the doorbell rings on Halloween night, you don a mask and scurry to answer as a chorus of kids shout, “trick-or-treat,” and your pet happily watches from the sidelines. But just because your pet doesn’t act out during Halloween activities doesn’t mean it’s fun for them.
“Just because your pet tolerates it, doesn’t mean it enjoys it,” says Russell Hartstein, certified pet behaviorist, trainer and CEO of FunPawCare, located in Miami and Los Angeles. “All animals are different, but [in general] dogs and cats can potentially get very stressed when their routines are disrupted. Cats are especially ultrasensitive.”
Consider these Halloween safety tips to ensure your four-legged friends enjoy the holiday as much as everyone else does.
While all animals are vulnerable to harm during this holiday, black cats on Halloween are especially vulnerable. “Keep your black cat locked inside,” says author and animal trainer Nicole Ellis from Pasadena, California. “It’s Halloween and we don't know what the tricksters will be up to.”
In fact, pet experts say it’s wise to keep all of your cats, dogs and other pets inside to keep them safe. This also lessens the confusion and fright that the night’s activities can cause.
Invite guests to enjoy the festivities, but make sure they respect your pets’ boundaries. If you agree to allow trick-or-treaters or other guests to interact with your pet, proceed with caution.
Dog gates, like the Carlson Pet Products extra wide walk-thru gate, are great during holidays like Halloween. Gates allow your sociable pets to stay out of the fray but still see people.
Even if your pets are free to mingle with guests, remember that even the most sociable pet may be on edge during Halloween festivities. Guests should crouch down (not bend over the pet) so they are at eye level with the pet, hold out a hand for your pet to sniff, and watch her body language. If your pet approaches the guest, it’s okay to pet it. If she moves away, the guest should not follow and should leave the pet alone.
If your pet is okay with a quick pet, remind guests that reaching for a dog’s head can be threatening. The same is true for cats. “Reaching above or across a cat can be threatening and scary for some cats,” says Dr. Valarie Tynes, DVM, President of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and a veterinary services specialist with Ceva Animal Health. “I typically will hold my hand down if they act like they want to interact, and then scratch around a cat’s ears and neck.”
Sure, you can try to pet-proof your party, but the noise, lights, strangers and candy are tough to control. Ingesting chocolate, candy, decorations or other common party items could prove fatal in some cases, Hartstein notes.
A better idea may well be to sequester your pets for the duration of the party. Of course, make sure they have food, water and access to a cat litter box. You’ll want to allow your dog relief at various intervals, too. Quietly check on them or set up a pet camera to monitor their activities.
Make the room as comfortable for your pet as possible. You can soundproof the room by playing low, classical music. Put the pet bed that’s favored by your dog or cat in the room. You can also include places for your pet to hide, such as a safe cubbyhole or space under a desk.
Even if you separate your pet for most of your Halloween celebrations, you should keep candy and other treats out of reach. Chocolates and other party food and treats can make pets sick and can even be fatal in some cases. The best idea is to keep the treats in a container with a secure lid out of reach. And make sure kids and others don’t feed your pets or drop candy or wrappers.
It’s easy for a pet to slip out the door when you’re greeting guests. Keep pet ID tags that are up-to-date with your information, and be sure to use reflective harnesses or collars on your pets.
Whether you take your pet outside or not, it’s a great idea to put a reflective collar, such as the Sassy Dog reflective skull dog collar, or a dog harness on your pets during Halloween. For cats, you can try the Pawtitas glow in the dark cat collar to make your cat more visible.
When you walk your dog on Halloween night, consider using a reflective leash so that he’s visible to traffic and overexcited kids racing from house to house.
Halloween is fun, but it’s also confusing for pets. Keep everyone happy by respecting your pets’ preferences during the holiday.