Just because one Halloween blends into another for you doesn’t mean your pet takes it in stride.
Pets are used to routine, and noisy doorbell-ringing, costume-wearing strangers arriving at your door is unsettling for your dog, cat or other pet.
“Halloween is a scary time of year by design,” said veterinarian Jeffrey Levy of House Call Vet NYC. “But pets, who don’t understand the rituals, may end up being just plain frightened. That can put them in danger.”
Consider these seven tips from Levy and other animal experts to keep your pets safe and happy during the trick-or-treat season.
1. Provide a safe haven
Doorbells, loud voices and other sounds can cause a pet to panic and even bolt out of a house. Sure, you should always keep leashes on pets during Halloween, even when they’re inside. But go a step beyond that.
“Why not create a cozy haven with a closed door elsewhere in the house,” recommends Levy. “Put some white noise on the radio or TV, provide a toy, some familiar bedding, maybe even a pheromone plug-in.”
Of course you’ll want to provide food, water and places for elimination, too. Bailey Deacon, director of communications for the Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter, says when you enter the room to visit your pet, consider ditching part of any costume you have donned, especially masks that can confuse and frighten animals.
2. Keep pets away from sweets
Most people know that sweets can be dangerous and even fatal for dogs, cats and other animals. But young kids may not recognize the hazard and slip such goodies to pets. And there are other dangers, too. Pets may eat candy wrappers, ribbons and paper. The items can get stuck inside them and make them ill or even necessitate emergency surgery. Keep candy up high and explain to kids why sharing it can sicken the pet, says Deacon.
3. Bring your outdoor cat or other animal inside
Ideally you’ll want to do this before Halloween for several reasons including helping them acclimate.
“Outside cats [and other pets] should always be comfortable with [inside living]. What if a disaster occurs and they need to be confined?” says Julie Bank, president and CEO of the Pasadena (California) Humane Society and SPCA, “You need to have a plan.”
One vital element is to teach the pet that seclusion does not equal punishment. Bank rewards her dogs with treats and soft music whenever they willingly go into their crates.
“Now the dogs are so used to the routine that when they hear classical music, they automatically go to their crates,” she says. “The first two weeks we didn’t think they’d ever be trained, but they are because we took the time. You want to make the situation fun and not scary. You want them to think ‘Yay! I get to go to the bedroom or my crate!'”
Another safety precaution: Keep the outdoor pets inside for at least a few days after the holiday, too, just to avoid any post-holiday harm, says Levy.
4. Costume with care
There’s nothing wrong with putting a costume on your dog or pet if the animal is comfortable. But take care when selecting one, reminds Deacon. Pets must be able to easily see, breathe and walk in a costume, says Deacon. If they can’t, they can get hurt or might bite or scratch others. It’s a good idea to make sure the costumes doesn’t have buttons, bells, pins or other small items a pet can chew and swallow.
“We suggest a fun Halloween bandanna for pets that don’t enjoy wearing costumes,” says Deacon. Bank added a button that read “That’s Hot” to her dog’s lead a few years ago and said it was a Paris Hilton costume.
Another safety precaution: Don’t wait until the big day to try the costume on your pet. If you rush to put it on before guests arrive, you add an extra layer of stress to the animal. That can also cause your pet to bite, scratch or otherwise act out.
5. Keep your trick-or-treating pet on a short leash
Some pet owners know their dogs and other animals are social enough to join them as they accompany trick-or-treaters. It’s still a good idea to keep a close eye and hand on your dog, no matter how social, says Deacon.
“Keep in mind that lots of small children may approach and pet your dog,” she says. “While we hope their parents have taught them to ask first, with all the excitement of the holiday they may forget.” Fear and panic can cause dogs and cats to act out so watch them closely.
6. Stay away from candles
That sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to lose track of your pet’s exact whereabouts during the excitement of Halloween. Candles can easily burn a pet, or get knocked over by a pet, causing property damage or injuring the pet. If you have the option, choose battery-operated lights. If you’re out with your pet, stay vigilant around flames.
7. Flash that I.D.
Every holiday animal shelters are overrun with lost animals that have missing or incorrect identification. Although it’s the pet owners’ responsibility to find the animal – call the local shelters every day if this happens to you – animal control and shelter staff will try to find identification and return the animal to you. Make their jobs easier by tagging and/or microchipping your pet and keeping records current.
What tricks and treats do you have for caring for your pet at busy times of the year? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.