Monday, October 18, 2010

Tips to Keep Pets Safe and Stress Free on Halloween

By Linda Cole

Halloween isn't a very pet friendly holiday. I had a dog who was scared to death of Halloween masks. Even though she knew it was me underneath the mask, she would become aggressive and vocal. My cat Milo also had one of his nine lives scared out of him by a rather large rubber rat one Halloween, and it took him a long time to recover from his fright. He checked under the covers every night for almost a month before he'd even think about crawling in bed with me.

We don't always stop to realize how certain holidays are seen by our pets, and Halloween is one that does give some pets a fright. Because of that large rubber rat and an audio tape of Halloween noises, Milo freaked out when the rat accidentally fell off the table. Unknown to us at the time, the evil laughs, creaking doors and screams on the tape had put him on edge. The falling rat sent Milo racing to take refuge in the bathroom. When I found him, his eyes were huge, his heart was racing and he was quivering from his frightful encounter.

Like some children, pets can be traumatized by what we consider to be fun, albeit scary, Halloween traditions. Pets don't understand why their home has suddenly been invaded by a stream of people knocking at the door or ringing the doorbell. Dogs who get excited when company comes can become stressed each time the doorbell rings. And to add to the confusion, what he sees standing in the doorway are creatures instead of people. Stress can cause a dog to develop diarrhea and the constant excitement can cause him to become anxious, which could turn into aggression if he becomes scared. Consider putting an excitable dog in a quiet room away from all the activities where he can stay calm.

As I learned from Milo, cats can also show the same kind of stress as dogs. Cats who are scared are apt to race out the opened door to escape what they see as a threat. Cats and dogs that are normally friendly towards strangers can become aggressive and fearful on Halloween. It's best to put them away from the action in a less stressful area of the home. If you take your dog for evening walks, Halloween might be a good night to skip. With all the extra activity on the streets and sidewalks, some dogs can become excited which can turn into aggression for even the most mild mannered dog when he encounters strange looking creatures in his normally quiet and safe territory. If you must walk your dog on Halloween night, keep him on a short leash to avoid unwanted confrontations.

Some dogs and cats enjoy wearing a scary or cute Halloween costume, and they love the attention they get from all the “guests” who show up at their door. Just remember to make sure your pet’s costume isn't too confining and they have full movement of their legs. The costume shouldn't be tight around their neck. Hats should be fitted so they can't fall down over the pet's eyes. If you do dress up your pet on Halloween, pay attention to make sure they want the costume on, and take it off if you see they don’t like it.

Many homes have Halloween candles, Jack-O-Lanterns and holiday decorations inside and outside the home. Keep pets safe by making sure all electrical cords are stashed out of the way, decorations are high enough that a dog or cat can't pull them down and eat or chew them, and candles or Jack-O-Lanterns can't be accidentally knocked over by wagging tails or inquiring paws or noses. And make sure they stay out of the candy bag, because chocolate is toxic to pets.

If you have outside cats, especially a black cat, they are safer inside on Halloween. Unfortunately, some people think it's fun to mistreat black cats, but all cats can be at risk. Outdoor cats should be confined inside starting about a week before Halloween until three or four days after the holiday. Pet shops and shelters are suspicious of people wanting black cats around Halloween and many shelters refuse to let anyone adopt black cats this time of year. Any outside pet, including dogs, are safer inside until after Halloween.

Halloween is a fun holiday for humans, but it can be a stressful time for pets, even for those who don't mind all the ruckus and spooky costumes. With a little advance planning, we can keep our pets stay while we have our fun.

Photo by istolethetv

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. That's one reason I'm glad I live in an area where kids don't go door-to-door. My dogs go nuts when anyone comes to the door as it is. I'd have to board them on Halloween if there was trick-or-treat here!

  2. Marie Anne -- yes, the constant door bell ringing and foot traffic on Halloween can be really hard on pets.

  3. My dogs go bonkers when the doorbell rings on Halloween night. Have to keep them locked up so they don't go insane.

  4. We avoid this stress for our dogs by taking them to a friends' farm for the evening. They are friendly and social, but they do find the situation frustrating, particularly because all those people pay no attention to them.

    Personally I think that the Halloween tradition is overdue for an upgrade.


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