Most pet owners know that a bit of preparation and common sense go long ways in making holiday celebrations safe events for our pets. This applies to Halloween, just as any other day we alter our normal daily routine. The basic things to think about include costumes, treats, decorations and visitors.
Additional concerns some of us have around the Halloween holiday are outdoor pets, especially cats and more specifically black cats. I feed a small group of semi-feral cats daily. Of this group, two are black. Unfortunately, sadistic humans use Halloween as an excuse to inflict harm on these innocent animals.
One of the black cats I feed, I rarely see. Sometimes, I see him eating breakfast if it's not quite daylight. He sneaks in, eats and sneaks out. However, I have been able to trap him twice in the past. So, if I can catch him, someone else might also. Thankfully, however, it's quite a chore and requires a good deal of patience. The second black cat is a bit easier. He'll go wherever the food is. Although a human could not readily pick him up, as he runs if you get too close, he likely could be enticed into a trapping situation with the right food.
So, what to do? Every year just before Halloween, I trap these cats and put them out of site in a safe place for a few days. I think it's in their best interest and it gives me a bit of peace of mind, knowing some human monster cannot capture them on Halloween.
In the past many shelters simply refused to put black cats up for adoption around Halloween. I read an article yesterday from a reliable source that this policy is gradually changing. To keep from possibly denying a black cat a forever home, the animals are being made available around Halloween. However, as an additional precaution, the application for adoption includes a more thorough vetting process of individuals who want to adopt. Some shelters now require several personal references from people who can attest to what type of pet owner he or she believes the applicant will be.
I think this is a good idea and agree that it's something which should be done year-round as a standard policy. I know from personal experience that the majority of pet owners I meet are responsible, loving and kind toward animals. I also know from personal experience that a few people in this world do not and cannot properly care for a pet and should NEVER be approved in the adoption process. Thankfully, the procedure most shelters have in place now weeds those individuals out quickly.
Now, let's get back to the ordinary chores of making Halloween safe and fun for our pets. First, let's consider costumes.
Just as you do with your human children, make sure any costumes and accessories your pet wears are fire-resistant.
Also, just as you do with human children, make sure your pet's costumes have reflective surfaces if he or she will be out after dark. If the costume does not come that way, you can add reflective tape.
If your pet is like my Dylan, a costume may be out of the question. Dylan obviously dislikes clothes, except when he puts something on to go to work with me. "Work," being one of his favorite words, because he knows it means he's going somewhere to play with another dog. (Remember that he is my PR Director.)
Back to costumes, obviously we don't want our pet to suffer just because we think he or she is the cutest pumpkin in the patch. If your pet shows obvious stress when dressed bypass the costume this year.
We need to make sure our pets do not have access to areas where lit jack-o-lanterns, candles and other Halloween decorations can pique curiosity. For example, if your pup is anything like mine, a new object, regardless of what it is, introduced into his environment requires lots of up-close examination. This means smelling from a safe distance, then easing in, growling, barking playfully to see if it moves and then smelling even closer to make sure it's not alive. If he likes the way it smells, he's likely as not to chunk off a piece with his teeth.
Leave the special Halloween tricks and treats for the human children. We can treat our pets on Halloween, simply using treats made especially for them year-round. Watch out for "new Halloween treats for your pets." My best advice: if you don't know the ingredients and where it was manufactured, don't use it.
We need to watch out for well-meaning strangers or neighbors for that matter, that want to feed our pets Halloween treats. Many people who do not have pets are unaware that chocolate and other caffeine-laden treats are deadly to dogs. If your puppy looks cute and I'm sure she will, well-intentioned passersby will be tempted to treat her by sharing candy. Children, also, with good intentions may try to feed your pet harmful treats unknowingly.
Dr. Ron DeHaven, CEO of the American Veterinary Medical Association, reminds us in the video below, "Halloween Tips for Pet Owners," that chocolate is not the only ingredient in candies and baked goods that are dangerous to our pets. It's well-worth a watch.