Ghosts and goblins. Witches and warlocks. Creepy crawlies. Not to mention Batmen, fairy princesses, and space aliens. For kids – and, be honest – plenty of grownups, too, Halloween is a time when silliness gets a chance to shine. But for the pet of the house, the holiday can be a nuisance: A nightmare of doorbells that never stop ringing, loud noises in the night and too many strangers. For a cat, especially black ones, the haunted holiday can be downright lethal.
"Halloween can be just as dangerous as other holidays, even if it lasts just one night," said Ruth First, a spokesperson for the ASPCA. "After all, lots can happen on one night."
"We see substantially more pets than usual in the emergency room around the holiday, due to vomiting and diarrhea," says Debra Primovic, a veterinarian at the Animal Emergency Clinic in St. Louis. "Most of these cases," she says, "are due to the animals getting into the kids' Halloween bags when nobody's around and getting into the chocolate."
Here's how to keep your pet safe through a night of ghouls and goblins:
Safe At Home
This is a night to keep your pet close by your side. If you have indoor/outdoor cats – keep your cats in. If you have outdoor cats – preferable – keep them someplace safe for the night such as the garage. Animals have been teased, stolen, injured – even killed – by trick-or-treaters carried away by the excesses of the holiday.
Keep your cat in a room away from the front door with plenty of fresh water and a familiar bed. It may sound unsociable, but too many strangers in weird costumes can scare an animal. You don't want your cat scared or slinking out on the heels of the trick-or-treaters.
If you decorate your house with Halloween lights, make sure wires are secured out of the way so your pet doesn't chew them: Cats are naturally inquisitive and are likely to try to explore with their paws and mouths. Also, make sure all decorations don't have loose or sharp parts that can snag a tail or wound a paw.
Don't leave a lighted jack o' lantern unattended around pets. One exuberant swish of a tail can start a fire. Cats love to climb up on tables and counters and can cause fires or be burned.
Make sure your pet is collared and tagged with your name, address and phone number, just in case he manages to get out.
Tricks and Treats
Most cats aren't crazy about this. Don't put a pet in costume unless he or she seems to like it: Many animals stress out when you dress them up. If you do put your pet in fancy dress, make sure it's safe: no constricting details that can obstruct hearing, movement, breathing or sight.
Even the friendliest of animals can scratch or bite if they can't see or hear what's going on. If the costume attaches with rubber bands, make sure you remove them when you take off the suit.
Otherwise, they can quickly work their way into the animal's skin.
Halloween candy is not for pets: Chocolate is toxic and lollipop and candy-apple sticks can get stuck in an animal's throat or perforate the stomach or bowels