Halloween is a very scary time for animals.
Each year, cats and dogs that have been spooked by fireworks, doorbells and assorted holiday-related hi-jinx come to our Animal Shelter.
Many animals are highly sensitive to noise and Halloween can be a dangerous – even deadly – time for them.
A few fairly simple precautions can keep people and our companion animals free from trauma during the festivities.
First and absolutely foremost: Please keep your animals indoors. The front door may be opening and closing constantly for trick-or-treaters. This presents plenty of opportunities for wily kitties and canny canines to slip out, maybe even unnoticed in the pandemonium. You would think that, if they are scared, animals would want to stay in their familiar, comfortable home. But loud noises can disorient them and can make them behave irrationally. If possible, put your pets in a room with a closed door. Put on loud, but soothing, background noise – a TV or some music – to help drown out the scary outside sounds. Be sure to locate your cat well in advance of sundown. Once the “fun” begins, Felix or Fluffy may be hard to track down. As you’ve probably already noticed, some folks like to set off firecrackers and other fireworks days or even weeks before the big day. Be prepared to employ the same precautions before and after Halloween as you do on the main night.
Also . . . make sure your pet has ID. When animals arrive at our Shelter, they are scared and confused. If they have a license, chip or tattoo – ideally all three! – we can make sure they are back comfortably at home really soon. Without identification, an hour or two of trauma can turn into days of homesickness and sadness for your pet.
There is also the possibility that pets can get into foods they shouldn’t be eating. While this is probably true for all of us at Halloween, the consequences for some animals can be far worse than gaining a pound or two from an excess of kid-sized candy bars. Chocolate is poison for dogs and other candies can be choking hazards.
In addition to candies that might not normally be around, Halloween is also a time when we adorn our homes with other things that can get the attention of our pets. Pets who are curious about jack-o-lanterns could upend candles and start fires. And while pumpkins, gourds and other seasonal decor may not be poisonous, they can cause gastrointestinal troubles in large enough quantities. While gourds may not seem like something most pets would find appealing, we all know a dog who will chew on anything they can get their lips around.
Be aware of costumes also. Some animals will be terrified of freaky-looking outfits – even if their beloved human sibling is inside it.
It sounds like we’re being killjoys with all these warnings, but Halloween is supposed to be a fun time. To ensure that it is – for all our family members – a few precautions can make sure vulnerable animals are safe and comfortable during the scariest night of the year.
• Julie Desgroseillers is manager of RAPS City of Richmond Animal Shelter