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Keep pets safe at Halloween

By Pat Johnson

Published 3:03 PDT, Tue October 27, 2020

Buzz is a sweet young cat living with both diabetes and asthma. With daily insulin and inhaler treatments from our dedicated medical staff at the RAPS Cat Sanctuary, neither condition can slow him down! He’s an incredibly loving boy who demands snuggles from adjacent humans all day long.

In many jurisdictions, a cat with even one such manageable ailment would be euthanized. The RAPS Cat Sanctuary, located in east Richmond and the largest in Canada, exists for cats like Buzz and is home to hundreds more like him.

Buzz is special in other ways too. He’s a black cat, which of course is not so unusual. But throughout history, humans have projected onto black cats all sorts of our own superstitions and anxieties. Some people in history have associated black cats with magic or even the devil. On the flip side, some societies have positive associations around black cats. In Scotland, a black cat appearing on your doorstep is a sign of imminent prosperity. In the south of France, feeding a black cat is believed to bring good fortune. In parts of Northern Europe, it is believed that caring for a black cat ensures fair weather and safe passage during sea voyages.

Good or bad, projections about the character of black cats says nothing about them and everything about us. In the end, a black cat is just … a cat. They are deserving of care and love just like every other animal.

While considering black cats and animal well-being, it is worth remembering a few tips as we approach Halloween. This is the time of year when the RAPS City of Richmond Animal Shelter receives more lost animals than at any other time of year. Although this Halloween will be different—with perhaps fewer trick-or-treaters—the dangers remain. Fireworks and other loud noises can spook cats and dogs, leading them to bolt. A dog may run aimlessly out of fear, putting them at risk for being struck by a car or finding themselves in an unfamiliar neighbourhood. Be sure your pets are microchipped and your dog is licensed. Keep them indoors if fireworks are likely and play some calming background music. 

Some of the treats we have around at this time of year are awesome for people but can be harmful or even deadly for animals. Chocolate can be toxic and other candies that contain xylitol are also especially dangerous. Glow sticks, if bitten into, can be upsetting to pets. Curious animals might explore unfamiliar items, like jack-o-lanterns, knocking them over and possibly starting a fire if a burning candle is inside.

Like everything else in 2020, Halloween will be different. But some things remain the same. Caring for our companion animals is a special challenge at this time. Take some simple precautions to avoid an experience that is frightful (and not in a good way) for both you and your pet! But otherwise, have a very enjoyable Halloween curled up with your pet.

Pat Johnson is communications manager for the Regional Animal Protection Society.

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