Halloween is right around the corner, which means it’s time for spooky decorations, scary movies and plenty of candy (for the kids, of course). For pet owners, Halloween is also a time to consider your pet’s mental health and wellbeing. For cats and dogs, this holiday can be truly frightening for a number of different reasons.
For already-skittish animals, the constant stream of people ringing the doorbell is a jolt to their anxiety. Dogs might bark and howl every time they hear the chime, while cats might scurry off and disappear until trick-or-treat is over. The presence of little kids is also a stressor for many animals who exhibit a fear of children—especially when you factor in the assortment of scary costumes they’ll be wearing. It all adds up for cats and dogs and can quickly lead to stress episodes and anxious behavior.
You don’t have to blow out the candle on Halloween festivities to give your pet the comfortable environment they deserve, though! Here are six tips for keeping your pet safe and calm this All Hallows' Eve.
- No animatronics: You may love motion-triggered Halloween decorations, but your pet probably doesn’t. They don’t expect a witch’s cackle or a spooky noise to play when they walk past décor, and triggering these decorations can trigger their anxiety. Avoid indoor décor that moves, makes noise or lights up based on a motion trigger. Stick to classic decorations like pumpkins and tombstone décor—while keeping the easily ingested ones like cobwebs and streamers out of reach.
- Nix the black cats: Black cats are synonymous with Halloween as harbingers of back luck and omens. If you decorate for the festivities, skip the black cat decorations—not because of any omens, but because it might stress your cat or dog out! Your pets can’t always tell if decorations are real or not, especially from a distance. Seeing a black cat in their home can immediately trigger fight-or-flight reflexes and the stress that comes with them.
- Don’t dress your anxious pet: Would your puppy look adorable as a little pirate or a dinosaur? Of course they would! But that doesn’t mean you should necessarily dress your pet for the holiday. If your cat or dog has anxiety, don’t make them more anxious with a costume. While it’s true some pets (mostly dogs) love getting dressed up, make sure your furry friend is excited by the idea of a costume and not terrified by it. If they appear uncertain or uncomfortable, don’t force it on them.
- Keep foot traffic low: Instead of letting trick-or-treaters come to your door and ring your bell, go outside to them. Set up a candy station on the porch or in your driveway to keep candy-seekers from walking up to your home and startling your pet. Many pets see immediate stress reduction by being able to watch out the window, from afar. If you have a super-skittish dog or cat in the house, have someone stay inside and give them attention during trick-or-treat hours to let them know everything is okay.
- Keep a close eye on pets: Halloween is a time of mischief—but sometimes that concept can go too far or go awry. For the safety of your pets, make sure you’re keeping a close eye on them after the sun goes down. All it takes is one unlocked gate for your dog to disappear into the night or someone with dangerous superstitions to harass your black cat. Give your pets a little extra love and attention on this, the spookiest of all evenings.
- Beware foodstuffs: There are plenty of treats associated with Halloween, and almost all of them are bad for pets. Pumpkin products might give your dog gastrointestinal distress, alongside most candies—especially the sugar-free kind. Keep a close eye on all food in your house and make sure your pets don’t have any opportunities to sneak a snack. Effects can range from an upset belly exacerbated by stress to a life-threatening visit to the emergency vet if your dog gets ahold of enough chocolate.
Halloween is an exciting holiday to celebrate—whether you’re taking the kids trick-or-treating or snuggled up with some cider and a scary movie. Just make sure you’re paying close attention to your furry friend this Halloween. While the holiday may be fun for you, it might be a little too frightening for them. A little extra love and attention and some forethought to Halloween stressors goes a long way in keeping them safe, calm and happy.