Some pets love the hustle and bustle of Halloween, while others will find this spooky holiday a bit stressful. We recognize that animals are individuals, so while you while enjoy the festivities, consider it from your pet’s perspective:
“A dog’s natural instinct is to protect their home or to alert you that a stranger has arrived,” reminds Amy Nichols, Vice President of Companion Animals and Equine Protection at the Humane Society of the United States. “And cats typically prefer a quiet environment with their family. Trick-or-treaters continually knocking on the door or ringing the bell can be very stressful to both dogs and cats.”
Read on for our tips and tricks on taking the terror out of your pet's Halloween!
1. Halloween hype causes pet stress
Before the trick-or-treating starts, put your pets in a quiet room where they will be safe from all the Halloween activity. If your pup is likely to try to run out the front door and is comfortable in a crate, consider putting them in the crate with a treat-filled toy and some soft music playing in the background. A spritz of Feliway (find it on Amazon!) can help keep cats calm.
Minimize noise by sitting outside to keep trick-or-treaters from knocking on the door or ringing the bell.
Even if you are just having friends over for a Halloween party, keep your pets away from the festivities in their safe room. Masks and costumes change how people look and smell to a pet, so even familiar people may become frightening. Put a sign on the door to the safe room so your guests know it’s off-limits.
When going out trick-or-treating, leave your dog at home. Dogs can be easily excited by the Halloween commotion, and a bite or a lost dog will quickly end the evening’s fun.
2. Halloween candy—a treat for you, a trick for your pet(s)
Pre-Halloween and during trick-or-treating, keep candy safely stashed in a high cabinet secured with a lock or child-safety latch. Many foods, such as chocolate, gum and xylitol (a sweetener used in many foods) are hazardous to pets.
Watch your kids! Children may make the harmful mistake of sharing their loot. Make sure they know the difference between a treat for them and a treat for their four-legged friends.
Keep the 24-hour ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline handy: 888-426-4435. (The hotline may charge a consultation fee.) If you suspect your pet has eaten something that's bad for them, call your veterinarian or the Poison Control Center immediately.
Pumpkin can be good for dogs and cats, but too much can cause digestive issues. Rotting pumpkin may harbor bad bacteria; keep jack o’lanterns safely away from becoming a holiday snack.
3. Steer your pets away from dangerous Halloween decorations
Introduce your pets to their safe room before you decorate indoors. Changes to your home can make your pets, especially cats, nervous or frightened. Or they may decide those fake spiders pose an existential threat and need to be killed.
Be aware of which decorations pose threats. Some hazards are obvious, like lit candles (fire hazards and toxic to birds if scented). Other potentially dangerous decorations include rubber eyeballs (choking risk), glow sticks and fake blood (possible poisons), fake cobwebs (can choke or entangle pets and wildlife), potpourri (toxic to birds) and strung lights. Watch out for those candy wrappers and plastic packaging too!
Create pet-friendly holiday décor. Make your cat a haunted house out of cardboard boxes or put treats and toys in a paper bag (remove any handles first as cats can get stuck) for a feline version of trick-or-treat.
4. Be cautious with pet Halloween costumes
If you do choose a costume for your pet, consider your pet’s personality and what type of costume they may tolerate and for how long. Masks and hats that fit around the face, for example, may be OK for the length of time it takes to snap a quick pic, but they can pose dangers and make your pet feel uncomfortable. Best to keep pet costumes minimal.
Keep an eye on your costumed pet to make sure the costume is comfortable and allows your pet to move freely. Also be sure to remove any chewable parts or objects that could come off and choke your pet.
If your pet appears uncomfortable, take off the costume. Signs of discomfort include folded down ears, eyes rolling back or looking sideways, a tucked tail or hunching over.
5. Protect your pets from outdoor dangers
Bring your pets indoors before night falls. Cats are always safest inside with you, but on Halloween it’s especially important to secure all pets inside so they don’t run away out of fear of adults and children in costumes.
In case they escape, make sure that all your pets are wearing tags with current IDs and that their microchip is registered with your most up-to-date information. Opening the door repeatedly for trick-or-treaters creates plenty of opportunities for a pet to slip outside and disappear into the night. Proper ID will help you reunite with your lost pet and take a recent picture of your pet that can be used for lost flyers just in case they get lost.
Be aware that not all the wild creatures outside will be wearing costumes. You may see nocturnal animals such as raccoons, opossums and foxes foraging for food while you’re trick-or-treating or walking from your car to a party.