Halloween can be a very scary time of the year for your cats and dogs.
But a little forward-planning can make all the difference ...
Fireworks, especially, can turn your Placid Pooch or Composed Cat into a quivering nervous wreck!
We've been lucky to have had both cats and dogs in our life at one time or another, and if you are a first-time pet-owner these tips may be helpful for you ...
Don't Be A Scared-ey Cat!
Our Betty the Box Depot Kitty was a notorious escapologist ... until she wasn't! We had moved into our almost-fully-refurbished home around the October, but forgot the hole in the kitchen wall over the hob that would eventually house the extractor fan" Yes, indeedy! I don't know how she got up there, but she managed to escape! It took almost a week to find her and bring her home. Thankfully after that experience, she became a real home-body and was content to hide in boxes and various bits of packaging that we'd bring home for her!
Cats are notoriously independent! They might decide to quietly sit on the sofa with you watching telly. But then again, they might prefer to go outside for a nocturnal roam ... exactly what you DON'T want on Halloween Night! But there are a few things you can do to keep them safe:
Ditch The Laundry: Cats might act like you're nothing more than Primary Food Giver, but they are extremely territorial. And part of that territorial nature includes their very sharp sense of smell. Ever been ill before you knew you were ill? And the cat was clambering all over you? That's because they know what you should smell like, and believe it or not, find comfort in your body odour. It therefore makes PERFECT sense for you to ignore the laundry for a few days (YAY!) and instead give your dirty bits & pieces to your cat in their purpose-made hidey-hole you made for them! Speaking of which ...
Den duh Den Den: Ever seen a cat while you've been out and about? Chances are they were sitting in a tree, or hiding in a hedge, or walking very close to a wall. That's because cats like somewhere to hide, and they find enclosed spaces reassuring. So, to reassure your cat this Halloween, make them a little Den! It can be as simple as a tablecloth or blanket over the dining table, or get them a few cardboard boxes to make into an enclosed space. Make it as tempting as possible so they'll be relaxed and happy enough to hang out there for the evening! Talking of relaxed ...
I Love My Mammy: If your cat is of a nervous disposition (let's face it, not all cats are confident!) it might be a good idea to pop into your vet and get some Feliway. This is a plug-in cat pheromone that, even though it doesn't smell to us, it gives off an odour that is similar to a Mother Cat. And if you think about it, when you were a child and scared witless about something inexplicable outside, wasn't it reassuring that your Mam was nearby to cuddle up to? Perhaps cats aren't all that different to humans after all!
Woopsy-Daisy: Given half a chance, if there's an open door to the Great Outdoors your cat will make a run for it. There are certain, um, necessary bodily functions a cat must do. And top of the list is toileting! If your escapologist cat can tolerate wearily a lead (or ideally a harness-and-lead combo they can't wriggle out of!) then this could work when you bring your cat outside for a toilet break. Note how I said "you bring your cat outside"?! The idea is not to let the cat out of your sight! Alternatively you can set up an indoor litter tray. An old oven tray will suffice. Either get some Kitty Litter or some soil or compost. If your cat is used to toileting outside, something that looks like the soil they usually toilet in will work extremely well; and it may sound icky, but retrieving one of their recent "solid offerings" to put in the tray will help Kitty realise that this is for them (otherwise they may decide to "re-pot" your beloved house plants!) It can also be useful to put old newspapers underneath your makeshift litter tray ... cats aren't exactly known for their precision digging! MOST IMPORTANTLY remember to tolerate accidents! They'll be stressed enough with the doorbell going every five minutes with the trick-or-treating and the fireworks/bonfires/strange smells can be very bewildering. Now is not the time to get precious about your prized rugs!!
Dog-Gone Time (Not!)
Our original Terrible Threesome of dogs! The absolute joy on their little little faces when they'd get their usual morning walk on Halloween followed by ANOTHER lunchtime walk always makes me happy! Ashamed to say I used to force them into Halloween costumes ... Little Lola the Packaging Pup especially hates any sort of clothing, but looking at this pic of Bosco the Box Depot Boxer, I'm not sure he was a fully paid-up fan either! We don't bother "dressing up" these days!
Walking The Walk: Chances are, if you have a dog, that they absolutely LOVE going for walks! Never ever consider walking the dog as a chore - it's a very necessary stress-reliever for your pooch! And there's a good chance that your dog's "bad behaviour" can often be remedied by regular twice-a-day walks of at least one hour (yes, really!) This convenient stress-reliever is even more important at Halloween. Ideally take your dogs out during daylight hours. Don't be tempted to just give them their morning walk and leave them to their own devices for the rest of the day - bring them out around lunchtime or early afternoon rather than when it gets dark. Even better, bring the balls/ropey toys with you so they get a good workout ... your sanity will thank you later on!
Cute Outfit Time: NEWSFLASH! Not all dogs like to dress up in costume, and often don't even like "standard" dog coats or jumpers! Our Lola the Packaging Pup is a case in point - she absolutely hates wearing anything resembling clothing, including rain jackets to keep her dry on her walks! Maybe it's an affront to her Jack Russell independence-ness, maybe it's emphasising her diminutive Chihuahua-ness. Either way, she utterly abhors it! When you think about it, the un-normal activities around Halloween, along with the strange smells and noises are highly stressful to animals, so why would you want to add to that stress? If you find the most fabulous/adorable/cute Halloween outfit, wear it yourself instead!
Ding-a-Ling a Ding Dong: This is where your best attempts at creating an Oasis of Calm may become unstuck! A lot of people get dogs not only for their companionship, but also for their innate guarding tendencies ... which can often include "Going Nuts At The Sound Of The Doorbell" behaviour. There's no easy way around this. Keeping your dog occupied with brain toys and/or letting them snuggle down in a covered crate or cardboard box might help curb the barking. Similarly, giddy excitement every time you go to answer the door to trick-or-treaters will only reinforce the barking/mayhem, so calmly and quietly leave the room every time you have to. If your dog's "Doorbell Control" is truly out of control, you might consider teaching your dog to sit quietly (ie don't bark) in a specific spot every time the doorbell rings. But this could take quite a number of weeks to perfect.
The Great Escape: Never EVER underestimate the ability of a dog, no matter how unfit/small/elderly they appear to be, to jump over an 8ft wall if they're exposed to fireworks/loud noises while going to the loo! It doesn't matter if your garden is the most secure and dog-friendly ever devised. Just as with the cat, throw a leash on the dog and go outside to the garden with them if they need to "go". Yes, you don't normally go out to the garden like that, but it might be reassuring to your dog (as well as preventing any frantic tunneling/jumping/escaping!)
Busy Doing Nothing: Ideally you want your dog engaged in dog-absorbing activities. So a long-lasting chewie or bone may give you an hour or two of peace. You'll probably know the endurance-rate of a fluffy toy (we can totally disembowel a newly purchased teddy in less than 15 minutes!) so unless you have enough to last many hours, you may want to swerve that one. You can, however, get doggy brain games to occupy your dog ... they're the toys that usually have compartments for treats and the dog (hopefully!) spends Happy Hour trying to work out how to get the treats out of the thing. Our dogs (unsurprisingly!) can happily occupy themselves for ages by ripping up cardboard boxes - you can always call in to Box Depot to have a look a which of our inexpensive boxes might suit your pooch! Also, if your dog is particularly attached to a toy/teddy, now is NOT the time to shove it in the washing machine, no matter how stinky/loved it may be! Make sure it is easily available for your dog to hug during this stressful time.
Your Vet Is Your Friend: If you have a dog, then obviously you're registered with a vet that you know and trust. They are well aware of the challenges that our pets have to contend with at Halloween, so will have a solution to your problem, whatever it many be. Just as cats have Feliway (see above) to calm them, there is Adaptil for dogs that can ease any nervousness. It also goes without saying that you've microchipped and registered your dog (and cat!) with your current contact details, haven't you?! If you haven't, make an appointment as soon as possible so that (God Forbid!) if your pet goes for an unauthorised walkies, they'll be reunited quickly with you.
Trick-Or-Treat Time: Speaking of vets, you don't want to be going near a vet for all the wrong reasons! Cats are naturally picky, contrary, what-are-you-feeding-me type creatures, so there's a fairly good chance they won't be tempted by the chocolate etc you'll collected in your trick-or-treat haul. Dogs, however, despite being adorable/loyal etc can also be STOOPID! And if they're the type of dog that is ruled by his tummy, there's a definite possibility they'll have a go at munching on your stash. NEWSFLASH: Chocolate and dried fruit (often found at Halloween) are extremely toxic to dogs! We had our own Walk Of Shame once (not at Halloween) when Lola ate a bar of chocolate. Dogs don't have a gag-reflex so sticking our fingers down her throat to get her to up-chuck it (we tried!) was never going to work (we know that now!) So we had to bring her to the vet for a sore and unpleasant injection (she really didn't like the injection!) and then home for endless hours of upchucking everywhere ... with "The Lecture" from the vet ringing in our ears ... and a miserable, distrustful pooch to boot - not a recommended experience!
Dried fruit is just as toxic to dogs ... possibly more. Those lovely sweet grapes you happily munch on get dried into sultanas or raisins so the sweetness gets concentrated - poor pooch's system just cannot cope with such a concentration of sugary sweetness so (if you didn't know) you have the possibility of organ failure to look forward to for your beloved pooch. Horrifically scary but definitely something to keep in mind, especially at Halloween.
Instead, have plenty of dog-friendly snacks available to your dog if it looks like they're eyeing up your trick-or-treat stash with a glint in their eye!!
Some people love Halloween, but it's worth considering, especially if your have four-legged people in your family, that for some it may not be such a joy-filled time of the year ... But with a little patience and preparation, hopefully every member of your family will get through Halloween in one piece!!