On a random day, the house goes from ‘normal’ to ‘new’. Creepy decor hangs from the walls, weird orange vegetable things flicker—somehow—on the porch, and the humans are very excited about something. Then, the humans completely change how they look! Face paint, masks, weird clothes, and wigs. The doorbell rings nonstop and strangers appear in the darkness, dressed like monsters.
It’s loud and different, and your pet has no idea why or what is happening.
Halloween can be a wonderfully spooky holiday for people of all ages. But is it too scary for dogs and cats? How do you calm down a scared dog or a cat? What can you do to keep your pets safe on Halloween?
When you think about Halloween from the perspective of a pet, it definitely sounds scary. However, with a bit of planning and consideration, you can help even the most anxious animal overcome the stressors of the spooky season.
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Halloween Safety Tips
If you have time before trick-or-treating starts, there are a few things you can do to help prevent your dog or cat from getting scared of the Halloween festivities. Here are our top tips for keeping dogs and cats safe on Halloween:
- We’ve written previously about choosing the right Halloween costume for your pet. Anything you dress your pet in should be fitted comfortably without restricting their movements. Check that you can fit two fingers between the clothing and your pet’s body, and make sure that they can breathe easily.
- Additionally, consider how long they will be in the costume, and whether or not they will be able to use the bathroom.
- Never put your pet in a costume that could cause them injury—and if they aren’t digging the costume, don’t make them wear it. Instead, opt for a festive collar or bandana.
- For your own costuming needs, consider letting your pet see the clothing beforehand. Let them smell it and investigate. Then, let them see you in the costume without anything on your face or head. Finally, let them watch you put on the final touches. This will help them to understand that it’s you under the costume.
- If your pet reacts to your look with fear or aggression, we recommend opting for a different outfit.
- It’s perfectly reasonable to want to decorate your home for Halloween. However, you should take your pet’s safety and anxiety seriously. If your pet will have access to any Jack-o-Lanterns, make sure to use fake candles instead of real ones, as real candles can be a major fire hazard to curious animals.
- Additionally, ingesting older pumpkins can be bad for a dog or cat’s digestion, so don’t let them chew on your pumpkin pals.
- Decor made of corn or candy is also hazardous for animals.
- Halloween decor that makes scary noises, or moves suddenly, can be extra frightening for dogs and cats, as can anything resembling another animal (think rats, wolves, spiders, etc).
- Traditional fake spider webs are incredibly dangerous if ingested by cats—plus they’re bad for the environment anyway.
Finally, think about the logistics of the actual day. Will you have any guests in your home? Will you have trick-or-treaters come to the door and ring the doorbell? If you’re throwing a Halloween party, will there be any food or candy sitting around? Will you be taking your dog along for your own trick-or-treating?
- If you plan to have guests inside your home on Halloween, make sure that they are aware of your pet’s needs.
- Encourage young children to give dogs—and especially cats—personal space, and don’t let anyone intentionally scare your animals.
Keeping Cats and Dogs Calm on Halloween
If you don’t have a ton of time to prep your pet for Halloween, there are still plenty of things you can do to make the festivities less stressful. The most important thing is that you think about your pet’s individual temperament and needs. If you know that your animal is easily stressed, or gets anxious around strangers or loud noises, here are some things you can try:
- Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise beforehand.
- If your pet gets anxious or excited by the doorbell, consider turning it off during Trick-or-Treat hours. Or, you can put up a sign instructing children to knock on the door instead.
- If your dog or cat gets upset just from someone coming to the door, blocking that area with a baby gate can be an effective deterrent.
- Another way to make trick-or-treating less frightening for pets is to actually sit outside and offer the candy in person. That way there’s no doorbell/knocking drama, and no risk of your pet running outside.
- For those pet owners who are having Halloween activities inside of their homes, give your guests the opportunity to offer your pet treats, preferably when they arrive.
- Make sure your pets have collars, in case they run outside and get lost.
- Consider using a pressure wrap or thunder jacket for particularly nervous animals.
- Toys, television, and soothing music can make great distractions for your pet during trick-or-treating hours.
- If your dog or cat is too easily stressed by holiday commotion, boarding them for a few hours can be a real lifesaver.
- Finally, remember to stay calm. Don’t yell at or scold your pet if they bark, whine, hide, etc. The calmer you are, the safer they will feel.