Tonawanda News

October 8, 2012

Scaredy cats on Halloween

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — There will be howling, barking, screaming and squawking and that is just from the children. 

Halloween is right around the corner. So much commotion is sure to make even the most composed pets a little nervous. 

Marty Becker, a veterinarian at North Idaho Animal Hospital, said in a “Good Morning America” interview last year that Halloween is the second most common holiday for pets to get lost. With a few weeks to prepare our fur, feathered and scaled pets, we have time to make this Halloween a stress-reduced holiday.

“Trick or treat,” or any combination/elaboration thereof, can be quite scary to our pets, especially when it is yelled at our front door, every few minutes by strangers. 

The clatter costumes make and the crashing of treat bags on the front porch all add to the stress of our pets. Hearing is a powerful sense to our pets and outside noise can be greatly decreased with some forethought.

Placing our pets in a back room or rooms that are farthest away from the candy-dispenser-door is a good start. Rooms that are the most soundproof are ideal. Washing machines, dryers, meditation music, TVs or box fans can all add to the white noise and help block out the external racket.

Most dogs will do best in a crate away from the sight and sounds of visitors and cats should also be locked away. Adding foam cubes, large cardboard boxes or carriers provide the pets extra hiding places to feel protected. 

Securing your pets also decreases the chance of them running out through the constant door opening. 

Black cats are most often victimized on Halloween. 

Making sure that your pets — including indoor-only pets — have proper identification tags for this day is an important step. The Humane Society reports that between 15 percent and 16 percent of dogs and 2 percent of cats come in with identification tags. Remember, pets that have tags become reunited with their caregivers much quicker.

Keeping your pet occupied during the trick or treating can also reduce stress. Exercising before the event will help purge the animal of extra energy. If the pet sleeps through Halloween, you can be sure that it was a stress-free evening. 

Having a designated caregiver in the room to play with and distract your pet is another option. Slowly feeding out the main meal for your pet, after various behaviors are presented will keep your pet focused on what is happening in the room. 

If you can’t have a person in the room with the pet, checking in periodically is good for two reasons. The first is that if any stressed behaviors, like chewing on furniture, urinating in inappropriate places arise they can be addressed quickly. The second reason is that by checking in on your pet frequently the pet will feel more relaxed and confident by your presence.

Interactive toys and feeding puzzles are great at keeping your pets occupied. Prior to Halloween, you can place some treats or kibble in a cardboard box with balls of newspaper. Allowing your pet to become familiar with the new feeding device on a typical day might be better than presenting it to them with all the hullabaloo of Halloween. 

Store-bought feeder toys and kongs work well too.

Sensory overload for our pets is a large stressor during Halloween. The noise from the trick or treaters is not the only source. Animatronics growling, the overpowering smell of chocolate in the air and the shine of decorations hanging from the ceiling can all be stressful to our pets. 

Adding decorations slowly, or better yet, outdoors where our pets can escape the sight of them should reduce stress. If you can keep Halloween outdoors, including the passing out of the candy, your entire indoors can act as a safety retreat for your pet. Every time you see children approaching you can step outside and pass out the candy, hopefully avoiding the ringing of the door bell and maybe the droning of “trick or treat!”

Kenny Coogan has a B.S. in animal behavior. Please email your questions to birdbehaviorconsultant@yahoo.com, or search for "Critter Companions by Kenny Coogan" on Facebook.