Tonawanda News

October 27, 2013

CRITTER COMPANIONS: The hullaballoo of Halloween

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Week 2 of homeownership and soon I will potentially have hundreds of people knocking on the door for free handouts. There will be chirping, barking, mooing and squawking and that is just from the children. 

Halloween is a few days away and with so much commotion it is sure to make even the most composed pets a little nervous. There are lots of scary things that take place on this holiday. Halloween is the second-most common holiday for pets to get lost — July 4th ranks the first.

The repetitive bellowing of “trick or treat,” or any combination/elaboration thereof, can be quite scary to our pets. The distinct rattle costumes make and the crashing of treat bags on the front porch all add to the stress of our pets. Hearing is one of our pets’ most powerful senses but luckily outside noise can be greatly decreased with some planning.

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 who have experience with a crate will benefit from the reduced sight and sounds of visitors, placing cats or smaller pets in a room that is secured will also help. Adding foam cubes, large cardboard boxes or carriers provide the pets extra places to hide and feel secluded. Securing your pets also decreases the chance of them running out through the constant door opening. 

Black cats are most often victimized on Halloween. Make sure that your pets, including indoor-only pets, have proper identification tags on Halloween.

Keeping your pet occupied during the trick or treating can also reduce stress. Exercising before the event will help alleviate the critter companion of their 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 interact 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 a good idea. This way if any stressed behaviors, like chewing on furniture, urinating on inappropriate substrates etc., arise they can be addressed quickly. Another reason is by checking in on your pet frequently the pet will feel more relaxed and confident by your presence.

Feeder puzzles are great all year round and in hectic days like this can help keep 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 clamor of Halloween. Store-bought feeder toys and kongs work well too, but can get expensive.

For those who find pet-friendly Halloween events, how great would it be if the pet went as themselves and the owners went as giant puzzle feeders or chew toys?

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 taxing 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 hideaway 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 bellowing of “trick or treat!”

Our critter companions also have access to many potential toxins around the holidays. From certain types of nuts, candies and the infamous chocolate bar, pets can find themselves in a lot of dilemmas. Keeping them in a crate or a secured room will help protect them on the 31st but also keep them in mind for however long it takes you to whittle down your mound of goodies. Some people might have these dangerous substances for a month or more. 

Of course, you can be more mindful of your pets by eating all the candy in just a few days.

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