Halloween is celebrated in various countries around the world on October 31st. It is usually a night to dress up in costumes, where children go door to door “Trick or Treating” for candy. It is also a time for theme and costume parties and carries many traditions such as adorning houses with spooky decorations, carving pumpkins into Jack-o-Lanterns, bobbing for apples, playing pranks, visiting haunted houses and attractions, telling scary stories and watching horror movies. The modern imagery of Halloween as a spooky holiday with its themes of death and decay, evil spirits and monsters coming to life, and filled with frightening imagery and symbols have become the modern commercial incarnation of an ancient religious celebration.
Modern day Halloween evolved from a traditional Celtic celebration held the evening before the Christian feast of All Hallows Day, a day dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints and martyrs. It was Irish immigrants who brought the custom not only to North America, but to other parts of Great Britain, Australia, and parts of Asia, and Africa during British colonialism. While the more iconic and commercial elements of modern-day Halloween are largely influenced by the North American traditions that developed in the early 19th century, the exact traditions observed can vary greatly from country to country. In some countries like Australia, New Zealand and parts of the UK, celebrating Halloween is not as mainstream as in Canada, the US, Ireland, Hong Kong and Singapore, but slowly seems to be gaining popularity. No matter where in the world you live, if you celebrate Halloween in all its modern-day frightening glory, make sure you take a moment to think about how celebrating the traditions of the holiday might affect your pets and take note of a few tips to keep them safe.
Halloween Candy is NOT for pets!
Children look forward to the haul of candy they get from Trick or Treating all year. However, make sure that any and all candy is kept out of reach from curious wet noses. All forms of chocolate can be extremely toxic, even fatal for pets to consume. Candy that is artificially sweetened with Xylitol can also be toxic for dogs if ingested. And if pets get into the Halloween stash and eat it, wrappers and all, the foil and cellophane packaging can cause internal blockages, stomach upsets and more. Err on the side of caution, and keep all of the Halloween treats safely out of your pet’s reach.
Think carefully about costumes
Dressing up your furry friend for Halloween can seem like the cutest idea ever! But be smart when it comes to dressing up your pet. Make sure any costume choice is not too tight and does not restrict or prohibit any type of movement. Check that it also does not interfere with their range of vision or hearing. Look for any small or easily removable pieces like buttons or accessories that pets could tug off and ingest. If using any type of dye or paint is absolutely necessary, look for ones that are non-toxic and even ingestible, or ones made specifically for animals, so that if your pet ingests it while grooming they do not get sick. Try on your pet’s costume in advance of the big day; if they seem to react badly to it, acting distressed or showing abnormal behavior, consider forgoing the full costume for a festive bandanna instead.
Keep your pet safely inside during Halloween
Even a dog that is good with children and strangers can get overwhelmed or scared if your neighborhood gets busy with ghosts and goblins overtaking the streets on Halloween night. Keeping all your pets confined safely inside during Halloween can be a good idea for many reasons. The sight of scary creatures your pet does not know or understand may scare them and set off their protective instincts, causing them to react in aggressive ways. Just having them loose inside the house can pose issues; with the doorbell constantly ringing and people knocking, shouting “TICK OR TREAT” at their owners dressed as puzzling and unknown beings can make your pets territorial, anxious, and upset. Even a well-behaved pet may dart outside during an opening of the door, and Halloween is not an evening you want to be searching the neighborhood for your escaped furry friend. Keeping them somewhere out of the way, like a bedroom upstairs out of sight of the door, and turning on a TV or radio to drown out the sounds of Halloween can make the evening easier on your pet.
If you do decide to take your dog out during Halloween, make sure they are on a secure leash and kept close to you and under control at all times. The sight of frightening creatures out and about in their neighborhood may cause a usually-friendly dog to bark, growl or snap at an unsuspecting reveler coming in for a friendly pet, or take off across the street after a perceived threat.
You may want to consider not leaving your pets outside for extended periods of time on their own around and during Halloween. It is a time that pranksters and troublemakers of all kinds come out looking for mischief, and even if you think your dog is safe in your own yard, you would hate to be mistaken should anything happen. If you have an outdoor cat, it can be a good idea to keep them inside for a few days as well, protected from any pranksters and animal cruelty-related incidents.
Keep your pet’s safety in mind when decorating.
Going all out with festive decorations can be a great way to get into the spirit of the holiday, but make sure your décor is pet-friendly. Keep any electrical cords and wires tucked away or taped down so they can be chewed on. Remember that lit jack-o-lanterns can become a fire hazard with the swipe of a tail. Those spooky spider webs can get caught in fur, faces, and paws pretty easily. Pumpkins, gourds, and decorative corn husks, while usually nontoxic, can still cause stomach upset if ingested.
Halloween can be an exciting holiday to celebrate, but take a few moments to consider your pet’s safety, to make sure the whole family has a frighteningly good time!