Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Don't panic! With planning, Halloween can be safe for your pets

Sinead the Boston terrier and her pumpkin

Creepy ghouls willing to smash the pumpkins of unsuspecting toddlers aren't the only things we need to worry about on Halloween, my fellow bloggers suggest. Now, we must worry about:
  • Cats catching fire on candles 
  • Dogs developing obstructions due to pumpkins or nausea due to chocolate
  • Demonic people who want to torture our black pets
  • Animals running loose in the neighborhood, frightened by the costumed children
We pet owners are encouraged to keep our pets out of costumes and behind locked doors, with their ID collars securely fastened, so they won't be forced to deal with the horrible holiday we choose to inflict on them.

Phooey, I say.

I have animals because I love them and I choose to share my life with them. As such, I'd never consider keeping them away from something I enjoy. In fact, I hope to help them participate in Halloween, and with a little planning, that's easy to accomplish.

Toxic decorations that can cause cats to catch on fire are easy enough to avoid. Just putting them on high shelves is enough to discourage old, arthritic cats like mine. And if I must have something at eye level (like a pumpkin), I can use battery-operated, flameless candles to illuminate the gore. Those disks don't catch anything on fire, and many have a realistic flickering action that can fool almost anyone.

Nosy dogs that like to eat things they shouldn't, including chocolate and pumpkins, are also easily foiled with a little product placement. Few dogs can climb a bookshelf in order to get to candy, and keeping pumpkins on a porch in the front, rather than in the backyard, can ensure that no nibbling takes place. Dogs can also be trained to leave the human food alone, and if they do so, they might be rewarded with treats that are appropriate for them. Planning, not banning, does the trick here.

I've mentioned the black-cat-and-Halloween myth before, but it still seems to persist in cyberspace. It's worth repeating, then, that there's no real evidence that suggests that black cats are at increased risk of dying at the hands of sadists on Halloween, when compared to their risk of same in any other month of the year. That's why shelters like the Oregon Humane Society continue to adopt out black pets throughout the season. We should all take a cue from them and ratchet down the hysteria about our own pets. After all, keeping cats safe at night isn't something we should be doing only in October. It's something we all should do all year long.

As for keeping wee pets safe from running away, training also plays a role here. Dogs can be successfully trained to stay away from the door when the doorbell rings, and if they can't, Halloween provides an excellent training opportunity. I plan to ask hubby to hand out the treats while I mesmerize my dogs with tiny morsels of their own treats. They'll be on leashes, in case they decide to disobey, but they'll also be on display in their costumes, getting good treats, so they'll be part of the fun.

Now I'm not saying Halloween is a hunky-dory holiday made to order for pets, but I do think there's a way to include them in the action while keeping them safe. Banishing them to a dark room, away from everything, might keep them safe, but it also might make the holiday truly frightful for them. If we really love them, why not include them?

At least, that's my philosophy.

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