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October 10, 2006 > 'Fraidy Cats and Desperate Housedogs

'Fraidy Cats and Desperate Housedogs

by Nancy Lyon

Goblins and ghostees, and long-legged beastees and things that go bump! in the night...and maybe a Terminator or Alien Invader or two... the scary creatures that storm your doorstep on Halloween asking for a handout or to expect the worst.

At our home we always enjoy the children's Halloween fantasies and playacting. We look forward to the neighborhood kids coming to the door but there's a downside for our animals. And we all really need to give some thought to how the family critters view what must be a strange and often frightening intrusion into their safe space.

After all, on this night, it's natural for kids to be exceptionally noisy and strange looking, that's what it's all about. But what your dog or cat is going to see is an invasion of weird beings that may be totally out of their everyday reality and that can have disastrous results for everyone.

When it comes to life threatening hazards to our animal friends, Halloween is right up there with July 4th and New Year's Eve. And even the most steady and seasoned critter may have their balance tested when these otherworldly apparitions come banging on the door.  Look at it from their worldview. If you're a cat, survival instincts tell you to run for your life, or if you're a dog and you see it's your duty and responsibility to protect your family, this is an obvious threat. Trouble is knocking in many ways

If you are planning a celebration in your home, checking on the interaction of guests and resident animals is going to be difficult. Consider asking your veterinarian about possibly administering a mild sedative to smooth things out. You might also think about making overnight boarding arrangements with a qualified boarding kennel or with your veterinarian.

It would be a pretty sad end to what should be a fun celebration if your "pet" ends up being injured, disappearing or biting someone.  Keep in mind that this may be a festive event to humans, but it's often full of frightening and dangerous events where family animals are concerned. They depend on us to be aware and protect them, so how do you make sure they are safe and you can still enjoy the fun? By adhering to the following safeguards you can minimize those dangers.

Keeping out of harm's way

If boarding your companion animal is not an option, the next best solution is to confine your animal friend in a quiet room, away from unsettling noise and confusion. A dog or cat escaping through the front door during treat collecting or from other related celebrations can dart into traffic and suffer injury or death. Some escape in terror and are never seen again.

Not all the risks to companion animals come from noisy revellers.  Easy access to yummy, if forbidden treats collected by children can provide dogs with an irresistible opportunity to gulp down candy. Unfortunately, chocolate is extremely toxic to dogs and can prove fatal, and candy wrappers and foil if swallowed can cause serious digestive upset. The best course of action is to make sure all treats are inaccessible to your dog.

Be careful of a candle lit Jack O'Lantern. Curious animals can overturn them and be burned or cause a fire. Ever curious kittens especially run the risk of getting burned.

It's probably not a good idea to dress your dog or cat in costume unless you know he or she loves it. Otherwise, it puts too much stress on them. If you do dress them up, make sure the costume isn't annoying or unsafe. It shouldn't constrict their movement, hearing or ability to breathe or bark. Also, avoid small, dangling, or easily chewed-off pieces on the costume that could make her choke. Don't obstruct their vision because even the sweetest animal can get snappy when he or she can't see. Just as you would with a child in costume, keep them safely away from lighted candles.

Preventing accidents is the only way to protect animals and children. With veterinary costs skyrocketing these days, a little planning ahead could pay off in many ways.

Pranksters and worse

Whatever you do, don't leave your pet out in the yard on Halloween. We don't like to think about it but there are plenty of cases of vicious pranksters who have teased, injured, stolen, and in some cases, killed pets on this night.

On All Hallows Eve, black animals are especially at risk from individuals who practice ritual animal sacrifice - this also is an unfortunate reality. Be very aware of this and protect your animals from theft for a week or so before and on Halloween night.  It's always a dangerous practice to allow your cat to roam freely and it is especially so during this period. The danger to black (and solid white) pets is not just a scary story. Because of this, responsible rescue organizations such as OHS and animal shelters such as the Tri-City Animal Shelter will not adopt out animals of this coloration until after the holiday.

When all else fails

The bottom-line is that while following all safety precautions the worst may still happen. Make sure your dog or cat is wearing proper identification and micro-chipped if possible. If for any reason they escape and become lost, you increase the chances that they will be returned to you. Contact your local animal shelter as soon as possible and ask for advice in finding your lost family member. Don't wait hoping they will "show up". Time is not on their side and delay could cost them their lives.

You can contact Ohlone Humane Society for information on finding your lost companion animal at 510-792-4580.

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