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How to Give Your Pets a Safe and Happy Halloween

Follow our tips for treating your cats, dogs and other pets to a spook-free holiday

  • Some dogs enjoy dressing up for Halloween—if the costume and party are right. Anne Hogan/The HSUS

  • Halloween kitty Crouton was found on the front lawn when she was a kitten. Dana Wimpfheimer

  • Bridget likes to take Q-tips out of the container to play fetch with them. Sharon Kuennen

  • The stars of this Halloween scene, Mopsy, Robin, Goldie and Queenie, were all adopted from a New York City animal shelter. Natalie Reeves

  • Smudge attempted to fit in this Halloween container without success. Mary Smith

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Can you smell that whiff of mischief in the air? It's Halloween season.

Even if you're grown-up, you probably get a happy little tingle from this haunting holiday, but pets often find it truly scary.

KC Theisen, director of pet care issues for The Humane Society of the United States, warns that "the things that make Halloween a treat for people—noises, smells, trick-or-treaters at the door and people in costumes—can overwhelm many pets." And some elements of Halloween can be dangerous.

Theisen's advice to pet owners is simple: “While you’re enjoying the fun, make sure your pets have a safe haven in a room where they can feel safe, comfortable and relaxed—and that they are tucked away from any hazards.”

Read on for more tips on taking the terror out of your pet's Halloween.

Keep Halloween happenings on the down-low

  • Before the trick-or-treating starts, put your pets in a quiet room where they will be safe from all the Halloween activity.
  • Even if you are just having friends over for a Halloween party, keep your pets away from the festivities in their safe room. Masks and costumes change how people look and smell to a pet, so even familiar people may become frightening.
  • When going out trick-or-treating, leave your dog at home. Dogs can be easily excited by the Halloween commotion, and a bite or a lost dog will quickly end the evening’s fun.

The top Halloween hazards for pets are escaping and being poisoned. Both animal shelters and veterinarians see a spike in their business during the Halloween season.

Stow treats out of pets' reach

  • After you've let your pets out of their safe room, place treats safely in a high cabinet secured with a lock or child-safety latch. Many foods, such as chocolate, gum and xylitol (a sweetener used in many foods) are hazardous to them.
  • Keep treats away from your children unless you are observing them. Children may make the harmful mistake of sharing with their four-legged friends.
  • Keep on hand the number for the 24-hour ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline: 888-426-4435. (The hotline charges a fee of $65 per case.) If you suspect your pet has eaten something that's bad for her, call your veterinarian or the Poison Control Center immediately.

Give your pets a haven where they can feel safe, comfortable, and relaxed—tucked away from any Halloween hazards.

Steer your pets away from dangerous decorations

  • Introduce your pets to their safe room before you decorate indoors. Changes to your home can make your pets, especially cats, nervous or frightened.
  • Never leave your pets alone with Halloween decorations.
  • Be aware of which decorations pose threats. Some hazards are obvious, like lit candles (fire hazards and toxic to birds if scented). Here's a partial list of other dangerous decorations: rubber eyeballs (choking risk), glow sticks and fake blood (possible poisons), fake cobwebs (can choke or entangle pets and wildlife), potpourri (toxic to birds) and strung lights.

Be cautious with pet costumes

  • Remember that most pets are happiest wearing nothing but their birthday suits.
  • If you do choose a costume for your pet, forgo masks, anything that covers eyes or ears and everything that might tangle in your pet's legs.
  • Make sure the costume is comfortable and allows your pet to move freely.
  • Remove any chewable parts or objects that could come off and choke your pet.
  • If your pet appears uncomfortable, take off the costume. Signs of discomfort include folded down ears, eyes rolling back or looking sideways, a tucked tail and hunching over.

An estimated half of pet owners dress their pets in costumes for Halloween. Pumpkins and ladybugs are the perennial favorites.

Protect your pets from outdoor perils

  • Bring your pets indoors before night falls. Cats are always safest inside with you, but on Halloween it’s especially important to secure all pets inside.
  • In case they escape, make sure that all of your pets are wearing tags with current IDs (and consider microchipping them). Opening the door repeatedly for trick-or-treaters creates plenty of opportunities for a pet to slip outside and disappear into the night. Proper ID will help you reunite with your lost pet.
  • Be aware that not all the wild creatures outside will be wearing costumes. You may see nocturnal animals such as raccoons, opossums and foxes foraging for food while you’re trick-or-treating or walking from your car to a party.
  • If you come across a wild animal, just keep your distance and make a lot of noise (and keep your dog safely beside you on a leash, too), continue on your way and consider yourself lucky to have experienced a bit of the truly wild world on All Hallows’ Eve.
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