Advice on helping your pet stay calm and safe
Celebrating Halloween has become as, if not more, popular than fireworks night, meaning October and November can be a scary time for our pets. They can find some of our human antics frightening causing unnecessary stress and anxiety. Cats in particular are creatures of habit and anything that disturbs their normal routine often upsets them. However, thinking ahead and following some handy tips can make this time of year enjoyable for us and still stress free for our much loved pets.
Look at it from your pets’ point of view
Here are some of the main things that are likely to scare or upset your pet around this time of year:
- The loud bangs and bright lights of fireworks, and the hissing noise of sparklers.
- Strange dressed-up people arriving on our doorsteps (otherwise known as trick or treaters!)
- Parties in general with all the noise and excitement that accompanies them.
- Bonfires – once lit they are scary but beforehand they can be a good hiding place for cats and wildlife, so always check them.
When animals get upset or frightened, their natural instinct is to run away from the danger and hide. In some cases, mainly dogs, fear can also trigger aggression. A dog who is confronted with trick or treaters in fancy dress may react by growling, snarling and even biting.
Cats may become terrified, panic and run away. They may get lost, especially if young, or they can run across unfamiliar roads and get involved in accidents. Others may just sit tight and hide, but suffer internally and start to show uncharacteristic behaviour such as going to the toilet indoors, over grooming or they may develop urinary problems such as cystitis.
We mustn’t forget our small furries either; rabbits and guinea pigs are prey animals, and are likely to freeze if they can’t escape. Fear can literally kill them. So be aware and…
Start getting your pet used to their “safe place” now.
By being prepared a few weeks ahead you can minimise the anxiety for everyone - including you the owner!
Before it all starts
Buy and plug in a pheromone diffuser at least 2 weeks before you expect the first fireworks. These disperse calming pheromones into the room and help reduce your pets anxiety. In some cases, especially dogs, the noise phobia is excessive in which case a prescription medicine may be required. Talk to your vet about this now if you think you need extra help.
- Provide access to “safe” quiet places for your pets. Some cats like high up places such as cupboards, some prefer under beds or in wardrobes. Others will have a favourite igloo bed, or like to burrow under a duvet or blanket. Dogs will often try to hide in small dark spaces, so provide a comfy cave for them, possibly made out of a big box or wire crate covered in a duvet and plenty of bedding. Do not shut them in as they might panic.
- Provide a litter tray for cats, food and water nearby to your pet’s favourite hiding place. Remember though that cats generally don’t like their toilet near to their food!
On the night
- Keep them in as soon as it gets dark.
- Make sure your dog goes out to the toilet before the activities start.
- Don’t be tempted to cuddle your cat to comfort them. If they are scared they may scratch or bite you in their attempt to get away.
- Play with your dog or cat to distract them if they seem restless using favourite toys and games, or just stay quietly nearby if they prefer.
- Give your dog nice treats to keep their mind off the noise and reward them for being calm. Never be cross or anxious if they are not.
- Small furries can be brought inside if they have movable hutches. If this isn’t possible, cover their accommodation with blankets to dull the noise and provide plenty of hay for them to burrow into.
Other hazards you may not have thought of
Don’t let your pet glow in the dark!
If chewed or bitten, glow sticks can harm cats and dogs, resulting in foaming and pawing at the mouth whilst trying to get rid of the bitter taste. It isn’t fatal but can be distressing so do seek your vet’s advice if you are worried.
Pumpkins and candles
Be careful putting candles in a pumpkin or other container. Inquisitive cats will investigate the flickering and could singe themselves or knock the candle over potentially causing a fire. If in doubt, stick to the switch on variety!
Little things and string decorations
Every year vets remove small plastic toys from dogs and cats intestines. There are an abundance of knick knacks on sale at this time of year so make sure they are out of reach of curious paws. String decorations are especially dangerous if swallowed as they can bunch up inside the intestine, cause damage to the tissues, and be hard to remove.
Tricks and treats
There are lots of treats around at Halloween so remember that chocolate is poisonous to pets, particularly dogs, so make sure to keep all your bags of sweets out of reach.