Halloween Pet Safety — Essential Tips to Keep Everyone Safe

Halloween can be fun for our pets but take some important steps to ensure they are safe and protected.

Published August 31, 2023
Family in Halloween costumes with their dog

Halloween is right around the corner, and let's be real — some of us have been planning our costumes for months. Am I right? But as we dust off the witch hats and dig into our candy stash, let's not forget about our four-legged family members.

Halloween can be a frightfully fun time, but it can also bring some real dangers to our pets. Owners of black cats, in particular, need to consider their pet's safety this Halloween.

Introduce Halloween Decor Slowly

Some pets are very sensitive to their environments and may react if abrupt changes are made. If your cat or dog is one to pee on new items or become stressed if you so much as rearrange the furniture, you'll need to think ahead. Remember, even the bravest pets can become frightened by large, spooky monsters and new environments.

After you bring your box of decorations down from the attic, leave it in a corner for your pet to smell. After a day or two, open the box and begin to remove decorations. Never force your pet to go near something that they're fearful of, but allow them to smell it if they go near. Be sure to reward them with treats and petting to create a positive experience surrounding the decorations. Finally, place the decoration in its desired location and see how your pet reacts. Move it as needed.

Quick Tip

You can take the same approach with any new items that you've purchased.

Supervise Pets in Costumes

Dressing your pet in an adorable costume is arguably the best part of the Halloween season. However, this fun project comes with some risks; therefore, it's important to keep your pet's safety at the top of your mind when choosing an outfit. Make sure your pet's costume doesn't restrict their movement or cause them distress. If you plan to enter a costume contest or walk in a Halloween parade, try out the apparel prior to the event, as it might take your pet some time to get used to the way it feels.

Cats can be especially challenging to dress and may only tolerate an outfit for the duration of a photograph. Be mindful to never leave your pet alone in their costume, as they could become tangled in it or even chew or eat pieces of the outfit.

Quick Tip

Try a "costume rehearsal" a few days before Halloween. If your pet seems uncomfortable or stressed, look for something simpler.

Keep Treats Out of Reach

You're probably aware that chocolate is toxic to cats and dogs, but there are other sweet treats that pose a threat to your pets. Xylitol is a popular sugar substitute used in candies and gums, and it's highly toxic to pets. Even a small amount of xylitol can cause your pet's blood sugar to nosedive, resulting in tremors, seizures, organ failure, or death. 

Even those treats that don't contain cocoa or xylitol can be harmful for your pet if they consume enough. Gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting or diarrhea, electrolyte imbalances, diabetes, and pancreatitis are potential health consequences of high volumes of sugar. A pilfered piece of taffy could get stuck in your dog's teeth, a jawbreaker could become lodged in his throat and block his airway, and the list goes on.

Quick Tip

Keep candy bowls and trick-or-treat bags out of paw’s reach. And if your pet manages to snatch some sugary loot, call the vet immediately.

Halloween Dangers for Black Cats

Child in Halloween costume holding a black kitten

As an iconic symbol of Halloween, black cats have evoked a great deal of superstition for many centuries. Unfortunately, even today, unsavory individuals kidnap cats around Halloween for sacrifices or to use as live Halloween decor. Although some experts state that there is no evidence supporting these claims, many owners of black cats still choose to take extra safety measures.

  • Keep your black cat indoors — not just on Halloween, but several days leading up to the holiday.
  • Have them microchipped or update your information connected with their chip.
  • If your cat must go out, improve their visibility to cars with a reflective collar.

Although many shelters refuse to adopt out black cats throughout the month of October, some rescues actually use this opportunity to promote these adoptions. Statistically, black cats take an average of six days longer to be adopted than cats of other colors or markings. So, if you're considering adopting a cat, October may be the perfect month to rescue a sweet, black kitty.

Confine Your Pet to a Safe Room

With the continuous ringing of the doorbell and shrieks of glee from tick-or-treaters, your cat or dog will likely become overstimulated. Plan to place them in a safe, quiet room for the evening. Draw the shades, put on some relaxing music, or turn the TV on to drown out the background noise. A favorite toy or interactive treat dispenser can help distract them from the commotion outside.

If you worry that your pet will become particularly anxious, talk to your veterinarian about an anti-anxiety or sedative medication. Many of these meds can be given an hour or two before the festivities begin and wear off after eight to 12 hours. Ask your vet several days or weeks beforehand, so you have an opportunity to do a trial run on your pet to make sure it's effective. 

Need to Know

Some animals do well with other calming methods, such as ThunderShirts, calming chews, or pheromone sprays.

Tips for Taking Your Dog Trick-or-Treating

Dog wears a costume for Halloween and goes trick or treating

Trick-or-treating with your kids and your pup sounds like a lot of fun. But, before you venture out into the world of candy and costumes, let’s go through some tips to make sure everyone has a safe and enjoyable time.

  • Keep them on a leash: Even if your dog is generally good off-leash, Halloween is a night to keep them securely leashed. With so many distractions, sounds, and people around, it's easy for a dog to get spooked or overly excited.
  • Put an adult in charge of the dog: Make sure the kids know the rules about walking the dog — no running off, pulling the leash too hard, or feeding the dog any candy. Maybe even have an adult dedicated to dog duty to ensure safety.
  • Bring along dog treats: Bring along some dog-friendly treats so your pooch isn't tempted by the chocolate bars and gummy bears filling up your kids' trick-or-treat bags.
  • Consider other dogs: With so many people out and about, there’s a higher risk of encountering other dogs. Not all dogs are friendly, and not all owners are responsible. Always keep a close eye on your surroundings.
  • Keep your dog hydrated: Walking around can be exhausting for your pup, especially if they're not used to long walks or if they’re wearing a costume. Bring along some water and a collapsible bowl to keep them hydrated.
  • Grab the poop bags: Don’t forget the poop bags! No one likes stepping in a pile of gush on Halloween, and you don't want your neighbors upset with you for ruining their lawn.

Ensure Cats and Dogs Have Identification

You know how chaotic Halloween can get — doors swinging open for cute little witches and adorable superheroes, the constant ringing of the doorbell, and all the unusual and sometimes spooky costumes that might make even the most social pet a little nervous. All these factors create the perfect storm for our fur babies to make an unexpected dash for freedom. An up-to-date ID tag and a microchip could be the lifesaver that reunites you with your pet should they get lost this holiday season. 

Halloween Safety for Small Pets

Whether you have a hamster, guinea pig, or even a feathered friend, there are safety measures to keep them safe and content. Halloween can be a different beast for small critters, but they shouldn't be overlooked in the chaos of costumes and candy.

  • Move to a new room. Move their cage or habitat into a quieter room, away from the constantly ringing doorbell and excited kids dashing around.
  • Add in some noise. Consider playing soft, soothing music or white noise near their space. While this may seem counterproductive, it can help muffle the chaos of Halloween night. 
  • Keep the treats away. Chocolate and xylitol are just as toxic to small pets as they are to cats and dogs. Treat bags should be placed far from your small pet's habitat. 
  • Take care of the decorations. Decorations and string lights might be Halloween perfect, but they’re also chewing temptations for small pets. Ensure any electrical cords are tucked away or adequately covered.
  • Beware of costumes. Tiny costumes might look adorable on social media, but most small animals aren’t fans of dressing up.

Avoid Pet Dangers This Halloween

Halloween can and should be a happy holiday for all members of your family. By planning ahead and taking simple safety measures, you can protect your pets from whatever tricks or treats come your way. When safety comes first, your mind will be at ease.

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Halloween Pet Safety — Essential Tips to Keep Everyone Safe