Prep pets for ‘freaky week’
Is it a blessing or a curse for phobic pets that Halloween and fireworks night happen within the same week? We’re not sure. But either way, for cats, dogs, rabbits, and any other pets who freak out at the sight of spooky strangers, or go ballistic at big bangs, anything you can do to ease their woes is going to be a winner in their book. Here are our thoughts on how you can help…
Halloween hazards for hapless pets
Treats tend to be more of a problem than tricks for pets at Halloween. Highly toxic xylitol lurks in many modern sweets, and dogs don’t fare well upon eating it. The problems with pets eating chocolate are, by now, also well known.
All we can say is, keep people's treats out of reach and phone for advice as soon as possible if a pet gets their paws on any. Hours and minutes can make all the difference when it comes to the ingestion of toxins.
From firecrackers to silly string, cobwebs to screaming ghost statues, pets can come a cropper with Halloween decs. From the physical, such as surgery-inducing foreign body ingestions, to the mental anguish, such as being spooked by bangs, whizzes and scary soundtracks, Halloween festivities can be a minefield for our pets. Imagine seeing the weird and wonderful creatures of All Hallows Eve roaming the streets and not knowing that they are people dressed up in costumes. Dogs and cats don't understand that cackling witches, screaming banshees, and howling ghosts are all human under there. Add in the excited squeals of children, and pets simply aren't used to these sorts of energies.
We urge owners to exercise dogs early, and keep pets tucked up indoors for the evening to prevent straying. Allow them their own secluded safe space away from the fun, especially if you're inviting these potential pet-scarers into your home. While we think about it, why not check your pet's microchip contact details are all up-to-date just in case?
Pets and costumes
It takes a special kind of a pet to truly enjoy wearing a Halloween costume, and even a very chilled one to simply tolerate it. It’s likely that the vast majority of cats don't fall into this category at all, and many dogs probably don't either. Being laughed at, feeling uncomfortable, or physically restricted by fancy dress can induce anxiety.
Perhaps a lightly decorated dog collar is a kinder option?
Moving into fireworks season
To many, it feels like fireworks ‘night’ has become ‘season’, as displays don't tend to go off all at once. So having a robust action plan in place can make all the difference for petrified pets. Here is our five-step plan for a fear-free fireworks night:
- Use plug-in synthetic pheromones well in advance; literally fill the air with relaxed vibes.
- Exercise pets before dark; a tired pet is often a relaxed one.
- Create a cosy den, fill it with special toys and blankets. For cats, cosy spaces up high can work wonders.
- Turn up the television, drown out the noise. Close the curtains, dim the firework flashes.
- Be there, care, but don’t overbear! Let your pet decide how much fuss they need and remain calm. Nonchalance goes a long way.
Prepare for next year
Pets needn’t fret over fireworks for the rest of their lives, there really is a cure! Desensitisation or counterconditioning takes time and patience, but it can be done. It’s not a quick fix and rushing the process can even worsen the problem. For severely phobic pets, it might be better to begin once this year’s fireworks have subsided. Here’s how in 5:
- Buy desensitisation audio: There is ‘scary’ sounds audio available featuring various fear-inducing noises from fireworks to hoovers, even car key sounds for those whose separation anxiety is triggered by the jingling of keys.
- Play the sounds daily, initially almost inaudibly low. Play them until your pet relaxes.
- Provide calm reassurance if sought by your pet.
- Gradually increase the volume, only when your pet is truly relaxed at the previous volume. It may take days/weeks at one volume before moving to the next.
- Go back a step if required. Remember, rushing is futile.
So you see, whilst ‘freaky week’ poses a number of challenges to pets, with a little thought and help from their friends, they can come through safe and well.