Knocks at the door for ‘trick or treat’, fireworks and children lining the streets in costume are all part of Halloween celebrations for many people – but could cause our pets stress and anxiety.
RSPCA Cymru has produced simple guidelines for keeping pets calmer over Halloween.
With more than one third of dogs in the UK (38%)* showing avoidance behaviour, such as cowering, trembling, whining, in response to loud noises, planning ahead for potential ‘spooks’ on Halloween can help you make your pet as comfortable as possible, whether you have a dog, cat or small pets in your home.
Make sure your dog or cat has somewhere to hide – perhaps under some furniture or in a cupboard – and can get to it at any time.
Ensure your pet is kept in a safe and secure environment and can’t escape, especially if you are expecting lots of trick or treaters and will be frequently opening the front door.
Make sure your pets are microchipped in case they do escape.
Consider putting up a sign on your front door to let trick or treaters know you have a nervous pet and ask them to pass on without knocking or ringing the doorbell. You could leave some goodies in a bowl in the porch or on a window ledge if you still want to join in the festivities.
20% of dogs owners say their dogs suffer with separation anxiety, so avoid leaving your dog alone if you know this is something that will affect them.
Walking dogs during daylight can help avoid trick or treaters and avoids them having to go outside if fireworks are also set off.
At nightfall, close windows and curtains and put on music to mask and muffle the sound of any loud noises or voices outside.
Keep chocolate and sweets away from pets – eating these could make them really poorly, so you should call your vet straight away if you are concerned they may have eaten some.
We advise owners against dressing up their pets in outfits or costumes as this can cause them stress and restricts them in showing their natural behaviour and how they may be feeling. A new game or toy is a much better way to have fun together.
RSPCA animal behaviour expert Dr Samantha Gaines said: “Fear of loud noises, fireworks, and strange and unfamiliar people can be managed and we recommend seeking advice from your vet so that you can plan ahead and help your pet cope around Halloween. For example, your vet may recommend the use of diffusers which disperse calming chemicals into the room. In the longer term, if your dog is frightened of unfamiliar noises or fireworks, your vet may suggest referral to a clinical animal behaviourist to teach him/her to get used to the sounds,
“It is also a good idea to provide your dog with a safe haven. It is best to get your dog used to this before the season starts. Choose somewhere quiet and help him to learn that being there is positive and that no harm will come to him. You can do this by giving him toys or a variety of chew toys.
“Small animals that live outside should have lots of extra bedding so they can burrow and some of their enclosure could be covered by a blanket for extra insulation and soundproofing. If you are planning to bring them indoors then to start then introduce this before Halloween.
“And if you are having a Halloween party and expecting lots of visitors, or using fireworks yourself, please only do so on traditional celebration dates like Bonfire Night and Halloween, when most animal owners will be expecting fireworks and will hopefully have made preparations to help their animals cope, and consider letting your neighbours know so they can make arrangements for their pets.”
For advice on how to minimise anxiety and keep pets safe and happy on Halloween and Bonfire Night, visit rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/general/fireworks
If you see an animal you have concerns about please call the RSPCA’s emergency line on 0300 1234 999.
To help the RSPCA continue rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals in desperate need of care please visit:www.rspca.org.uk/give.
*Figures from the RSPCA Dog Kind report