The images of Halloween have gotten so familiar, they’re almost nostalgic: the tiny fairy princess, the toddling goblin, and the seven-year-old super hero don’t spook so much as they make us smile. We see the plastic spiders in their cotton webs, and the rubbery bats hanging from the porch eaves, and the glimmering Jack-o-Lanterns leering into the night.
And instead of cowering behind closed doors, we sigh happily and think that all is right with the world.
Once upon a time, though, this time of year brought to mind all sorts of fearsome images, like demons re-animating the dead, and witches conjuring evil spirits to wander the earth in search of … um, let’s say, food. And where lurks the arcane, there also lurks the idea that animals are somehow a part of the scene.
Whether you’re talking about a witch’s “familiar,” spiders and bats swarming in response to a demonic presence, or the spirit of the ancient forest come to walk the earth in animal form, talk of the supernatural inevitably invokes animal images.
So what could be more appropriate at this spooky time of the year than the neighbor’s black cat hissing from the shadows, or crossing the path in front of your trick-or-treaters?
I’ll tell you what we of the Bunagerie recommend: empty shadows, with no pets in them at all.
You see, there’s another Halloween tradition that gets a bit less attention, despite its persistence over the years: missing, tortured, and killed pets, with black animals often getting the brunt of the “mischief.” Whether it’s “troubled youth,” or superstitious/insane adults, the week of Halloween seems to be a time when all sorts of outlandish cruelty comes calling.
I’m sure you’ve heard the tales – cats and dogs injured by thrown eggs or rocks, fireworks tied to tails, fur set on fire, pets poisoned by tainted food or treats… and even worse. I can’t tell you why it happens; it’s beyond me to understand. But I can tell you that these things DO happen, and not having black fur won’t stop someone from trying to hurt your pet if they’ve already got their mind set on it.
Removing the opportunity beforehand is the best defense. Free-roaming outdoor pets are at the worst risk of cruelty, of course, and that generally means kitty cats. If bringing them inside for the week is at all an option, they’ll be a lot safer indoors.
Dogs that normally stay inside a well-fenced yard are at less risk, but they aren’t immune, and keeping them tied up outdoors can actually make them easier, more tempting targets. Consider finding a place for them inside the garage or utility room for a few nights around All Hallows Eve.
If you’re planning on opening your doors to trick-or-treaters, make super-sure your indoor pets are away from the door so they can’t dash out unexpectedly from fright or curiosity. They may not like being cooped up in the bedroom for a few hours, but it beats trying to pass out Smarties while holding the cat at the same time!
Also, be sure they have their ID tags on (name, address and phone number are ideal) so that if they DO dash out, your chances of being reunited are vastly improved. This goes doubly for your free-roaming pets, too.
Even under best-case conditions a normally secure and confident indoor pet can get spooked by the odd noises and strange people coming and going at odd hours. Keeping your pets inside and away from the commotion can help keep them happier, as well as safer.
Finally, leaving treats out where curious pets can snack on them is not a great idea either. Chocolate is a big-time Halloween candy ingredient, but it can cause our animal friends real heart trouble. Stray wrappers can cause severe digestive problems. And most candy ingredients are SO not appropriate for our pets, and even small amounts can often make them very sick. So make sure the area is clear of tempting leftovers before releasing your pets back into their natural habitats.
The Furry Spirits of the BOO-nagerie hope that all your Halloween plans are fun, successful and safe. Don’t forget that Halloween can be scary for your pets, so take just a moment or two to plan for their safety and comfort.
Oh, and leaving them a few pet-friendly treats would be lovely, too.
After all: it's Halloween!
We’d love to hear your pet safety tips – or your best spooky animal stories – in the comments section below! Happy Halloween!!