Top tips for making Halloween & Bonfire Night safer (and more enjoyable) for your pet

Halloween is nearly here! And, although it’s a spooktacular event for us humans, all the hocus pocus can often be confusing for our cats and dogs, as they aren’t always fans of the parade of ghouls, zombies and monsters knocking on their doors throughout the evening.

What’s more, Bonfire Night comes hot on the heels of Halloween, creating the potential for an unsettled few days for your little loved ones.

But Halloween doesn’t have to be ‘no tricks or treats’ for our furry companions – with some careful planning, you can ensure your pet remains calm throughout the ‘witching hours’. Plus, with our suggestions for pet-friendly Halloween snacks, they might even enjoy it!

Read on to discover our top tips for creating a season of night-time celebrations that’s fun for all the family…

  1. Walk before dark

Most Halloween ghosts appear under the cover of darkness, so if your work schedule allows, it’s worth taking your dog out for a walk before it gets dark. That said, some younger children may already be out in costume, so remember to pack some treats to keep your pup distracted and calm.

If you don’t have time to walk your dog in daylight, think about fun ways to wear them out in the safety of your home. What’s more, if your cat freely roams outside, make sure they’re inside well ahead of time.

  1. Talk to your neighbours

We all know the feeling of being under siege from those adorable local trick-or-treaters; however, if you know that visitors (ahem, the postman) make your dog or cat nervous, preparation is key.

It might be worth popping a sign on your gate or door telling visitors about your anxious animals, and asking them not to knock on the door. You could even take some sweets to your neighbours earlier in the day and explain the situation. Don’t worry about being a Halloween Grinch – put your furry friends first!

  1. Stick to your routine

While you might have to change your walk times, it’s important to stick to your pet’s routine where possible, to limit any additional stress. An automatic pet feeder might help with this – especially if you find yourself answering the door more often. Dogs and cats also tend to drink more when stressed, so make sure they have plenty of water handy.

  1. Secure any potential escape routes

Escape-proof your house and garden – close your windows and lock any cat flaps or doggy doors once your pet is safely inside. If you do intend to open the door to trick-or-treaters, make sure your furry companions are contained in another room or behind a stair gate – ensuring they can’t shoot through the open front door.

 

  1. ‘Can I see your ID?’

Pets are masters of escape, so if your dog or cat does get spooked and manages to get out of the house, having an up-to-date ID tag on their collar and also a microchip are vital in getting them back home safe and sound. Double-check that their collar/ID tag is secure, and keep the information on their tags and microchips up to date.

 

  1. Create a safe space

Another way of preventing any potential escapees is providing a calm, safe space where your pets can retreat to if they’re feeling stressed. From a doggy den made of blankets to a ‘box fort’ for your feline friends, these cosy time-out zones are super-quick and easy to make.

 

  1. Hide the sweets

Chocolates and sweets (and many other seasonal treats) are toxic for your four-legged friends. Bowls of sweets for trick-or-treaters could be easy pickings for your dog or cat, so it’s essential to keep them out of reach – and remind your children to do the same, too. If you think your pet might have eaten something they shouldn’t have, seek advice from a vet.

Here are the foods to avoid:

  • Chocolate
  • Sugar-free sweets (Xylitol)
  • Raisins and chocolate-covered raisins
  • Caramel apples
  • Macadamia nuts.

For a full list, check out Dogs Trust’s factsheet for pups here and Battersea’s factsheet for cats here.

*Top tip: Pet-friendly Halloween treats*

Of course, there’s no reason why your pets can’t join in the Halloween treat fun with pet-friendly snacks! A bone-shaped treat is arguably Halloween-themed, but if you want to go a step further, check out these yummy peanut butter and pumpkin dog treats and pumpkin cat treats.

 

  1. Costume caution

Playing dress-up with your dog or cat can be lots of fun, and we love seeing your spooky costume creations! However, their spooky fashion show needs to be safe – and brief! It’s important that your pet is comfortable, safe and calm. What’s more, look out for small parts, like buttons, which can be a choking hazard. Most importantly, never leave your pet alone in their costume.

  1. Décor dangers

We know, we know – pumpkins filled with candles are a Halloween staple. However, it’s important to keep them out of reach from curious paws, and never leave your pet alone in the same room as an open flame. The ideal solution is faux candles. Watch out for other decorations, too – including glow sticks (which unfortunately look remarkably like chew toys), electrical cords and small decorations.

  1. Reassure and reward

Lastly, remember to comfort and reassure your pet. Dogs can tell how their owners are feeling, so stay calm and don’t punish any naughtiness that stems from anxiety. It’s important to reinforce good behaviour, too – so be liberal with the praise and cuddles if your dog displays calmness and responds well to cues. Your cat may wish to be left alone if they’re stressed; however, if they come to you for a snuggle, make sure your arms are wide open!

 

Bonfire Night

And lastly, don’t forget that Bonfire Night is just around the corner – and, with the likelihood of unexpected bangs and flashes, it has the potential to be a scary experience for your pets.

When preparing for Bonfire Night, many of the above tips apply – including reassuring your pet, blocking any escape routes, creating a safe space, and walking your dog before dark. However, you may also wish to consider the following ideas:

    • Feed your pet before it gets noisy – as they might be too stressed to eat when the displays start.
    • Provide entertainment such as a game, training, find and seek, or a toy filled with treats to keep your pets at a distance.
    • Dogs have much more sensitive hearing than humans, so try switching on the TV or radio to help conceal any noise or commotion.
    • Don't leave your pet alone. Stay close to provide that reassurance and comfort.

 

Fun for all the family

The week of Halloween and Bonfire Night is a fun time of year for you and your children – and, with careful planning, it can be enjoyable for your pets, too. Follow the above tips and set your dogs and cats up for success during this spooky time of year!

Please note that if your pet is very worried by visitors or fireworks, it’s worth talking to your vet to see if they need longer-term behavioural treatment – or medication if there’s an underlying health problem.

Follow us