Before you go trick or treating with a pet, ask the pet, “Would you like to go?”
You may not get an answer in English, but you know your pet best. Be honest.
While many dogs love to be the center of attention and are friendly to children dressed as ghosts and goblins, other dogs don’t respond well to startling events, and may not be dependable around unfamiliar children, especially if they’re dressed as werewolves.
If you’re toting a cat outdoors in a cat carriage, unless your cat experiences this sort of travel frequently, Halloween is not the day to try it out for a test run. Of course, most cats feel uncomfortable outside their territory. There are well-socialized cats that are the exception to the rule, but they are the exception. Most cats don’t want to join in neighborhood trick or treating. In fact, most cats detest Halloween.
When pets look humiliated in costumes, it’s probably because they are humiliated. Having said that, pets love to be doted upon, and they don’t much care if they’re wearing a superhero outfit or dressed as Lady Gaga. Some may even enjoy the experience, especially if treats and/or extra attention is involved.
However, for pets who disdain wearing costumes, I suggest you’re being delivered a message. Don’t take it personally; it’s not about you. It’s distressing or even mortifying to them… at least that’s how it appears some pets feel when wearing costumes. And, even if we can’t quite equate their feelings into our terms, it’s clear they don’t like it. Then, if we’re really honest, consider that some people don’t like dressing up for Halloween either.
And that’s not to mention the pet hamsters, gerbils, Guinea pigs, ferrets, parrots, lizards, and other assorted pets dressed up for Halloween. Many may be totally ambivalent, but I doubt many hamsters or lizards wake up in the morning wondering what they’re going to wear.
Still, the fact is that more pet owners are dressing up their pets this year than ever before, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), with spending expected to exceed $350 million on pet costumes. The NRF forecast is that 16 percent of Americans, or about 27.7 million people, will put their furry friends into costumes.
For every pet that doesn’t mind dressing up or other Halloween festivities, there are probably more that are horrified of the holiday. The doorbell ringing over and over again, unfamiliar people—are they even people?—coming to the door, and unexpected and loud noises coming from outside.
Worried pets may hide, bolt out an open door, or even respond aggressively.
Lots of pets are lost on Halloween. While you should avoid the pet running out the door in the first place, if the worst happens, ensure that dogs and cats are wearing ID collars and are microchipped (and your current contact information is registered with the microchip provider).
By opening the door for trick or treaters, there’s always a risk a pet will get away. Prevention is best, so keeping the pet behind a closed door of a second bedroom, den, or basement will not only prevent the possibility of escape, but will also allow you an opportunity to minimize or prevent fear, anxiety, or stress by controlling the environment.
Close the shades, shut the windows, and turn on calming classical music. Offer a water bowl in this room, and remember to relocate at least one litter box (depending on how many cats you have).
The real secret to lowering anxiety and/or preventing it from ramping up in the first place is to plug in Feliway (for cats) or Adaptil (for dogs) diffusers. These products are copies of naturally occurring pheromones that pets sense and make them feel more comfortable in their own environments.
Once stress is reduced, get their minds of all those trick or treaters by giving your pets something to occupy their time, such as a rawhide to chomp on or thinking games, like food puzzles, which require dogs and cats to maneuver objects to receive treats.
Encourage a family member to periodically interact with the pets using an interactive cat toy or tossing a squeaky toy for dogs. If their minds are thinking about having fun, the persistent doorbell ringing isn’t quite so worrisome.
If the doorbell prompts anxiety, place a sign on your front door asking trick or treaters to knock instead of ringing the bell.
Halloween is supposed to be fun for the entire family, including pets.