Dr. Ruth MacPete, DVM
Halloween isn’t just a spooky time for humans; it can be frightening and even deadly for cats. As you prepare for Halloween, keep these five tips in mind, so that both you and your feline friends have a safe and happy Halloween.
If your cats aren’t already indoor-only cats, be sure to keep them inside on Halloween night, so they are not terrified by all of the scary Halloween trick-or-treaters. With lots of scary noises and children in costumes shouting “Trick or Treat,” even indoor cats can become frightened. Many pets are lost each Halloween when they get scared and dart out of open doors, so keep your cats safe and away from the commotion by keeping them in a back room.
Another reason to keep your cats indoors during Halloween is to protect them from people who wish to do them harm. Sadly, there has been a disturbing increase in the disappearance of many animals, especially black cats, during Halloween. Besides keeping your cats indoors, make sure your cats each have a collar, ID tag and microchip just in case they get out and become lost.
Halloween candy can be very dangerous for cats, especially chocolate and xylitol! Most people think this is something only dog owners need to worry about, but unfortunately, cats occasionally eat candy too. Most people know that chocolate is toxic to pets and even small quantities can be fatal. Few people know that candy sweetened with xylitol, such as sugar-free gum, can also be very dangerous. Xylitol causes insulin release and low blood sugar levels and can lead to liver failure. Be sure to keep all Halloween candy away from your pets. If your cat manages to steal and eat candy, immediately call your veterinarian or take your cat to a veterinary emergency clinic.
Jack o’ lanterns with flickering candles can be very attractive and dangerous to curious kitties. Besides burning an inquisitive nose or paw, candles can start a house fire if they are accidentally knocked over. To be safe, never leave lit candles unattended, always place them out of reach of all pets, and consider switching to safer, battery-powered “candles.”
Blinking lights, stringy webs and other spooky decorations can also be dangerous to curious cats. Pets can become entangled in lights and stringy objects. Strings of twinkling Halloween lights can be quite attractive to your cats and can electrocute them if they nibble on the cords. Small decorations can be ingested and cause life-threatening intestinal blockages unless they are surgically removed. To be safe, make sure all decorations are safely out of reach of all pets.
Some people, like me, love to dress their pets up for Halloween. Just be sure you use a costume made for cats and never leave them in a costume unattended. Pet costumes are made to fit pets and come off easily. However, never leave any of your pets alone in a costume as they can easily get into trouble. Some animals may decide to take their costume off themselves and become entangled, while others may get their costume stuck on something and choke. Make sure your cat is comfortable with a costume; if you believe it might cause any anxiety, check with your veterinarian first.
As you prepare for Halloween, keep these tips in mind, so that both you and your feline friends have a safe and happy Halloween.