Take a moment and imagine how Halloween must feel from the perspective of our furry friends: For starters, their humans often outfit them in silly costumes and parade them around the neighborhood... (Check out some Martha contest submissions from Halloween's past...)
As if that's not enough, our animal companions suddenly find themselves facing a barrage of scary new sounds, smells and temptations. We humans have the benefit of knowing the ghouls are make-believe -- but imagine if we thought they were real? Now that's scary!
The threats to the safety of our companion animal's are far too serious and numerous to ignore some simple precautions. Even best trained, most obedient animals must be protected from the multiple temptations present this time of year.
Our furry family members have to manage stimulus overload, and their instincts to protect are in full force. As their "parents," we must keep them safe and secure with a few simple steps before and during the holiday.
Part I involves the Three I's you must do now, prior to Halloween night, to secure your furry goblins.
I is for Identification: I don't care how obedient your companion animal is, it is essential that she wear a readable ID tag. A microchip is great, but I cannot overstate the importance of a simple tag or collar with a working phone number on it. Most people whose animals get lost did not expect it to happen. An animal getting lost is often prompted by a totally unforeseen circumstance like a sudden noise or a gate accidently left open.
Providing a good Samaritan or local shelter with a simple way to reunite you with your loved one is the safest way to get him back. Without a tag, the journey home is far more complicated -- and therefore less likely. My dogs have an additional note on their tags that reads, "If I am alone, I am lost." This encourages anyone who might assume they are used to being out and will find their way home to call me instead.
For cats in particular it is important that a tag be on a 'quick-release' type collar for safety. Most pet supply stores will know what you are asking for if you request this. Even though my cats are indoors only, I still keep a tag on each of them that has my cell phone number and the words, "If I am out, I am lost."
If your animal's tag has an outdated phone number, be sure to replace it with your current information -- and it's always good to list a second number to call if possible. Tags can be ordered online from a number of sources and most pet supply store chains have machines that make tags on site as you wait.
I is for Information: Have current information on hand for the nearest 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital and how to get there. Having a number for a pet-specific 24 hour poison-control line is also essential. Be sure to share these with neighbors and friends.
Highly toxic temptations and opportunities to escape are everywhere on Halloween. Time is of the essensce if an animal ingests a toxic substance or is injured in some way. The time it takes to find out where you should go in an emergency could make all the difference for your own furry friend or for another you might discover in need of help.
I is for Indoors: Be sure both indoor and outdoor cats are secured indoors at least 2 to 3 days prior to, as well as during, Halloween night. Sadly, many cats (especially black ones) are reported missing at this time of year and reports of ill-intentioned individuals seeking cats for seasonal rituals and the like are numerous. The safest course of action is to keep cats indoors and to report any suspicious activity to both local authorities and to animal cruelty organizations
Be sure to check out Part 2 of Halloween Hazards next Thursday, when I will offer tips for protecting your companion animals on Halloween itself.
Dr. Pia Salk