Keep your pets happy and safe during Halloween and Bonfire night

We spoke to student veterinary nurse, Natalia Duszynski about what we can do to keep our pets safe and happy.

It can be a stressful time of year, not only for us, but for our pets. Fireworks can frighten them, small animals can get trapped in bonfires, and black cats still can’t shake that association with evil sorcery.

Natalia Duszynski is a student veterinary nurse, and she spoke to us about what our pets go through, and how we can help to keep them happy and safe.

Even in 2017, black cats seem to get a bad rep by the superstitious. Are they treated differently around Halloween?

Natalia Duszynski: There seems to be a higher case of cruelty and issues around black cats this time of year, some shelters pause all black cat adoptions at Halloween to try and prevent this. People are still incredibly superstitious around black cats and their association with witchcraft, even in this day and age and this is highlighted during the run up to Halloween.

How can people help to keep black cats safe at Halloween?

I would suggest keeping them in on actual Halloween night – people dressing in costumes and setting off fireworks adds to them being stressed and frightened and they are more likely to wander off to find somewhere to hide. Making sure your pets are microchipped is important too – if they do happen to get lost then they can be found again. I wouldn’t always advocate collars as they can cause injuries but sometimes a form of identification is better than nothing. Strays and abandoned cats should be reported or taken to a local vet for health checks if it is possible to catch them – if not, some charities offer ‘cat traps’ where they are able to capture the animals humanely and transport to a vet or shelter. If you have somewhere safe for cats to hide outdoors – a cardboard box or carrier will suffice, this can help reduce stress. Keeping a litter tray inside allows cats to go to the toilet safely without being disturbed, some cats prefer covered trays for extra security.

Are there any particular pets that are effected by fireworks more than others?

It depends on the personality of the animal as some are totally not fussed about fireworks, but both dogs and cats have the potential to be effected. Outdoor pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs and horses are probably effected more as they are outside with the fireworks and the loud noises can spook them.  They are all ‘prey animals’ naturally so will have a flight response to loud noise. Always check bonfires for small animals that may hide in the logs before lighting.

Are there tricks you can use to keep your pets calm during fireworks?

For dogs and cats, scent based calming sprays and diffusers such as Adaptil or Feliway can reduce stress. Give animals somewhere to hide – a box or crate covered in a towel in a quiet room where they can feel safe away from loud noises. When walking dogs around firework night, keep on a lead if possible as frightened dogs can bolt. Lots of treats and reassurance help whilst walking, and basic training can assist with terrified dogs but some never get over the fear so leaving them somewhere quiet and dark can help. It really depends on the animal. Rabbits and guinea pigs should have hutches in a quiet area of the garden, ideally covered by a blanket to help reduce stress – if you can, bring them inside for a few nights until the celebrations are over. Rodents and bird cages can be covered with a towel or blanket. Horses should be taken into their stable for the night as they can injure themselves when frightened, keep stables secure and check on them regularly if concerned. If any of your pets are exhibiting worrying signs of stress or pain, contact your vet immediately.

Do you have any tips on how to make the most of this time of year with your pet, without putting them in danger or making them frightened?

Dogs can be trained to associate fireworks more positively by taking them to training classes, however it must be noted that not every dog will respond to this as some are just too frightened. Take dogs on walks before it gets dark if possible, if not a reflective collar and lead can help keep them safe near roads in the dark, it may be worth investing in a doggie coat to keep them snug on frosty nights! Bringing lots of treats with you can create a positive bond with your animal. Small furries such as rabbits and guinea pigs can enjoy some Halloween themed treats like a bit of pumpkin and carrot in their diet, and cats and kittens enjoy sitting in, and exploring carved out pumpkins! Making enrichment like boxes into a ‘halloween house’ could be a fun idea for animals to explore in the safety of their home.

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