By Kim Boatman
Halloween might be fun for us humans, but it can be a haunting experience for our cats. While we’re dishing out candy, carving pumpkins and donning scary costumes, it’s easy to overlook the risks our cats might face.
“It’s one of those things people don’t always think about,” says Candance Labane-Godfrey, a past president of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. Labane-Godfrey and other experts offer 13 not-so-ghoulish tips to keep your cat healthy and safe this Halloween.
Watch the pumpkin.
Take special care if you carve a pumpkin for Halloween, says Labane-Godfrey. Cats have an affinity for pumpkin, she explains, but “carved pumpkins are prone to developing bacteria.” Consider using a realistic, artificial jack-o’-lantern instead.
Douse the candles.
The flickering flames from candles and their accompanying shadows might add to the creepy Halloween atmosphere, but that dancing flame also poses a temptation for your feline friend. Your curious cat may burn a paw swatting flames or knock over a candle -- a hazard for both you and kitty. Don’t underestimate your cat’s ability to jump if you place candles in an area you think is out of reach.
Secure electrical cords.
Halloween decorations have moved far beyond a simple carved jack-o’-lantern. These days, the fashionably ghoulish home requires some serious juice. Cats are sometimes tempted to chew on electrical cords, putting themselves at risk for electrical shock, says Labane-Godfrey. The plastic tubes used to disguise electrical cords in home offices or around entertainment centers also work to protect cords from your cat.
Make a safe space.
Secure your kitty in a calm, secluded place well before the Halloween festivities begin. With doors open frequently, there’s a greater chance of your cat escaping, reminds Dr. Tina Wismer, senior director of veterinary outreach and education for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Make slow introductions.
If the party is at your place, consider leaving your cat in its safe space. At the very least, wait until your guests have arrived, and ease your cat into “introductions.”
Use a break-away collar.
Even if your cat remains indoors all the time, it’s a good idea to make sure your pal wears a break-away collar with ID tags, advises Labane-Godfrey.
Guard the dip.
At parties, we tend to leave food sitting out longer and in more varied locations than we do in everyday life. That shrimp left sitting for several hours poses a risk to your kitty as bacteria builds. Dips often contain onions, garlic or onion powder, which can damage your cat’s red blood cells if kitty gets into the dip, says Wismer. Remember that guests may leave plates of food in unexpected locations, so make regular patrols of party areas.
Keep an eye on the alcohol.
Drinks containing cream or milk products may tempt your cat, notes Wismer. “Cats are so much smaller than we are; it doesn’t take very much alcohol to end up with problems,” she says.
Pick up glow sticks.
Glow sticks, bracelets and necklaces help keep trick-or-treaters safe, but they’re also an irresistible temptation for cats. Make sure your kids don’t leave glow sticks lying around where your kitty can chew on them. The sticks and jewelry contain a bitter substance that will make your cat drool uncontrollably, says Wismer.
Keep candy in a bowl.
It’s fun for kids to come home and dump their loot on the floor, but it’s safer for your kitty if the candy is confined to a bowl or large container. First, artificial sweeteners and chocolate can be toxic to animals. Second, crinkly candy wrappers may seem like toys to cats. If your cat chews on a wrapper, it could cause an intestinal blockage that requires surgery.
Avoid artificial spider webs.
“Anything long and stringy that your cat can chew on can cause an obstruction,” says Wismer.
Decorations and costumes often have dangly strings, tinsel or cords, posing a threat as well, cautions Dr. Joann Gaines, owner of Ridgeview Animal Hospital in Omaha, Neb. These sorts of obstructions can be life-threatening, she notes.
Ditch the costume.
Resist that clever or adorable cat costume you see in your local pet boutique. You’re likely to stress your cat, and costumes can sometimes limit movement, breathing or hearing. Remember too that you may stress or scare your cat if you appear in costume.
It’s critical to keep your cat in mind as you prepare to celebrate Halloween and other holidays, says Labane-Godfrey. “It can definitely be a risky time for cats because of some of the products and tools we humans use around holiday times.”
Kim Boatmanis a Northern California-based journalist whose work has appeared in such publications as the Miami Herald, Detroit Free Press and San Jose Mercury News. She is a lifelong lover of animals and shares her home with three cats.