Get ready to hide your black cats. It's almost time for Halloween, and each year at this time people who own black felines are warned to keep them safe from thieves who might want to use them in dark rituals.
Black cats at one time were thought to be witches and even today some shelters won't adopt them out near Halloween. The possibility of ongoing threats may be mostly urban legend, but why take chances?
In fact, Halloween can be a downright spooky time for pets in general. That's why any number of animal welfare organizations are busy this time of year sending out tips for keeping your animals safe. Ignore them if you must, but wouldn't it be better to be safe than sorry?
Among the organizations offering advice is the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The ASPCA recommends these steps:
1. No tricks, no treats: That bowl of candy is for trick-or-treaters, not for Scruffy and Fluffy. Chocolate in all forms—especially dark or baking chocolate—can be very dangerous for dogs and cats. Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also cause problems.
2. Popular Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are considered to be relatively nontoxic, but they can produce stomach upset in pets who nibble on them.
3. Wires and cords from electric lights and other decorations should be kept out of reach of your pets. If chewed, your pet might suffer cuts or burns, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock.
4. Exercise caution if you choose to add a candle to a carved pumpkin. Pets can easily knock a lit pumpkin over and cause a fire. Curious kittens especially run the risk of getting burned or singed by candle flames.
5. Don't put your dog or cat in a costume UNLESS you know he or she loves it. For pets who prefer their “birthday suits,” however, wearing a costume may cause undue stress.
6. If you do dress up your pet, make sure the costume isn't annoying or unsafe. It should not constrict the animal's movement or hearing, or impede his ability to breathe, bark or meow. Also, be sure to try on costumes before the big night. If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior, consider letting him go au naturale or donning a festive bandana.
7. Take a closer look at your pet’s costume and make sure it does not have small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that he could choke on. Also, ill-fitting outfits can get twisted on external objects or your pet, leading to injury.
8. All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treating hours. Too many strangers can be scary and stressful.
9. When opening the door for trick-or-treaters, take care that your cat or dog doesn't dart outside.
10. Always make sure your dog or cat has proper identification. If for any reason your pet escapes and becomes lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can be a lifesaver, increaing the chances that he or she will be returned to you.
In short, have a frightfully good time yourself but don't scare the life out of your furry pal.
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