In mythology and folklore, superstitions link cats to witches and bad luck on Halloween, but it's actually our feline friends who ought to be scaredy-cats on the fall holiday. That's because many of its accoutrements, such as trick-or-treating, candlelit jack-o'-lanterns and candy in foil wrappers carry risks for our felines. Just the sound of kids screaming "Boo!" could give your cat nightmares for weeks.
There is good news for black-cat owners in particular, though, since the ASPCA hasn't seen any data to confirm that such felines are at high risk on Halloween for worse fates, like catnapping or use in black magic rituals. Some shelters in the past refused to adopt out black cats as Oct. 31 approached. "The data does not support the notion that black cats are at terrible risk at Halloween," says Gail Buchwald, senior vice president of ASPCA Community Outreach in New York City. Nevertheless, she adds, "Cats should be kept out of harm's way in the hubbub of this holiday season."
Problems for Cats on Halloween
Here are some of the real hazards cats can face during Halloween and how you can prevent any harm from coming to your kitty.
Safe Cat Halloween Celebrations
There are ways to prepare your feline friend for the big night of goblins and ghouls. Exercise is an important stress reducer. Playing with your pet for a bit earlier on Halloween night might therefore be the calm inducer your pet needs to brave the hullabaloo. "It's not something that would appeal to them at a time of stress, so I wouldn't advise it during the hubbub," Buchwald says. "But something that involves high energy on the morning of the hubbub would be great. The idea is that a tired cat is more likely to be a calm cat."
In addition to commercial cat toys, like wands or lasers to chase, there are some fun homemade games you can concoct to play with your cat. Peterson says that many cats enjoy batting around a pingpong ball in an empty bathtub. She also says a paper shopping bag can work wonders. Just take off the handles, cut a hole in the bottom and stick a wand through the hole to entice your cat into the bag. Many cats, Peterson says, also like to pounce on newspaper that you spread on the floor.
"On Halloween, it's a great time to play with your kitty and make sure you spend some quality time together," Peterson says. "Kids get so excited about trick or treating and candy, or a party, that they sometimes forget that kitty depends on them every day for love and attention." She adds, "It's a nice time to do something fun or even something quiet, like sit down and pet your cat. It might calm you down, too."
Elizabeth Wasserman, a Washington, D.C. area-based freelancer, has been writing about pets, among other topics, for more than 15 years. Her love of dogs, in particular, was handed down through the generations from her great-grandfather, Eric Knight, who wrote the book Lassie Come Home in the 1930s.
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