With Halloween festivities beginning in just over a week, students are busy purchasing costumes, decorations and candy. While decorations give the already haunted Athens an even spookier feel, most people don’t consider the safety of their pets over Halloween.
With thousands of people in town for the block party, Halloween results in a number of hazards that all responsible pet owners have to take seriously. Even though they add a spooky element to a haunted-house themed party, decorations like candles can pose dangers to pets because they can easily be knocked over.
Jessica Jones, a senior studying integrated media, has a personal horror story involving candles and her one-year-old Turkish Angora cat, Bennie.
“He lit his tail on fire,” Jones said. “It scared him, so he ran upstairs and it put out the flame.”
Her long-haired cat’s tail swiped over the top of a candle and burst the tip of his tail into flames.
“I was terrified,” Jones said. “I had to give him a bath and he had a little charred fur, but he was okay.”
Ever since her cat’s accident, Jones has used extra caution with candles.
“You shouldn’t leave lit candles unattended,” Shelley Lieberman, owner of Friendly Paws Pet Supplies and Grooming in Athens, said. “Even attended, cats can walk by a candle and catch their tail on fire.”
Although dressing a kitten or puppy in a pumpkin costume may sound cute, many pet owners don’t take the feelings of their pets into account when selecting a costume.
“I see so many pets in costumes and they seem really miserable and scared and sad,” Jones said.
Jones wants to dress up Bennie for Halloween, but won’t because she doesn’t want to make him uncomfortable.
“I don’t want him to be in a house with a ton of people and also be wearing a caterpillar costume,” Jones said. “Don’t do it unless your pet likes it.”
Lieberman is a strong advocate of listening to a pet’s needs, rather than forcing them into a costume.
“The first thing to consider is, ‘Will the costume stress the pet out so much that it just isn’t a good idea?’,” Lieberman said.
To Lieberman, the pet’s comfortability in a costume should be an important factor in the owner’s decision of whether or not to dress them up.
“Be cognizant of your pet’s personality and what they can handle,” she said. “If they love being dressed or tolerate it shortly, then go for it.”
Lieberman believes it just takes some common sense to ensure pet safety. Costumes shouldn’t be too loose or tight. On the other hand, well-fitting costumes can be helpful in keeping pets warm this time of year.
“On Halloween, I like to make sure my dog has a costume that keeps her warm,” Mallory Mullins, a sophomore studying health services administration, said.
Mullins has a Teacup Yorkie named CoCo Chanel.
“It’s also a fun idea to have dog treats on hand to pass out to other dogs in costumes,” Mullins said.
Having dog treats on hand can encourage responsible decision-making when it comes to feeding pets. It can be easy to give in to the begging and feed a pet candy, but that can result in an upset stomach or even a trip to the emergency veterinarian.
To Lieberman, a simple safe alternative to candies is pet treats. Pet owners can find Halloween-themed treats perfect for the season, too.
Trick-or-treating and Halloween parties also mean there will be increased foot traffic, which is a high risk to pets because it can make them anxious or cause them to escape from their homes.
“It would be best to keep pets in a room or crate in your home where they can’t burst out the door, which will be opening and closing,” Lieberman said.
Lieberman believes a way to keep pets from escaping would be to sit outside when handing out candy so they can’t run away.
It can be tempting to bring pets to Halloween parties to flaunt their cute costumes or include them in the festivities, however, this could cause pets stress.
“Please keep your pets at home,” Lieberman said.
Parties can be overwhelming for pets because the costumes, different smells and overstimulation can spook cats and dogs. Lieberman suggests relocating animals to a closed-off safe space when hosting a party.
If people want to include their pets in Halloween festivities, they take them to one of the numerous pet-friendly Halloween events happening in Athens. Friendly Paws’ Pet Trick And Treat is Oct. 29, at 4 p.m. at Friendly Paws Pet Supplies and Grooming, 940 E. State St.