Cat wearing hot dog costume
The black cat is a Halloween staple — but that doesn’t mean that your cat (of any color) is going to get into the spirit of this haunting season. Costumes and decorations can be frightening for your feline, and spooky foods and open doors can pose safety hazards. And if your cat’s normal routine is thrown off by parties and festivities, she may not be on her best behavior — and that can make her truly scary.

Help manage your cat’s anxiety, so she can mind her manners this Halloween, with the following tips.

Reduce the Scare Factor

Protect your cat from the unpredictable. Cats are predictable about disliking the unpredictable. Halloween festivities can cause changes in your cat’s routine and home environment. Keep your cat’s daily routine as normal as possible — stick with her usual feeding and play times, for example. Activities like food puzzles and interactive toys can also help decrease your cat’s stress.

Minimize scary hazards. Think twice about decorations that might frighten your feline, particularly those that move, make sound or include flashing lights or billowing smoke. Illuminate jack-o’-lanterns with flashlights or small portable LED lights rather than candles, which can pose a burning hazard to your cat and other trick-or-treating pets. And keep in mind that while your cat may not be all that interested in your candy, it’s not good for her to eat — store your stash in closed containers in a space that is out of your cat’s reach.

Consider costumes carefully. Ensure kitty is comfortable in her holiday getup prior to Halloween. Cats who learn to wear clothing or costumes at a young age are more likely to be tolerant of dressing up. Go slow when introducing your cat to a costume and offer plenty of rewards. In most cases, though, your best option might be to put the costume on your cat, take a quick photo and then remove the costume. A decorative collar or seasonal toy can be an equally festive — but much less stressful — alternative.

Keep Trick or Treat Safe and Fun

Keep kitties safely indoors. Protect your cat by limiting outside access to walks on leash or securely enclosed cat-safe areas like a catio. Keep outdoor felines inside on the days leading up to and after Halloween, as well as on the night itself. Even a cat who is used to going outside can become disoriented and scared when confronted with decorations or trick-or-treaters.

Create a safe room. For cats who are especially nervous with change and new people, consider setting up a safe haven in your home. A room with the cat’s essentials — food, water, litterbox, toys, scratching post, bed and perches — can be helpful in keeping her separate from trick-or-treaters or costumed friends. Calming music and pheromone spray can also help to create a comfortable, stress-free space. As an extra bonus, limiting your cat to an area away from the festivities can also help keep her from noshing on potentially dangerous food items.

Bar the door. If you don’t want to confine your cat to one room for the whole evening, protect her from a possible escape by using cat restraints, like a harness and leash, when you answer the door. Or, weather permitting, consider making your cat comfortable in the house while you remain outside to greet ghouls and ghosts and hand out candy. Make sure your cat’s microchip and ID tags have the correct information so that she can be returned to you if she manages to escape — there’s nothing scarier than losing your beloved pet.

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