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Fright night! RSPCA tips for 'petrified pets' at Halloween

Keep them indoors, close windows, shut the curtains and play masking music.

Knocks at the door for ‘trick or treat’, fireworks and children lining the streets in costume are all part of Halloween celebrations for many people, but could cause our pets stress and anxiety. Here are the RSPCA’s simple tips for keeping all pets calmer over Halloween.

With more than one third of dogs in the UK (38%)* showing avoidance behaviour, such as cowering, trembling and whining in response to loud noises, planning ahead for potential ‘spooks’ could help your pet feel more comfortable on Halloween.

• Make sure your dog or cat has somewhere to feel safe where they can hide away if they need to - perhaps under some furniture or in a cupboard - and that they can get to it at any time.
• Ensure your pet is kept in a safe and secure environment and can’t escape, especially if you are expecting lots of trick or treaters and will be frequently opening the front door.
• Check your pets are microchipped in case they do escape.
• Consider putting up a sign on your front door to let trick or treaters know you have a nervous pet and ask them to pass on without knocking or ringing the doorbell. You could leave some goodies in a bowl in the porch or on a window ledge if you still want to join in the festive fun.
• 20% of dogs owners say their dogs suffer with separation anxiety, so avoid leaving your dog alone if you know this is something that will affect them.
• Walking dogs during daylight can help avoid trick or treaters and avoids them having to go outside if fireworks are also set off.
• At nightfall, close windows and curtains and put on music to mask and muffle the sound of any loud noises or voices outside.
• Keep chocolate and sweets away from pets - eating these could make them really poorly, so you should call your vet straight away if you are concerned they may have eaten some.
• We advise owners against dressing up their pets in outfits or costumes as this can cause them stress and restricts them in showing their natural behaviour and how they may be feeling. A new game or toy is a much better way to have fun together.

With the clocks changing this weekend and the longer, darker nights looming, it’s important to take steps to keep pets happy and healthy:
• You may not feel like going for a walk in winter, but the exercise will be good for your pet and help keep them healthy.
• Always wear reflective clothing to make yourself visible when walking near roads in the dark. You can fit your dog with a reflective collar or dog coat, or you could fix a safety light onto their collar during walks in the dark.
• If it suits your cat’s routine, you may consider keeping them in overnight to keep them safe from the road
• If your cat is out during the day but you won’t be home until after dark, fit your cat with a reflective collar - but make sure it is a quick release collar.

RSPCA animal behaviour expert Dr Samantha Gaines said: “Fear of loud noises, fireworks, and strange and unfamiliar people can be scary for some pets but it can be managed. We recommend seeking advice from your vet so that you can plan ahead and help your pet cope around Halloween. For example, your vet may recommend the use of diffusers which disperse calming chemicals into the room. In the longer term, if your dog is frightened of unfamiliar noises or fireworks, your vet may suggest referral to a clinical animal behaviourist to teach him/her to get used to the sounds,

“It is also a good idea to provide your dog with a safe haven. It is best to get your dog used to this before the season starts. Choose somewhere quiet and help him to learn that being there is positive and that no harm will come to him. You can do this by giving him toys or a variety of chew toys.

“Small animals that live outside should have lots of extra bedding so they can burrow and some of their enclosure could be covered by a blanket for extra insulation and soundproofing. If you are planning to bring them indoors then to start then introduce this before Halloween.

“And if you are having a Halloween party and using fireworks yourself, please only do so on traditional celebration dates like Bonfire Night and Halloween, when most animal owners will be expecting fireworks and will hopefully have made preparations to help their animals cope. Also consider letting your neighbours know so they can make arrangements for their pets too.”

For advice on how to minimise anxiety and keep pets safe and happy on Halloween and Bonfire Night, visit rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/general/fireworks

If you see an animal you have concerns about please call the RSPCA's emergency line on 0300 1234 999.
To help the RSPCA continue rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals in desperate need of care please visit:www.rspca.org.uk/give.

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