While a black cat crossing your path is traditionally associated with bad luck, around Halloween, the Claremore Animal Shelter wants to keep black cats out of peoples' paths to keep the animals safe from the people, not the other way around.
Like many shelters around the country, the Claremore shelter temporarily restricts its adoptions of black cats due to the animal’s association with the Halloween season, and to prevent harm or mistreatment of the cats during the month of October.
“It’s very unfortunate that we have to temporarily suspend or at least, greatly restrict adoption of our black cats,” said Jean Hurst, Claremore Animal Shelter director. “We’ve never had a problem with people coming in and wanting to adopt one (black cat) in October to mistreat or hurt them — that would be inhumane and cruel — but just to be safe, we’re very, very restrictive on allowing people to adopt them during the month.
“It’s unfortunate, because, like all our animals, all they want is a good home, but if there’s a chance they’re going to be mistreated because of the association (with Halloween), we don’t want to risk it,” she said. “We’d rather wait a little longer to let them be adopted, for their own protection, than to risk them getting hurt.”
Since the Middle Ages in Europe, black cats have been associated with the supernatural and the association persists today, Hurst said, which can prompt some misguided person to cause them harm.
“We’re always mindful of whom we adopt our pets out to, we want them all to go to good homes,” she said. “During October, however, we have to be even more careful when someone’s wanting to take a black cat home — if we know them, if they come recommended by people we know and are confident that they just want to take the cats to a safe, loving home, we’ll adopt them out, but otherwise, we don’t let many people adopt the black cats during October.”
But October can also prove to be a dangerous time for all pets, black cats or not, for different reasons, Hurst said.
“As much fun as Halloween night can be for children (and adults), for dogs and cats, it can be very stressful, overly-stimulating, or even dangerous,” she said. “It’s important that pet guardians keep in mind the seasonal risks which arise this time of the year.”
Chief among the seasonal dangers present around Halloween is the increased presence of candy and other Halloween treats, with chocolate being a particular hazard to dogs.
“People should always keep the candy and chocolate they’re going to hand out to trick-or-treaters well out of their pet’s reach, like on top of the refrigerator or even better, in a closed cabinet or pantry,” Hurst said, “and when people bring their own children home from an evening of trick-or-treating, after inspecting the candy for their children’s safety, it should be put away for the pet’s safety — never, ever leave chocolate or other treats on a low counter top or coffee table where a pet can get to it.”
Chocolate presents a high risk for dogs, Hurst said, due to the theobromine it contains — a substance which can be toxic to pets.
“If ingested, theobromine releases the chemical epinephrine or adrenaline into a dog’s system — this can quickly cause serious cardiac arrhythmia to develop,” she said.
But chocolate isn’t the only kind of sweet that can be harmful to pets, Hurst said.
“Simply put, Halloween treats — like candy any other time of the year — aren’t meant for pets,” she said.
“Most (Halloween) candy comes wrapped which, if a pet is left alone with, it will eat. Candy wrappers, especially foil ones, and lollipop sticks can pose choking hazards to a pet and, if eaten, can upset your pet’s digestion, leading to constipation, diarrhea — or become an obstruction which could mean surgery, or in the worst case, death.
“Never give your pet candy — Halloween, or otherwise,” she said.
Hurst said the activity leading up to, and especially on Halloween night, can be unnerving for most animals.
“If you have inside pets that are easily excited or upset by strangers at the door, move them into another room to keep them from getting worked up by trick-or-treaters,” she said. “Even if they don’t get worked up by strangers, you should probably isolate them for the night, so they won’t be accidentally dart outside while the door is open — this is more common in dogs than cats, but it’s not a bad idea to move your inside cats to another room on Halloween night,” she said.
Hurst said always keep a tag on your dog or cat —not just on Halloween, in the event that they get out or escape, so they can be traced back to you. Outside pets are also subject to Halloween “time outs” for their own protection.
“If possible, you might want to consider bringing your (outside) pet in for Halloween night. Even friendly dogs can be excitable or anxious with all the strange sights and sounds on Halloween night — they don’t understand,” she said. “To them, it’s like the whole world has gone crazy — it can be traumatic for them, so it’s best to bring them in, away from all the commotion, if it’s possible.
“Plus, indoor pets are much less likely to be victims of Halloween pranks,” she added.
Hurst said that although Claremore has been fortunate not to have historically seen an increase of animal mistreatment around Halloween, she and other animal shelter employees are familiar with the increased mischief to pets on Halloween — black cats, in particular.
“It’s terrible that there are misguided people out there who would intentionally mistreat animals, but there are,” she said. “For their own protection, we encourage people to keep a closer eye on their outdoor pets than usual on Halloween — even if they’re fenced, it’s still a good idea to frequently check on your (outdoor) pets.”
Other considerations around Halloween include the burning of candles inside Jack O’Lanterns — keep pets away from them as they could singe their fur or unintentionally start a fire, and only put a costume on your pet if it’s comfortable with it.
“Some people enjoy dressing their pets up for Halloween and taking them trick-or-treating,” Hurst said. “If you do this, make sure your pet’s costume is reflective and that the pet stays on a non-retractable leash at all times and can’t get away from you — make sure they can see and ‘take care of its business’ when it needs to.
“Chances are, your pet may be a little skittish anyway from all the activity and may behave a little defensively — this could mean even normally well-behaved pets could try to bite someone, so it’s also important that your pets be up to date on their vaccinations, should there be any accidents,” she said.
Ultimately, Hurst reminds people to enjoy Halloween, but be mindful that a pet’s safety depends on its guardian.
“Halloween should be a fun time for everyone, and with a little common sense and consideration for your pets, it can be a safe one, too,” she said.
Claremore Animal Shelter is located at 815 Ramm Road in Claremore. For more information or inquiries on pet availability, contact the Shelter at 341-1260.