Sunday, October 28, 2012

Keep your pets safe on Halloween

My black cat Starfire pummeling a ball of yarn
Shown: my beautiful black cat
Starfire pummels a ball of yarn.
It is understandable that trick-or-treaters who came to our door a few years ago concluded that we had “a million” cats. The two small kittens in our household at the time easily created enough mayhem between them to attribute to 40 cats.

“The gremlins,” as I called them, had a knack for evading notice while plotting their various heists. The continual openings and closings of the front door on Halloween, combined with the kittens' innate stealthiness, made perfect conditions for a jailbreak.

With the revelers on our doorstep, two silvery flashes abruptly darted outside.

“Kittens!” I shouted, alerting members of my household that the kittens had escaped. The human inhabitants pelted past the trick-or-treaters in pursuit of the feline fugitives.

I later learned of the impression formed by the kittens' antics concerning the quantity of cats in our household. Thankfully, as we approach this latest Halloween, the sole feline member of our household is a mature adult.

Much about Halloween that gives it its appeal: the opportunity to dress in costumes and go door-to-door asking for candy, could frighten a domestic animal. What I view as children's usual “strikes,” their noise and unpredictability, are amplified at Halloween.

There are also a lot more cars on the road to shuttle children to and from neighborhoods.

Owners of black cats may have additional concerns about ritual killings around Halloween.

“It makes no sense to hype up the problem, it doesn't happen very often but there is a danger,” according to writer Larry Chamberlain, who pointed out that real Wiccans would not harm cats as many are cat owners themselves (, circa 2005, determined that there was inconclusive evidence whether Satanic rites involving cats were “a real, widespread phenomenon, or largely a self-perpetuating Halloween myth.”

It did note that some people acquire cats to use as “living decorations” around Halloween-time, only to discard or abandon them afterward. cited, in comparison, the acquisition of rabbits and chicks for the Easter holiday.

The conclusion of the writers at was that it was a prudent precaution for shelters to be extra careful with feline adoptions just before Halloween and that “If Halloween policies also help dissuade those who might inflict harm on adopted pets, so much the better.” The complete article can be read at

Even without the inconclusive danger of abduction and killing of animals, there is so much activity on Halloween that an animal could easily be frightened.

It would be much better to adopt a tactic similar to addressing the stress of moving house. Confine the animal to a single “safe room” where the coming and going of trick-or-treaters won't give it a chance to escape or, if it is of a timid nature, will not frighten it.

Author’s note: This piece was originally published Oct. 26, 2010 in the Lake County Record-Bee. I am sharing it again out of continued interest in a safe Halloween for animals.

The chief difference in my circumstances now and when I originally wrote the piece is that the “sole feline member of our household” is our black cat Starfire.

There seems to be as great a concern, or greater, that these beautiful animals’ black pelts prevent them from ever being adopted than there is that they may be the victims of abuse.

At, contributor John Melia states that “Despite the superstitions that haunt them, black cats can make wonderful household companions.”

Melia directs readers to a top-10 list of reasons to adopt a black cat. Compiled by the Marin Humane Society, it is shared online by

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