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October 15, 2013 > Ohlone Humane Society Column: The night of the Black Cat

Ohlone Humane Society Column: The night of the Black Cat

By Nancy Lyon

In a short while our homes will be besieged with goblins and ghosties, long-legged beasties, and things that go bump in the nightÉ but not to worryÉ itÕs just Halloween. A fun time for the kids and those of us who only pretend to be grown up.

HoweverÉ All-Hallows-Eve does have a dark history. In the long ago, this night celebrated festivities that were not so innocent. Dressing in costumes, lighting bonfires, going to parties, sharing ghost stories, and trick-or-treating all originated with the Celtic Druid Feast of Samhain; it was believed that at that time, ancestral spirits might emerge and roam freely because walls between the living and the dead were at their thinnest. To nourish journeying ancestral souls, this pagan belief often involved ritual sacrifice of innocent animals.

These early pagan practices have long-lasting beliefs that persist even to this day with cruel and ignorant people placing animals in harmÕs way during their celebration of All-Hallows-Eve. As unlikely as it may seem, itÕs wise to err on the side of caution and keep members of your animal family, especially those that are black, indoors for a few days on either side of Halloween when you are not with them.

That prospect is disturbing enough, but there are other potential dangers your animal family faces on this night of celebration and you might want to consider them.
The frightening creatures at your doorstep are, for the most part, just candy seeking pranksters having a good time, but this can mean little to the family dog who may see them as terrorizing invaders where her only choice is to stand and protect with perhaps serious resultsÉ or bolt and head down the road as fast as possible to face real danger.
For the safety of your non-human family members, keep them safely indoors away from direct contact with trick-or-treaters and other Halloween activities. Make sure all are wearing a well-fitting flat collar (not a choke chain) and tags with current contact information and, if possible, be micro-chipped. Opening the door repeatedly for trick-or-treaters creates plenty of escape opportunities and a frightened animalÕs first response is usually flight. Proper identification can get them home faster and safely.

Having a sweet tooth is not exclusively a human trait, and the results of gobbling down chocolate, raisins and candy left temptingly within reach can result in a very sick critter and a big mess for you. Chocolate can be so toxic to dogs, cats, ferrets and birds that it can result in death. Hiding all candy is the safest choice, but never underestimate the athletic prowess of a determined sweet-seeker so make doubly sure they are securely out of reach.

It might be unpopular advice, but taking your dog, cat or other animal along when you go trick-or-treating is a really bad idea. For everyoneÕs well-being leave them home in a stress-free environment. Even on a mystical night like Halloween, there is no way of predicting unexpected or terrifying incidents that can send even the most stable animal over the edge to react in an unpredictable manner. A painful bite or lost pet is a poor end to celebrations.

The Humane Society of the United States correctly states that ÒThe only costume most pets want to wear is their own furry birthday suit.Ó It may look like fun to you but unless they are used to wearing clothing, a costume or mask increases their risk of injury and stress. The feeling of confinement and restricted movement is unnatural to most animals and just being who they are is the best costume around.

Then there are the regular night dwellers out on Halloween Ð for raccoons, opossums, skunks, and many other wild creatures it is time to wake up and venture out for food. The night is their time and they should be respected and left in peace. The best advice is to keep a safe distance between you and any animal you do not know, including cats and dogs.

This year has truly been the year of the black cat, for some reason nature has seen fit to produce an unusually large number of black kittens. These beautiful and wonderful creatures need our protection not only from human abuse but in loving homes forever homes. Keep your resident black cat safe during Halloween, and please consider adopting one of these fascinating felines from your local animal shelter.

Should your animal companion disappear on Halloween or anytime, contact your local animal shelter as soon as possible and ask for advice in finding your lost family member. DonÕt wait hoping they will Òshow up,Ó it could cost them their lives.

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