Keep your pets in mind during this spooky season

While researching ideas for a column for Halloween, I came across many websites that listed safety tips for pets on the upcoming spooky night.

Interestingly, several of them had the exact same list. For veteran pet owners, the following list is probably old news, but for those folks who recently acquired a four-legged friend, perhaps some of the information will be helpful.

The full, detailed list can be found at

To summarize my findings briefly:

■ Keep chocolate away from your pets. It is highly toxic and can even be lethal if ingested in large quantities.

■ Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol also can be poisonous to dogs causing a sudden drop in blood sugar.

■ Do not let your dog eat pumpkin. While probably not toxic, it will undeniably result in a very messy clean-up for the next day or two.

■ Be careful of lit candles inside the pumpkin. Many a curious cat has burned its whiskers on an open flame, including my own inquisitive felines. Undoubtedly, the big orange ball sitting ablaze on the floor might be difficult for some young dogs to resist playing with.

■ Many folks love dressing their pets up in cute costumes, and I have to admit many pets enjoy strutting around in new attire. Just make sure your pet is enjoying the outfit, that it provides adequate ventilation and is non-constricting.

■ Common sense practices such as keeping your animals inside and even enclosed in a quiet room is the safest spot for them during the evening’s activities. This is not a night you want your pet darting out an open door.

■ It is highly recommended by many sites and shelters to keep black cats inside for many nights prior to and after Halloween.

After the fourth site of reading these same safety tips, my research took a detour and I thought it might be interesting to share some tidbits on the superstitions surrounding black cats.

Since the ebony creatures have been associated with All Hollow’s Eve, I felt a bit of folklore and history surrounding these unique felines should be addressed.

The black cat’s relationship with witches’ appears to date back to the Middle Ages when European churches began accusing people of witchcraft.

During this time, poor old ladies were often suspected of practicing black magic. Many of these “witches” were homeless women who befriended and cared for the alley cats that roamed village streets.

These feline companions were frequently considered “guilty of witchery by association” and many a cat was placed in a basket and burned at the stake with its mistress.

In a story from, an old English folktale describes a father and son traveling home late one night. A black cat crossed their path, and the son threw a rock at the creature, hitting it in the left leg. The cat scurried under the porch of a house belonging to an old woman long suspected of being a witch.

The next day, the father and son ran into the old woman at the marketplace and noticed she was limping on her left leg. From then on, the town people believed the old woman was an evil witch that could turn into a black cat and roam the streets at night.

The superstitions of the black cat followed early settlers to America and resurfaced during the Salem Witch Hunts. During that time of unrest, black cats were a sign of a demon or sorcery and thought to be a witch’s familiar.

Many people still perceive black cats as evil, and shelters often have a difficult time finding new homes for black cats.

In contrast, the Japanese believe that a black cat brings good luck and if owned by a single women, the good fortune will bring her many suitors.

I share my world with two black cats, so you would think my luck in that department would be doubled. Alas, not so!

While we all might wince when a black cat runs across the road in front of us, in Germany the luck depends on the direction the cat runs. If the ebony creature darts out in front of you from the left, good luck will come in the following days, whilst a scamper in front of your path from the right will bring dark times.

For those of you who are privileged to share your life with a black cat, please keep them indoors for the next week or so for their safety. And whether you believe in the superstitions that surround these elegant creatures or not, please realize that many of them are simply a wonderful addition to someone’s family.

I personally think most superstitions are silly foolishness, yet sometimes, I wake in the morning with a bruised left leg and I wonder…

Happy Halloween!

Charlé Thibodeau has been passionate pet caregiver for more than 30 years. If you have a pets question you would like Thibodeau to answer in her column, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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