By Verity Van Dams & Austin Valdez
October 21, 2021

Happy hao-hao-hao-wwwwl-owen folks! Well, almost. Maybe your furry friend is new to the world and too little for the constraints of a costume or perhaps your bestie’s a bird and, however cute, a necktie/wizard’s cape/tutu/Stormtrooper Helmet just isn’t an option. With so many sweet and funny photos being shared this Halloween, I want to make sure you and your ani-family members don’t feel left out. So, here we go, friends, four suggestions for keeping it spooky this October without spooking our precious pets. That’s one for every week!

Theme their environment

Just like we can decorate our houses for Halloween, you can also decorate a pet’s enclosure! Pick a theme and have fun with it. Spooky Castle. Mad Scientist’s Lab. Scary Corn Maze. The options are endless. Now, for safety, you can keep the inside of their cage or pen or bed exactly the same as it was and decorate around it. Keep hazardous materials well out of reach! We, for example, have three small puppies in the house right now. (Oliver, Winnie and Stitch!) I couldn’t put anything in the whelping box with them that might be a choking hazard. So, to work around this, I gave the outside of the box a makeover and made some hanging props and signs!

May I present to you, Fluffy the three headed Boston Terrier(s) of the third floor corridor:



Complete with a hanging cardboard harp…

and overgrown Devil’s Snare!

We played some harp music on the kitchen speaker and switched on some string lights to add to the atmosphere. Hey, fellow Harry Potter fans, where are you? Got any ideas on how I can add to this?

Make them some seasonal treats for their tricks

We just got our paws on the Nurture Your Pet BFF Surprise Gift Bag and boy am I excited, because as well as cute toys and accessories, it included some dog treat recipes and heart shaped molds to bake them in! You can certainly look up recipes online too that are appropriate for your pet. The pumpkin balls recipe in our bag can easily be decorated to look like eyeballs (we just have to make sure that whatever we use is dog safe!) and then I’ll store them in a clear jar to make the kitchen delightfully disturbing and a lot more delicious. We have some doggy guests coming, which means, including the puppies, we will soon have eight dogs in this house!!

Now, if you have bunnies, or birds or perhaps a cat that eats a strictly specific diet, you can always decorate their food storage containers instead. I’m seeing seeds in jars labelled: “Toad Toenails” or anything else silly and gruesome that springs to mind. Consider this a chance to get creative, just for the fun of it. It’s simply an added bonus that you can share your clever creations on the gram too!

Party with your pet

Our pet’s lives revolve completely around us. They play when we’re free. They go outside when we say so and they often have to fight our phones and laptops for our attention. When we’ve had Halloween parties in the past, often pets can feel completely confused and overstimulated by all the new smells and alarming costumes, not to mention the relentless “ding dong” of the doorbell. They end up relegated to a bedroom, wondering what they did wrong. So what if, for one quiet evening, to show how much we love and appreciate them, we decide to do whatever they want to do. Within reason of course. I'm not advocating for terrorizing the neighbors cat or letting them chew the furniture without consequence, but, what if, just for a little while, they had your undivided attention?

Here’s some ideas:

- Go out in the yard and throw the ball around with your pal and play halloween music in the background for ambience.

-Hang out with them on their level. Sit on the floor and make yourself totally accessible. Play with toys, give belly rubs and be fully present. It can be tough if you’re used to always watching, reading or listening to something, but do try to unplug for an hour... it might be good for both of you!

- If your pal’s a pooch, take them to explore somewhere new. Drive by that other park you’ve been meaning to check out or dedicate an afternoon to visiting the dog beach. If they’re the kind of pet that stays indoor, maybe switch things up by rearranging the space. You don’t necessarily have to buy anything new, just play with what you have and see how they react. As a child, I remember building a maze out of VHS tapes for my gerbils. There were treats along the path and their prize was a sand bath at the end!

Honestly, if they have your complete attention and you play on their terms, your pet pal will have a great time. Should they decide they're over it and go off for a snooze in the other room, well then, you can stick on a movie and know that you did something nice for them today. Good job, team. Now where’s that popcorn?

Create a costume they can choose to use
(I know this one sounds insane but here me out, I have a real idea here!)

If your pet is skittish or perhaps recently adopted, trust can be fragile. Pulling at their limbs to see what they’d look like dressed as a hot dog just isn’t worth it. You need to save all the credit you’ve built for the next time you trip over them in the dark or feed them an hour late, because you were binge watching Ted Lasso (guilty). Our Boston Terrier Millie likes her freedom and every time I’ve ever put her in a sweater, she’s found a way to take it off, after a little while. I get the hint girl, I hear you! You don’t mind a good costume, but you also want to be able to take it off whenever you’re ready. That’s a tough one. Her fellow furry friends Walter and PK will be dressing up, so I want to give her the option...somehow. Then the idea hit me.

Austin (my husband) and I had just decided to dress up as Seymour and Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors this year! You should probably know this now, we are huge musical theater nerds. “If only Millie could be Audrey 2”, I lamented. (The evil talking plant from the show) It would be perfect, but Millie can’t easily get in and out of a massive angry plant costume… or can she?

What if she could wander in and out of it as she pleases? What if she could pose for the picture, without disturbing her at all? What if I build the costume out of a comfy dog bed?! She’ll never even have to know she’s wearing a costume. Yes! I’m going to have fun with this and give it a go. Why not!? I’ll get straight on to designing this bed-beast and I’ll post some photos of us three in the Nurture Your Pet Facebook group when I’m done. If you’re a member, then let me know what you think! If not, then please feel free to join us. We’re a fun and friendly bunch, all just trying to give back to our best non-human friends. 

Whatever you decide to do with your pet this Halloween, have fun! I’d love to see it if you get a chance to take some pictures! So do share photos of your thoroughly spoiled little devils with us and make friends with loving pet parents from all over the world.

Love from California,

Verity, Austin & Millie xxx

Verity Van Dams & Austin Valdez are a married couple of actors and writers living semi-nomadically in Southern California. With the help of their best friend (Millie the Boston Terrier), they’re on the lookout for inspiring stories and good food, wherever they may be.

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