It’s the season of ghosts and goblins, wicked witches and creepy crawlies galore. But if you’re a Halloween die-hard, there’s one more scary element in the mix this year: the prospect of spending Halloween 2020 alone due to COVID-19. Is it even possible to celebrate spooky season while still following social distancing guidelines? Yes, says professional party planner Emma McCormick—you just have to get creative.
“While it's not going to be a typical October 31st, we still are anticipating a fun week of celebrations and festivities, just on a different scale,” says Mcormick, who owns Victoria, British Columbia-based event planning and production company, The Good Party.
Social gatherings haven’t stopped during these quaran-times, adds Marika Beise, owner of Vancouver, British Columbia-based event planning company Rock Paper Square. They’ve just evolved, with happy hours taking place over Zoom and wedding celebrations taking place on a smaller scale, and this Halloween will be no exception. Yes, would-be trick-or-treaters and spooky soiree-goers will have some extra challenges when it comes to Halloween safety, ensuring they follow local safety regulations as well as the CDC’s guidelines about events and gatherings. But there are still plenty of ways to celebrate spooky season—especially if you have your pet by your side.
For many pet parents, staying closer to home means more quality time with their furry friends—and there are plenty of creative ways to get them into the Halloween spirit, too. To get you started, we’ve put together a few suggestions for celebrating Halloween 2020 with your pet.
Solve a Mystery
There’s no better way to celebrate Halloween than with a virtual mystery! Invite a few friends and their pets to a virtual hangout space like Zoom, then select a mystery game—might we suggest The Great Canine Follicle Debacle, a family-friendly mystery set at a dog show? Then, with your pets by your side, you and your guests become sleuths working to solve the mystery. This whodunit is a great way to elevate your gathering beyond a regular Zoom happy hour and brings everyone together with a common goal of solving the mystery.
“Getting dressed up and staying home can be made even more fun by creating a backdrop that matches the theme for the party that your fellow mystery participants can admire via Zoom or Facetime,” McCormick says. She recommends getting creative with what you’ve got, plus some fun extras, to grab your attendees’ attention: “You can make dry ice at home and there are some great DIYs online! I love the idea of setting yourself up in a spooky library or making your own haunted kitchen.”
Dress to Impress
It wouldn’t be Halloween without a costume, but for Halloween 2020, a group costume with friends may not be possible. Luckily, your furry best friend might be happy to step in. If your pet enjoys wearing the occasional sweater or scarf, they might be just as eager to dress up as a werewolf or a unicorn.
The first step, of course, is to come up with a great costume for you and your pet. You can even get your social media followers involved by creating a poll in your Instagram stories asking your friends to pick the costume. If you need inspo, try browsing Chewy’s range of pet costumes, like this UPS driver who is definitely considered an essential worker. Just remember not to force it; some pets simply won’t tolerate wearing clothing or costumes. Follow these tips for introducing your pet to dressing up, and if your pet still resists, it’s your responsibility as a pet parent to respect their wishes.
Once you and your pet have found the perfect costumes, share them with your online network. Go ahead, spam your friends with shots of your superhero cat or scream-worthy dog. All of our feeds could use more adorable pets in costumes this year.
Spook-ify Your Space
Get your whole neighborhood or apartment building involved in decorating this year. Not only will it level up your neighborhood’s Halloween rep, but it’ll also bring your community together. Call, text or email your neighbors, and decide on a theme for everyone’s Halloween décor this year. Then, envision your own take on that theme and bring it to life on your porch, apartment door, lobby or balcony.
Even if you have a small space, getting festive on your patio or balcony is a great way to bring the Halloween spirit to your whole neighborhood. “Simple decor goes a long way when it's done right,” McCormick says. “We love creating customized balloon garlands and installations for events, and these can be created at home fairly easily with the right supplies.” Don’t forget about your pet, too! If you plan to spend time with your pet on your porch or balcony, for example, invest in some Halloween-themed toys in keeping with your décor. Keep Halloween pet safety in mind, too—always be sure to place dangerous decorations or poisonous foods out of reach of your pet.
Bake With Buddies
It wouldn’t be Halloween without some treats to go with your pet’s tricks! You may not be able to bake them together with your friends in your kitchen, but a digital “bake-along” is the next best thing. Creating something together (then gobbling it up together) is a great way to feel connected to your loved ones when you can’t see them in-person—especially when what you create together is delicious!
Start by choosing a couple Halloween-themed recipes—some Halloween cookies for you, perhaps, paired with these DIY strawberry ghost Halloween dog treats. Then, invite the kitchen-savvy pet parents in your life to a Zoom party, and send them the ingredient list in advance. Bake your goodies at the same time, then sample the rewards together with your in-person pet and your friends from afar. The whole time, you’ll be chatting and catching up—a great way to lift your spirits during spooky season.
Pop by a Pet-Friendly Pumpkin Patch
Pumpkins are among the most basic Halloween essentials—but picking out the perfect one can be anything but basic, especially when you include your furry friend. Many pumpkin patches offer hayrides, corn mazes, farmers markets and other attractions beyond simply selecting your favorite gourd. And when you find a pet-friendly patch, you can do it all with some truly wonderful company.
The best part? A trip to the pumpkin patch isn’t an especially risky Halloween activity, according to the CDC. Look for a patch where you’ll be able to maintain social distancing and where mask-wearing is mandatory. Bonus points if hand sanitizer is on hand for customers before they touch any pumpkins.
Before you pack up your pooch, call ahead to confirm the pumpkin patch’s pet policy, and remember to take your dog for a walk before you enter. (No one wants a pee-soaked pumpkin!) Read more tips for taking your dog to a pet-friendly pumpkin patch.
Bask in the Full Moon
Did you know that Halloween falls on a full moon night in 2020? It’s the first time since 1944, so you’re going to want to make the most of it. Why not spend the night under the stars with your very own mini werewolf? (Or, uh, were-cat?)
If you’re going all out, you can gather your camping supplies and pitch your tent at a pet-friendly campground. But if you have a backyard or balcony, it’s easy to recreate the experience at home, too. Throw on your favorite flannel, pick out your coziest blanket, and bring a steaming cup of cider to your outdoor viewing location of choice. Don’t forget treats and a toy for your pet, too. Then just sit back, look up and take it all in—the bright moon, the crisp air, the cozy comfort of your dog or cat snuggled in at your side. If spooky inspiration strikes, you can even howl at the moon together! Just try not to wake the neighbors.
Keep Calm and Halloween on
For many pets, spooky season is more frightful than fun. In some communities, for example, fireworks are common on All Hallow’s Eve—and they’re a common trigger of extreme anxiety in pets. Dr. Amy Pike, DVM, DACVB, IAABC-CABC, a veterinary behaviorist with Animal Behavior Wellness Center in Virginia, recommends asking your veterinarian for a solution as soon as possible. “Let them know your pet is scared so they can prescribe an appropriate anxiolytic medication,” she says. To ensure your pet’s Halloween safety, “You will want to try this medication out well in advance of the holiday to see if there are any side effects ... Medications are not meant to simply sedate the pet, they are designed to help alleviate fear and anxiety.”
In addition to medication, Dr. Pike suggests creating a safe space for your pup that will provide comfort to them if their stress grows. This could be an interior bedroom without windows, or their crate if they are comfortable there. “Have a white noise machine or a loud fan (like the exhaust fan in the bathroom) going to help drown out the noise. You can also play soothing classical music designed for dogs.” For tunes, Dr. Pike suggests Through a Dog’s Ear, also known as iCalmPet.
If your pet does have anxiety on Halloween night, Dr. Pike recommends trying to take their mind off the noise outside. “Try to distract them with really yummy food—steak, chicken, high-value treats, etc,—and do some positive reinforcement/tricks training with them. If petting them and soothing them helps, then you can sit with them and calmly speak to them and pet them or even give them a nice gentle massage.”