As we approach the bewitching hour, it seems timely to review some thoughts about keeping cats and kittens safe. One of the most obvious problems can occur if you own a black cat. Black cats often are injured or tortured around Halloween, simply because of their color. If you have a black cat you should keep it indoors for at least a week before and after Halloween.

Cats that live indoors, regardless of color, live much longer overall than cats that are allowed to go outside for any length of time. Many people board their cats around this time, especially if they are used to being outdoors and will cause damage to the house trying to escape.

Many hazards can be found even within the safeguards of the home if you are not watchful. Candles that are lit fascinate cats, and especially kittens, and may cause burns. If knocked over, they can start a house fire even inside jack-o-lanterns. It is best to burn candles in safe places where kitty cannot get to them.

Many of the decorations can pose dangers. For example, decorative corn or plants may cause GI upset or cause an intestinal blockage. Anything that can make a string foreign body such as streamers and fake cobwebs can be eaten. This can result in a surgery to remove it from the intestine, or death if left unnoticed.

Extra lights and decorations requiring electrical cords can be tempting. If an electrical cord is chewed, severe burns in the mouth and on the face can result. Other things that can cause chemical burns to the mouth and GI tract are the liquid, and liquid-heated potpourris. If ingested they can be toxic.

There will be extra candy and especially chocolate around from children trick-or-treating, as well as your stash for the neighborhood children. The wrappers alone, especially if foil, can cause foreign body blockage of the bowel if ingested. Of course the danger from ingesting chocolate exists for both cats and dogs. Chocolate toxicity leads the list, especially when it is dark or Bakers chocolate.

Theobromine is the bad-acting ingredient in chocolate, and dark chocolate has at least seven times more of it per ounce than milk chocolate. It will be important when you call your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center to know if possible, the type of chocolate, the size of the pet that ingested it, and what type it was, dark or milk chocolate.

Sucker sticks, whether cardboard or wood also can become a GI foreign body and may require surgery to remove. Sugar-free candies that contain Xylitol especially are dangerous when ingested. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener. It will cause a precipitous drop in blood sugar that can lead to lethargy, wobbling, seizures and death if left untreated.

Give an extra thought to your four-legged friends as you decorate and prepare for Halloween. I would recommend you post the Animal Poison Control telephone number next to your phones. If you have joined the new proactive Home-Again microchip program, your call to the Poison Control Center is free. If you have not microchipped your pet yet, it will cost $50 billed to your credit card. They are there 24/7 to help with any emergencies you might have. The number is (888) 426-4435.

Happy Halloween!

DR. M. MARGARET KING, a longtime Edmond veterinarian, is a guest columnist. If you have any questions for her, send them to 1900 S. Bryant, Edmond, OK 73013.

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