According to the National Pet Owners Survey (2017-18), 68% of American households own a pet, which represents a continued annual increase since the survey began in 1988. This represents 85 million families in the United States that have pets.
The most commonly owned pet is a dog, in over 60 million households, followed by a cat, which is the pet of choice for 47.1 million families. Some distance behind is freshwater fish at 12.5 million, then birds at 7.9 million.
Knowing how to keep your pet safe is a crucial part of being a pet owner. With a few small adjustments to your home, you can make sure your pet is safe. After all, it’s your pet’s home too – and home is where you should feel loved, welcome, and secure.
GENERAL SAFETY PREPARATIONS
Making your home safe for your pet is dependent on what type of pet you have; the advice for dogs is different than the advice for cats, and so on. As a general rule, you should make sure that pets are able to exercise freely and have adequate food and water.
If your pet is confined (such as in a bowl or a cage) make sure that the space is large enough for them. If you take your pet out of its space to exercise, you should ensure that the space you exercise them in is safe and free from hazards.
In general, if you are unsure about the best ways to keep your pet safe, you should consult a veterinarian or other specialist. It is your duty to ensure the safety of your pets and failing to do so may have legal consequences, let alone for the health of your pet.
You should also factor your pet into your family’s safety planning. For example, if you live in an earthquake zone, you should develop a plan to keep your pet safe during an earthquake. Think about how you would evacuate your pet in the case of a fire (if the pet lives in the home).
Part of this involves adding supplies for your pet in your natural disaster preparedness kit. Taking advanced steps like this can significantly improve the chances of your pet’s safety in almost every situation.
According to a study by PetMD, 80% of pet owners reported allowing a pet to share their bed. This in itself is absolutely safe, although you will need to take additional steps in order to make sure that the night passes without a hitch.
Because pets won’t always be asleep for the full eight hours, you need to make sure that the room itself is safe. The most common bedroom hazards for a pet are:
People often have their phone plugged in to charge at night, as well as items like lamps, clocks, and other electronic devices.
This means that there are usually a lot of electrical cords in the bedroom that can be intriguing to pets. This can be extremely dangerous as it presents a risk of electrocution or having the pet pull a heavy object (such as a lamp) onto themselves.
- Wherever possible, all cords should be out of the reach of pets.
- If this isn’t possible, you should use a deterrent spray on your cords to make them less appetizing for a pet to chew on.
- Another options is to use a cord protector or organizer to keep your cords together and provide an extra layer of protection from your pet.
Large furniture can be a hazard in multiple different ways for pets. The bed itself can be a problem for smaller pets, who may decide to jump off in the night and injure themselves.
To address this, think about placing a smaller piece of furniture at the end of your bed, to help a pet climb up and down.
In general, you should assume that a pet will try and climb every piece of furniture, so make sure that large, heavy objects are secured as a pet may knock those off.
If your pet is loose in your room at night, there is a danger that they will choke on items because you are not there to supervise what they put in their mouth.
If you have jewelry, batteries, or other small objects, you should be careful to place them in a secure location so that they don’t look like a tempting late-night snack for a pet.
If any of the above is too difficult, you should rethink your decision to have your pet in your room at night. Most pets can live without sharing a bed with their owner and while it can be nice to have a dog or a cat curled up at the end of your bed, if it compromises their safety you should put them to bed in another part of your home where you know they are safe.
Kitchens can be confusing places for pets. The room is full of interesting smells, yet not everything in there is edible and some of it can be very dangerous. If you feed your pet leftovers or scraps from the table, then they can begin to associate items in the kitchen with food, causing further problems.
Pets are often attracted by the garbage, which often contains food scraps. You should get a pet safe garbage can to ensure that the lid remains closed.
You can also look to keep your garbage can under the sink or in a cabinet that your pet cannot access.
Furthermore, make an effort to change your garbage bag regularly to prevent your pet from being too tempted by the smells.
If you keep cleaning products (such as bleach) in the kitchen, these should remain well out of reach of pets.
If you think your pet may be able to open a cabinet door, place a safety lock on the cabinet (the type used to keep children out work well).
In addition, there is always the temptation to throw your pet some of the food you are cooking for your family, particularly if they have been patiently watching you cook.
However, humans and pets have different tolerances for food, and so you shouldn’t assume that what’s safe for humans is safe for pets.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has an exhaustive list of human food that is not safe for animal consumption.
SOME OF THE MOST COMMON FOODS ARE:
Uncooked meat or eggs
Remember, your pet won’t know what’s safe or not, so you should always err on the side of caution. If in doubt, look it up online or speak to a professional. If you still aren’t sure, don’t feed it to your pet; they may whine in the short-term, but it’s for their long-term safety.
Pets often don’t use the bathroom, so it’s not always the first place you’d think of securing to make it safe for a pet.
However, because this is where you keep your medicines and other potentially harmful chemicals, you should give as much attempt to keep a pet safe here as you would any other part of your home.
Some pets enjoy drinking from the toilet, yet this can be harmful because of the cleaning products you use, which may leave a residue even after multiple flushes. Instead, keep the lid down and secure to remove this temptation.
According to the Pet Poison Helpline, medications are in the top 10 of pet poisoning cases. The most dangerous medications for pets are the following (although all are dangerous to some degree):
- Anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil
These cause major health problems to pets because they damage the kidneys and stomach.
These cause major neurological damage to pets as a result of the relative size and dosage.
- Acetaminophen drugs like Tylenol
even one tablet can be fatal to a pet, causing liver failure.
- ADHD drugs
These often contain amphetamines, which cause heart and neurological problems in pets.
All medication should, therefore, be kept out of reach of pets, ideally behind a locked cabinet (again, a child-proof lock will work well). If your pet does ingest any medication designed for humans, you should take them to a vet immediately.
THE REST OF THE HOUSE
The following additional areas around the house can be dangerous to pets:
A dryer may present a tempting space for an animal to curl up in. This can be dangerous if you then run the dryer.
You should keep your dryer door closed when not in use. In addition, you should make sure that all larger appliances are secured so that they are not likely to fall on a pet.
Although house plants look nice and bring an extra outdoor element into a home, they can be poisonous to pets. Even common items like Poinsettias can be poisonous to dogs (and most pets will, to some degree, be tempted to chew on a house plant).
Some plants such as Ivy are only moderately toxic to humans but are extremely toxic to both dogs and cats. If you buy a houseplant, check online to see its level of toxicity to your specific pets.
In general, you should also try and keep plants out of the reach of pets, who may also knock over heavy plant pots and cause additional problems.
Even pets that don’t roam freely outdoors may get to spend some time in the yard, so you shouldn’t exclude this area from your safety plans.
The first step to take is to make sure that your pet can’t go any further than you want them to.
This means reinforcing your fence or using a leash to keep the pet within a predefined area. Some pets (including cats) can easily climb fences, so don’t assume that a high fence will stop them.
You should also not take your pet outside if the temperature is extreme. Some creatures are highly susceptible to heat and cold, and this may be dangerous.
If you are grilling or cooking on a fire pit, make sure your pet can’t get into the fire, particularly because the smell of the food may attract them in the first place.
As with bringing plants indoors, some plants in your yard may be poisonous to your pet. Check the Humane Society’s website for a list of plants that you should be wary of. As a general rule, it’s best to supervise your pet when in the garden, particularly if they seldom venture out.
If you keep chemicals in your basement, make sure that these are secured away from your pet. As with medications and cleaning fluids, all pesticides and other chemicals should be well out of reach of your pet.
Basements are also where the HVAC and water heater are located. If a pet starts chewing on or scratching up parts of these systems, it could be dangerous to them as well as problematic for the whole household. It could lead to things like flooding in the basement, water damage issues, or start a fire.
Basement stairs tend to be narrow and steep, which can be difficult for a puppy or kitten that are just finding their footing to safely navigate.
This also applies to small pets that simply cannot scale the steps without slipping and falling down the stairs. Make sure you are there to monitor or carry your pet up and down the stairs, if necessary.
If this is the case, it also could be a good idea to put a lock or barrier in front of the basement door so your pet can’t get down there without you and get themselves into dangerous situations.
Ultimately, it is not complex to make your home safer for your pet. Doing a quick tour of your home and removing the most common hazards will get rid of the major dangers.
Furthermore, most of the safety tips outlined above are relatively common sense. Taking a few minutes to clear away dangerous items, secure cabinets, will make your pet safer and give you peace of mind.
Although pets are experts at finding their way into tricky (and often hilarious) scenarios, it’s your job as an owner to make sure that your pets are free to explore without putting themselves in danger.
Making sure your pet is safe is not hard work and will ensure that you and your pet spend the best possible chances of enjoying many happy years together.
SOURCES AND FURTHER READING