Tips to Prep for a Home with a Pet
- Brian Brice
- Home Life
For many of us our pets are like children - small, loud, prone to making messes … the similarities are remarkable!—and, as with children, we would do pretty much anything for them. This includes looking out for their safety and well-being. We've covered tips on baby-proofing your home before, so it seemed like a no-brainer to cover pet safety ideas as well. For the sake of simplicity, we're only talking about the most common free-to-run-around pets: cats and dogs. If you own or plan to own a more unique family friend, like say a snake or hedgehog, we recommend doing further research as pets like that may come with a separate set of needs.
Where applicable, install a pet door. It gives your pet the freedom to come and go as they please, saving you the headache of having to let them in/out constantly (and if you've ever owned a dog or cat before, then you know "constantly" is not much of an exaggeration). This also prevents unwanted damage to your home as they won't need to scratch or claw to communicate their need for your help with the door.
Toys are crucial for your pet. Having these to destroy helps keep them from destroying what they shouldn't, like carpet and personal belongings. All toys should be kept in one area. This will help establish what is and is not a toy. Toys should also not be old personal items as this blurs the line between what's theirs and what's yours. Always monitor the condition of your pet's toys as well. While you might think they've grown attached to a "favorite", it can become hazardous as it deteriorates.
One of the biggest and most immediate threats your pet can face is one few people are aware of—poison. Household cleaners and chemicals seem like improbable threats since they are generally stored in sealed containers in cupboards or cabinets, but it's the easy-to-overlook spills and leaks that endanger your pets. Fluids like antifreeze—a notoriously sweet chemical—can collect on the ground and be ingested by a curious critter. Similarly, cleaning products sprayed on a surface and not immediately or adequately wiped up can be consumed. Be sure to keep these cleaned up.
Less obvious, but equally dangerous are foods - things we all regularly eat can be poisonous to dogs and cats. Chocolate (or caffeine in general) is a frequently mentioned one, but many other common foods (oranges, grapes, avocado, etc.) and plants/flowers (lilies, azaleas, daffodils, etc.) can be poisonous to your pet. The ASPCA web site provides a detailed list of harmful plants. Alcohol is also life-threatening for these guys. Even recipes containing low amounts of alcohol can harm your pet if consumed. Keep dirty dishes out of reach.
Choking and Consumption Hazards
You'll often hear how smart pets are, which can be true. However, they can also be very dumb, or at least very … no, dumb is correct. Take a dog chasing its own tail or a cat swatting at a dangling shoelace—not terribly bright. Though this playful nature is cute and endearing, it can be trouble for your pet. Many times they mistake miscellaneous household items as toys and this can lead to choking or ingestion. Discarded dental floss, loose buttons, knick knacks—you name it. Your pet doesn't know any better. Put your small items out of reach (which may be difficult with a cat) or behind glass. And keep trash and laundry in lidded containers.
Keeping doors and drawers closed will also help limit any trouble, just make sure when you shut them your pet isn't inside. One other piece of advice: before driving anywhere, give a quick glance under the car to make sure it's clear. For cat owners in particular, beep your alarm or give your hood a couple solid knocks before you start the car. Cats tend to crawl into the engine bay for warmth. Scare them out before turning the key. Classes are also strongly advised—even for cats. Knowing how to communicate with your pet will help deal with and even prevent destructive behavior.