Whether you’re getting your first – or fifth! – pet, it’s important to know the tips and tricks to keeping your pet safe when you’re home or at work.
That’s why we reached out to Lindsey Wolko of the Center for Pet Safety, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to protecting pets and the people who love them. Read on to find the answers to your most important questions about pet safety at home.
How do I keep my new puppy out of trouble at home?
“You think about when people have a new baby, right? It’s a similar situation,” says Wolko, who has been with the Center for Pet Safety for more than five years.
To protect your new puppy or kitten, Wolko suggests following the same safety procedures:
- Installing baby gates to limit their access.
- Ensuring your electrical sockets are covered.
- Concealing electrical wires.
- Zip-tying nets between railings on stairs, decks, and in two-level areas of bigger homes.
In addition, pet owners should make a point of knowing where their pet is at all times, especially when you first bring them home. The Center for Pet Safety also suggests enrolling pets, especially young dogs, into a basic obedience class.
“As soon as they’ve had their first shots, the puppy should be safe to start classes,” says Wolko. “You need that human-animal bond to develop, and you also want them to understand and master commands like come here, sit, and stay.”
Those can be invaluable during an emergency situation in your home. (More on that below!)
Cats require different needs, such as a designated room with a litter box, access to food and water, and a comfy place to sleep.
“It should have a door on it,” says Wolko, “so your cats know it’s safe. Include cat towers, scratching posts and the like, so they can make it their own.”
Is chocolate really that bad for my dog?
Yes! Inside the home, it’s imperative to keep these items out of your pet’s reach:
- Sugar free candies or gum. (Specifically those [and other foods] that contain Xylitol.)
- Toxic items around the home, such as antifreeze or fertilizer. (“If it’s toxic to you, it’s likely toxic for your pets,” says Wolko.)
Grapes and raisins, as well as garlic can be harmful to pets in large quantities, but pet owners should also be on the lookout for anything in their bags and coat pockets, including medicine.
“A lot of us are becoming caregivers at this point in our life,” says Wolko, “and we have to think about what happens if an elderly parent or family member drops a pill on the floor.”
If your pet swallows it, you’ll need to get them to your veterinarian’s emergency room as soon as possible.
How about food packaging?
One of the few dangerous items you may not consider a threat to your pet is food packaging, such as chip bags. The Center for Pet Safety works with an organization called Prevent Pet Suffocation. The founder, Bonnie Harlan, started the mission after her dog was suffocated by food packaging.
“We’re conditioned to just throw stuff in the trash, and pets get in the trash all the time,” says Wolko. “It’s incredible how many pets are succumbing to this.”
To prevent a potential harmful situation, the Center for Pet Safety suggests pet owners keep their trash inside a closed and sealed container. They should also cut up all food packaging, like chip bags before discarding into the trash.
What about outdoor pet safety at home?
“Pet safety at home” always means “outdoor safety.” Pet owners need to be cautious of certain plants and flowers. Lilies are especially toxic.
“If you have cats, do not plant lilies anywhere near your property,” warns Wolko. “Do not allow them in your home. If you have an arrangement, pull them out. Dispose of them quickly.”
Other toxic plants include rhododendrons, morning glories, and even those mushrooms that grow in your backyard.
“There are so many toxic plants,” says Wolko, “so use good judgment when you plan your landscape.”
Can I put my dog in a room instead of a cage while I’m out?
This can be difficult for typical 9-5 office workers, who can be away from their home for 10-12 hours at a time (when there is not a global pandemic). Wolko explains that you should crate train your pets and also recommends securing your pets in a specific area of your home. This is extremely important when it comes to keeping your pets safe during an emergency.
“Your neighbors will be contacted by the first responders who come to your home,” explains Wolko, “so if you let your neighbors know where you secure your pets, that’s the first place the responders will go.”
But should pet owners worry about their cats or dogs being home for long periods of time?
“Leaving your pet home alone is pretty normal,” says Wolko. “Most of the time they sleep during the day.
When it comes to pet safety at home (when you’re away), a three-to-four-hour segment is the safe time frame in which to leave your dog home. For her own pets, Wolko secures a section of her home that’s big enough for her pets to run, is easily cleaned, and is also gated.
For longer days, the Center for Pet Safety recommends getting a qualified pet sitter and recommends using a network such as Pet Sitters International (PSI). PSI offers fully licensed and bonded sitters, who can check in your pets, feed and walk them, or sit for extended periods if need be.
If you’re still concerned, some pet owners install cameras in their homes, so they can monitor their dogs and cats (and fish) during work hours from the palm of their hands. Of course, cameras can make pet owners feel better but do little for their pets, unless it’s a fancy camera slash treat robot like the Furbo.
How important is home maintenance when it comes to pet care?
Here at vipHomeLink, we’re all about “preventing the preventable,” but when it comes to pets, we’re all about making sure they’re safe in their homes. Neglecting home maintenance can lead to dangerous situations, which Wolko knows firsthand.
“We had so much condensate buildup in the HVAC unit,” remembers Wolko. “The drain line was clogged, and the build dripped all over the blower motor and caught fire.”
Thankfully, Wolko was home, and the fire department was located nearby. However, home maintenance – from malfunctioning HVAC units to flickering lights or lint-filled dryer vents – can create fire hazards. Being on top of home maintenance is an imperative part of pet safety at home.
“I learned so much from that experience,” says Wolko. “Make sure you get your home maintenance done.”
The vipHomeLink app can help with this, providing homeowners with personalized reminders and tailored recommendations. These help you to stay on top of your important maintenance tasks, so you reduce the risk of a fire emergency from occurring in your home.
Of course, it’s also best to be prepared in case of an emergency, so…
How do I prepare my pets for a home emergency?
After her own home emergency, Wolko created an evacuation kit that she could grab at a moment’s notice. The kit includes a neon, waterproof pouch that holds a copy of the pets’ registration papers. It hangs on a hook on the back of the front door, along with a simple ring loop leash for her pets.
This is easily accessible in the case of a home fire.
“The goal is to just get out of the house if you do have an emergency,” says Wolko.
As part of your plan for pet safety at home, make sure to create an evacuation plan for your home in case of emergency and practice it regularly.
Read product reviews, earn certificates, and find pet travel safety tips at the Center for Pet Safety now.
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Originally published on May 6, 2020; updated on August 3, 2022
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