Forget Smart Home technology and expensive furniture – the best addition you can put in any home is a pet.
Studies have shown that the bond between pets and their owners have significant health benefits for humans including increasing fitness, lowering stress and even decreasing depression and loneliness.
But a pet is a big commitment and having one requires a little forethought to ensure that your home is secure enough so that they will be safe even when you are not watching them.
Animals can be extremely curious so it is crucial to have a safe home environment that is safe for them to explore.
In this guide, you will find everything you need to keep your pets safe and happy wherever they are in your home.
We will look at more specific safeguarding tips later in this guide but here are a number of resources dedicated to more general advice for keeping pets safe.
American Humane is a US non-profit devoted to ensuring the safety of animals. Their guide on pet-proofing your home has some excellent tips for keeping dogs and cats out of trouble.
Family Handyman has a blog that provides advice and links to unique, quirky gadgets, and home safety devices designed specifically for protecting your furry friends.
Petful’s blog has lots of advice and information for pet owners, covering everything from pet food recalls to common illnesses and conditions and how to solve them.
Animal World is a pet and animal newsletter that, as with this useful blog, offers in-depth information about the home’s hidden hazards.
The American Red Cross has a comprehensive guide detailing what you can do to help your pets if there’s a fire in your home while this CDC link discusses what to do in the case of emergencies such as extreme weather or natural disasters.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) offers an exhaustive list of substances found in the home that could be poisonous to animals.
OVO Energy is an ethical energy supply company in the UK and they are experts in the various ways that you can adapt your home to keep pets safe from electrical dangers.
Finally, this blog for the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois summarises the risks and benefits of pet ownership, as well as outlining the basics of ensuring your animals’ well being.
Safeguarding your home
To make sure that your whole home is as safe as it can be for your pets, it is worth going through room by room and focusing on the individual hazards.
Kitchens often hold more interest for cats and dogs than any other room in the house – they know that this is where the food comes from!
Food and drink
Rubbish bins might not smell great to you but the smell of leftover food inside is extremely inviting to cats and dogs.
Unfortunately, the bin is also full of danger for animals with rotten food, bones and other sharp items that could injure them.
Recycling bins are also risky, often bursting with open cans and glass.
PetMD has excellent advice on how to keep pets out of your trash.
If the bin is tempting you can only imagine how keen a cat or dog would be to get into the fridge. Keep pets out of your fresh food with this blog from Mom which details the best ways to minimise the access pets have to your food storage.
You should really only feed your pets food designed for them.
Many ‘people foods’ are bad for pets, and some are actually toxic.
Some of the foods you should avoid giving to your pets include:
- milk, which can cause vomiting and diarrhoea,
- chocolate, which contains the compound theobromine and is toxic to cats and dogs,
- grapes and raisins, which are toxic to dogs,
- mushrooms, and
- nuts, particularly Macadamias.
Simply keeping dangerous items in cupboards or out of reach may not be enough to deter the most adventurous animals so it is important to identify your biggest risks and be creative with storage.
When hazards are kept in cupboards and on top of cabinets, make sure that they are locked, tightly closed and definitively out of reach for your furry friend.
Most kitchens are where the most toxic cleaning supplies are kept, many of which are lethal to pets.
Eartheasy has this list of chemicals commonly found in the home that are dangerous for pets as well as less harmful alternatives that could provide some peace of mind for owners.
When you are cleaning with hazardous chemicals, it may be best to keep animals out of the room altogether.
Cleaning fumes can be harmful to pets particularly fumes from highly noxious chemicals like bleach and oven cleaner.
Just like the kitchen, the bathroom is a place that has dozens of hidden risks to your pet in fairly innocuous surroundings.
Sadly, it is not just as simple as keeping the door closed and the pet out of that room.
Whether they like it or not, pets do need a bath from time to time, so the bathroom needs to be as safe as possible for four-legged occupants.
The Kennel Club offers some great advice on bathing your dog in a way that is fun and safe for them (and you!), and below are some of the ways to keep your bathroom secure.
Out of sight, peace of mind
The majority of items kept in the bathroom pose some risk to your pets, with shampoos, soaps and toothpaste providing a tempting smell that masks dangerous chemicals if they were to be ingested.
Keep toiletries and cleaning materials in cupboards and on high shelves, far out of reach.
It is also recommended to keep your toilet seat down as both cats and dogs are known to enjoy drinking toilet water – which could cause them to ingest harmful cleaning chemicals.
You might also think of investing in a soft-close toilet seat so that animals are unlikely to be startled if they knock it down by accident.
Close the door!
Whether you are trying to keep animals out of an empty bathroom or in the bathroom when they are being bathed, make sure you keep the door closed.
Wet animals dashing through the house can be a hazard for humans and animals alike and the best way to ensure your pet isn’t investigating anything they shouldn’t is to have that part of the house closed off to them.
Living areas including bedrooms
The living room is the hub of the home, where the whole family gathers to spend time together. This will also be the place that your pets spend the most time so it is key to secure it against risks as well as to protect the furniture and devices against damage from curious animals!
The bedroom is another place that pets might spend lots of time, often while you are asleep and unable to keep an eye on them.
Here are some of the main things to look at when making your home pet-safe.
Often both living rooms and bedrooms will have televisions, stereos, games consoles and other devices in them.
Animal-lover and blogger PetsLady offers ingenious tips for hiding electrical wires from your pets and keeping your home looking neat and tidy.
Meanwhile, Apartment Therapy has advice for teaching animals to stay away from any cables they might be able to access.
A fish tank is a gorgeous addition to any living room but can pose risks if not carefully installed.
First Tank Guide has this advice for installing fish tanks safely.
Plants are another beautiful way to decorate your home which require a little research and planning if you have pets, as some houseplants are toxic to animals.
This blog from Houseplants Expert lists all of the plants to avoid if you have a dog or cat that likes to chew things.
Cats and breakables are not always the best mix but that doesn’t mean you can’t have your heirlooms on display.
PetCareRx can help you to cat-proof your valuables.
For dog owners, Puppywire has an exhaustive list of house, garden, and wild plants that present a hazard to dogs.
Holidays are an exciting time for the humans in your household but they can be fraught with risks for your four-legged friends.
Rover offers instructions for decorating your home for the holidays that keeps pets safe and healthy while the RSPCA offers advice for keeping dogs, cats, and small animals calm during fireworks displays in your neighbourhood.
Try to bear in mind that the sparkle and lights of festive decorations can be incredibly enticing for cats and dogs so you need to be extra careful to keep them out of reach and secured.
Watch your windows
Just because you have pets you can’t be expected to keep windows closed all year round.
However, open windows are a hazard for all types of pets.
If you do have windows open it is worth installing a screen or shield that keeps your animals inside.
Pet safety in the garden
Pets love spending time outdoors and giving them lots of time to run around outside is great for their mental and physical health.
Your garden, of course, has its own risks for animals, particularly if you can’t always be outside with them, so it is helpful to put a few safety measures in place.
Flowers and plants
Some of the plants that you might have in your garden can be risky to animals, particularly daffodils, hyacinths and tulips which have alkaloids in the bulbs that can be dangerous for dogs that tend to dig.
Check these resources against the contents of your garden and replace any plants that pose a problem before letting your animals out to play.
Fences are crucial to keeping dogs and smaller animals inside the garden (although they rarely stop cats from exploring).
A fence should be high enough to stop animals from jumping over them and robust enough to stop animals digging under them.
You should install a solid gate that stops people or predators from entering your garden.
Rabbit owners are often unsure about the safety and logistics of allowing their pets to roam freely in their back yard.
The House of Animals discusses whether or not this is a good idea.
This guide from the Animal Medical Center of New York provides further useful advice on how to exercise your dog safely in your garden.
Keeping your garden free of pests requires a little more thought and preparation if you have pets. This article from Scientific American offers a complete guide to pet-safe pest control.
Generally, it is a good idea to avoid fertilisers such as bonemeal, and mulch containing cocoa bean, and make sure that fertilisers and pesticides have dried fully before you allow your animals out into the yard.
If you want to do some more research from this guide using these resources as a jumping-off point, here is a brief summary of all of the links provided.
- American Humane – americanhumane.org
- Family Handyman – familyhandyman.com
- Petful – petful.com
- Animal World – animal-world.com
- The American Red Cross – redcross.org
- CDC – cdc.gov
- American Soc for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – aspca.org
- OVO – ovoenergy.com
- University of Illinois – vetmed.illinois.edu
- PetMD – petmd.com
- Mom – animals.mom.com
- The Humane Society – humanesociety.org
- Leaf & Paw – leafandpaw.com
- The Honest Kitchen – thehonestkitchen.com
- Eartheasy – learn.eartheasy.com
- The Kennel Club – thekennelclub.org.uk
- PetsLady – petslady.com
- Dogtime – dogtime.com
- Bunnyproof – bunnyproof.com
- Apartment Therapy – apartmenttherapy.com
- First Tank Guide – firsttankguide.net/dangers.php
- Houseplants Expert – houseplantsexpert.com
- PetCareRx – petcarerx.com
- PuppyWire – puppywire.com
- Rover – rover.com
- RSPCA – rspca.org.uk
- Preventative Vet – preventivevet.com