A Guide to Pet-proofing Your House

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Keeping your pets safe is a high priority. Many household items, however, can be unsafe for pets to get into. Keep your pet happy and safe by pet-proofing your house with a few improvements you can make yourself. Consider the following changes in your home and look out for harmful household items when bringing those precious cats and dogs home to live with you.

Keep Only Nontoxic House Plants

A cat looking though a plant.

Most plants are safe to have when pets are around, but there are a few to look out for that can cause harm to cats and dogs. Lilies, oleander, daffodils, azalea, sago palm, hyacinth, tulips, and dieffenbachia are the most common ones seen in homes and gardens. When certain parts of these plants are consumed by pets, they can cause vomiting, diarrhea, slower heart rate, and even death. Be sure to avoid having these as houseplants or in flower bouquets for special occasions. You never know what pets will get into.

Hide Electrical Wires

A puppy chewing on electrical cords.

Pets will chew exposed wires; this is true of both cats and dogs. They might chew wires connected to home electronics, appliances, and even cell phone chargers. Do your best to hide these wires behind furniture, under rugs, and out of sight. For wires that need to go across a room or from one appliance to another, it may be a good idea to get exposed wire covers, which are plastic plates that just attach to the wall and cover the wires. Not only do they hide them from pets, but they also make bundles of wires much less noticeable. To hide cell phone, computer, and other portable electronic charger wires, make or purchase a charging box. It holds most of the wires inside, and has small holes for each charger plug when you need to use them. Some larger charger boxes will even store the electronics for you when you’re not using them.

Don't Share Table Scraps

A pair of dogs sitting at the table.

Many folks like to share food with their dogs and, sometimes, their cats. While this can be an expression of sharing and love towards a pet, be aware that some foods we eat are not good for pets and can even be poisonous. Even if you’re preparing dinner and some falls on the floor, it’s important to be aware of foods that may do more harm than good to your little friends.

The following foods can cause respiratory problems, organ failure, and other issues: grapes and raisins, onions, garlic, mushrooms, raw and green potatoes, coffee, chocolate, alcohol, xylitol (a sweetener), cherries, currants, apricots, rhubarb, and apple seeds. The pits of most of these fruits contain cyanide, which is poisonous to most animals. All other foods should be avoided, even in small amounts since pets are much smaller than we are—a little bit can have a large impact.

Make Proper Use of Pet Gates and Doggy Doors

A cat walking through a cat door in a wall.

Doggy doors can be installed to allow your dog to go in and out of the house when they like. Some doggy doors can be cut into a back door, or added to a sliding glass door as a panel. There are even electronic doggy doors, which will open when your dog nears the door due to a small remote you can attach to their collar.

If there are areas of your home you would prefer to keep pets out of, you can always add a pet gate. While some pets may be alright with this scenario, others will fight back—as when put behind closed doors. It’s important to train pets that it’s safe in their special area and to provide a bed, food, and plenty of water. Keep in mind that gates tend to keep smaller dogs out, but cats will jump right over them. Other pets will scratch, whine, and damage the space they're in to try and get out. Keep pets safe by taking a little extra time to train them where they’re allowed to be.