All Paws on Deck: How to Keep Your Pets Safe in and Outside the Home

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Pets. They can be some of our best friends, and at times, our greatest annoyance.

One moment we’re cuddling with our cat on the couch or admiring our fish in the tank. The next moment, we are grumbling trying to clean up the mess Fido made on the floor.

Regardless of all the ups and downs that come with pet ownership, most of us have such a deep connection with our animals that all we want to do is make sure they are happy and safe. If our homes are not pet-safe, our beloved friends can easily get themselves into trouble.

With all the hustle and bustle of our daily routines, thinking about how to best take care of your pet can feel a bit daunting. We’re responsible for another being’s life after all.

But not to worry. SB’s has got you covered.

Here’s everything you need to know about keeping your pet safe inside and outside the house.

Disclaimer: This Security Baron Guide does not provide medical advice. The content provided here is informational in nature and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for speaking with a physician/medical professional and should not be relied upon solely for ensuring your safety. If you think you are having an emergency, please call your local emergency services.

Why You Need to Be Vigilant About Your Pet’s Safety

Owning a pet can be a whole lot of fun.

You might think you only have to feed them, give them water and a haircut every other month. But you also need to create an environment can live freely without risk of injury, sickness or other outside threats.

If you’re careless about what food or substances you have laying around the house, there’s a chance your pet could eat something that could harm them. In 2017, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) handled nearly 199,000 cases related to a pet’s exposure to poisonous substances. If your pet likes to run freely outside, be aware: Unsupervised dogs and cats can be at risk of being hit by a car or attacked by wildlife.

It’s up to you to make sure your furry buddy is living in safe conditions.

The Most Common Dangers for Pets

When you’re thinking about your animal’s safety, these are the most common scenarios you want to prevent:

  • Foreign body ingestion. Animals can be extremely curious creatures and they will bite, chew and swallow things that shouldn’t be anywhere near their mouth. Coins, string, small pieces of bone, corncobs, pieces of your brand new shoes … you name it. If your pet likes to sink their teeth into everything, it’s time to take some precautions.
  • Poisoning. Pets are also susceptible to eating things that can poison them. If you’re not careful, they can eat your medication, lick your cleaning supplies or chew the poison you left out for the rats. You also need to look out for certain household plants and foods such as chocolate and raisins. In high doses these things can make your pet very sick.
  • Suffocation. A curious cat can easily tangle themselves in cords and loose plastic bags.
  • Car accidents. Thousands of wildlife and domesticated animals are hit by motor vehicles every year.
  • Animal bites, fleas and ticks. If your pets often hang outside, they are at risk of being bitten by other wildlife or stray animals. This means they can potentially be exposed to disease, ticks and fleas. They are also at risk of being attacked.
  • Heatstroke and Dehydration. Many pets die from being stuck in a toasty car or any room where the temperature is too hot.
  • Starvation. Neglectful owners can leave a pet behind without leaving enough food or hiring a person to feed them.
  • Theft. Thieves will take your pets if they are left unattended. Criminals will sell them to test labs, breed them, train them as fighting animals. They might even trick you into paying them for “finding” your “lost” dog.
  • Escape Acts. Animals who are easily frightened by sounds or movement will try to get away from the perceived threat as quickly as possible. Sometimes that means running away from home.

How to Pet Proof Your House Room By Room

While a lot of these scenarios are scary, there are a lot of precautions you can take to increase the safety while your pet is roaming about the home.

Here’s how you can pet-proof your home room by room.

Kitchen

Foods

Pets love to beg and scavenge for food. When you’re in your kitchen cooking or eating at your dining table you may feel inclined to give your pet some of the grub you got on your plate. It’s hard to resist those big googly eyes sometimes. We get it.

But whatever you do, keep in mind that there are some foods that are really unhealthy for animals. For example, chocolate, which contains large amounts of methylxanthines, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst, urination, hyperactivity, and in severe cases, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors and seizure.

Keep these foods away from all of your pets:

  • Coffee grounds/Tea. Caffeine can damage the nervous system and heart.
  • Fatty foods. Though they are not toxic, they can cause vomiting, diarrhea and gas.
  • Chocolate. Highly poisonous in large doses.
  • Avocado. The pits can easily get lodged in the throat.
  • Alcohol. Wine, beer, liquor and fermented foods can lead to loss of coordination, drowsiness, vomiting, seizures, respiratory failure and death.
  • Yeast dough. Yeast can expand in the stomach and damage organs.
  • Grapes/raisins. Small amounts of these fruits can lead to kidney failure and lethargy.
    • Cherries. Cherries can cause dilated pupils, breathing problems, shock or even death.
  •  Salt. Watch out for foods like chips and pretzels, which are high in sodium. Salt poisoning can harm the nervous system and cause brain swelling.
  • Macadamia nuts. These are some of the most toxic nuts your dog or cat could consume. If your pet eats too many of these, they can experience seizures, lethargy, vomiting or loss of muscle control.
  • Onions and garlic. These contain an ingredient called thiosulphate, which can destroy your pet’s red blood cells and cause anemia.
  • Nutmeg. This seasoning can cause tremors and seizures.
  • Rhubarb. This plant found in some pies, jams and jellies can really tear up your pet’s kidneys and digestive system.
  • Milk. Cartoons have shown us that cats love to drink cow’s milk. But it turns out as cats and dogs get older, they get just as lactose intolerant as we humans do.
  • Loose bones. While you might be tempted to give your dog a bone, cooked bones are dangerous. When ingested, they can splinter, tear digestive organs, and cause internal bleeding.
  • Any products containing xylitol (an artificial sweetener). This can cause your pets insulin to spike to dangerous levels.

Keep these products stored away where your pet can’t reach them. Also make sure your garbage cans are covered. Consider getting a garbage can that locks that way you can be sure your pet will not stick their nose where they shouldn’t.

Cleaning Supplies

As a general rule of thumb, keep all cleaning supplies locked away in a cabinet or a closet so your pet is not at risk of drinking, inhaling harmful chemicals.

When you go to the store, look for natural, pet-safe cleaning agents. Read the labels for each product you buy so you know how to properly use them. Some products indicate that you should keep children and pets away from any area you’ve cleaned until the agent it dry. If your animal comes into contact with these substances, they can cause serious skin irritations or worse: chemical burns.

Insecticides and Rodenticides

Alright, so perhaps you have more furry friends running around your household than you would like. Or maybe you’ve got some critters crawling around. Mice, rats, roaches, ants, fleas. Most homeowners want to get rid of them stat.

If this is you, be aware that you have to be really careful about how you use insecticides and rodenticides around your pet. Place these poisons in a place that is completely inaccessible to your animal. Some of the newer insecticides and rodenticides do not have known antidotes so if your pet happens to ingest one of these, your vet might not be able to save them.

When it comes to flea and tick products: Always read the label before using them. Some are made just for dogs. Other are meant only for cats or other species. If you mix these up, you are putting your pet at risk for illness. If you aren’t sure if you are using the right product, consult your veterinarian.

Living and Bed Rooms

These places might be the coziest rooms in the house, but you still need to keep your eyes peeled for these potential hazards:

  • Any small items on the floor. A pet that’s really curious is like a small child. If there are coins, staples, small toys, buttons, batteries, nails or screws on the floor, there’s a chance they could put these objects in their mouth and swallow them.
  • Electrical cords. Some animals really like to chew on things and you definitely don’t want them to sink their teeth into something that could electrocute them. Keep all electrical cords out of sight or consider using cord covers.
  • Tobacco Products. Make sure your cigarettes and cigars aren’t lying around for your pet to nibble on.
  • String, yard and rubber bands. It’s cute when your cat plays with these things, but if  your pet ever decides to eat these, they are in for a world of stomach issues.
  • Mothballs. If these things are inhaled or ingested, they can cause major respiratory and gastrointestinal problems.

Office

The office is tends to be the place where people focus and lock in to there work. But many of us have had the experience of a cat sitting right on top of your papers to keep you company. Or maybe your dog comes in begging you to play.

When it comes to pet-proofing your office consider these factors:

  • Be careful of sharp or breakable objects on your desk. If your animal likes to hop up on your desk, make sure that there are no items they could knock over to hurt you or themselves. Look out for staplers, hole punchers, drinking glasses and mugs.
  • Keep your drinks covered. To prevent big spills, you might want to consider pouring your beverage in a travel mug or cup. Hot drinks are especially dangerous because if your pet knocks them over, they could be scalded.
  • Hide those cords. Your pets might be tempted to play with these and damage your electronics. Try to hide these behind furniture or buy chewsafe cord covers.

Bathroom and Laundry Room

In these rooms you’re really trying to be cautious of what chemicals that could potentially poison your pet. Try to keep these things away from your animal:

  • Medications. Your pills might make you feel better, but they could potentially kill your pet. Make sure they are tightly sealed and put them a secure cabinet far away from your animals.
  • Dental floss. If swallowed, dental floss can cause digestional issues.
  • Potpourri. It may smell good, but this stuff is poisonous when ingested.
  • Soaps, lotions and toothpaste. If your pet eats these, it can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Detergents, bleach and fabric softeners. Stow them away in cabinets. Make sure all lids are securely sealed to reduce the risk of spills.

Also: If you’re someone who lets their pets drink from the toilet bowl, that’s usually fine considering the water is safe to drink. But if you frequently treat your toilet, you might want to consider keeping the toilet closed or getting a lid lock. The agents used for those treatments will turn your pet’s stomach upside down.

How to Keep Your Pet Safe Outdoors

There’s nothing like watching your pet running around outside and having fun. The yard is their playground because in many ways, your pet is back in their natural element. You might think your animal is actually safest outside since there is no detergent for them to poke their noses in or any shoes to chew on.

But the outdoors present a whole bunch of hazards that we need to pay attention to.

Products Used in the Yard and Garage

We use all sorts of products to keep our lawns and flower beds looking fresh and healthy. If it’s winter, maybe we are using a solvent to clear some of the snow and ice. But what we might not realize is these products can be highly toxic to animals:

  • Synthetic chemical fertilizers. Consider composting or trading the synthetic stuff for seaweed, manure or grass clippings.
  • Herbicides. Nobody likes weeds in their yard, but instead of spraying them with chemicals, you can kill them with boiling water or sprinkling them with salt. You can also manually remove them yourself.
    • Poisonous insecticides. There are plenty of pet-safe and environmentally friendly options at pet stores.
  •  Cocoa mulch. This smells like chocolate and it might be tempting for your pet. Use pet-safe mulch like pine needles, leaves and untreated wood.
  • De-icing salts. During the winter, de-icing salts can really irritate your pet’s paws. If they are irritated, you pet will try to lick it off and can potentially poison themselves. Make sure your dog’s paws are washed every time they come in from a walk or have them wear booties.
  • Loose garbage and cans. If your dog finds loose trash around the yard, they could ingest something that will not sit well in their tummy. You especially need to watch your smaller dog around trashed aluminum cans. If they stick their head in to lick something, their head could get caught and you might have to take a trip to the vet. Make sure your lawn is clean and if you have to throw your recycling bag out front, squeeze shut the openings of each can.
  • Small animal traps and poisons. You might not use traps and poisons, but your neighbors might. Cats and dogs are at risk of suffering secondary poison if they eat a rodent who has consumed pesticides. If your neighbor is concerned about pest control, ask them if they could use live traps (which are less likely to cause your pet fatal harm) or see if they use multi-feed rodenticides. Rats have to eat multi-feed rodenticides for several days before it’s effective, which means your pets will be less at risk.

There are other dangerous substances that we use around the garage hat we need to look out for as well:

  • Adhesives. Polyurethane adhesives are found in many household products like expanding wood glue. If your pet eats this, they could have growing ball of sticky stuff growing in their stomach. Make sure your pet can’t get anywhere near these sorts of products.
  • Paints and solvents. These can cause skin inflammation and chemical burns.
  • Antifreeze that contains ethylene glycol. This tastes sweet and your pet might want its fill out it. Look for antifreeze that contains propylene glycol, which is safer if your animal happens to lick a bit of it.

Poisonous Plants

Believe it or not, there are many flowers that are toxic for your pets. For example, those pretty Azaleas you’ve been pruning throughout the year can cause your cat to become depressed and very ill.

If you have Azaleas or any of these plants in or around the house, you might want to consider replacing them or getting rid of them altogether:

  • Lilies
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Oleander
  • Yew
  • Foxglove
  • Kalanchoe
  • Sago palms,
  • Azaleas
  • Rhododendrons
  • Tulips
  • Castor bean
  • Cyclamen
  • Amaryllis
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Pothos
  • English ivy
  • Philodendron
  • Corn plant
  • Mother-in-law’s tongue
  • Hibiscus
  • Hydrangea
  • Schefflera
  • Mushrooms

While this isn’t an exhaustive list of all the poisonous plants out there, it’s important to be vigilant against any risks. So if you are a green thumb and aren’t quite sure the need seed you want to plant in your garden is safe or not, talk to your vet.

Wildlife Danger

More often than not, domesticated animals are no match for the wildlife that lurks outdoors. Bears, racoons, foxes, feral cats and coyotes … These animals are highly dangerous creatures so it’s important to keep your pet protected.

If you live in an area where wild animals are a real threat:

  • Don’t leave your pet tethered outside. Even if your yard is fenced, wild animals will still be able to get into your yard and attack.
  • Never leave a puppy unattended outdoors. Puppies will not be able to defend themselves.
  • Consider having an indoor cat. That way you’ll know they will always be safe from outside threats such as car accidents, wildlife attacks and secondary rat poisoning. Most cats are perfectly happy indoors.

Fencing

While fencing your yard won’t protect your pet from all dangers, it’s still a good thing to install to reduce other risks like pet escapes and burglaries.

However if you have a dog that’s a digger, they might be able to get under the fence you installed. In that case, consider pouring concrete in the area so they can’t scrape their way out.

Electric fences can be effective, but be aware that if a dog is frightened or stubborn enough, they can still run away. And if they run past the electric barrier, they’ll be less likely to re-enter it (those shock collars hurt!). Conventional fences are usually the best option to keep your pet where it is safe.

Weather

If you do keep your pet in a fenced backyard, be aware of the temperature changes in your area. If your city or town experiences extreme heat or cold, you probably don’t want to leave your dog out there for a sustained period of time.

During the summer, certain dog breeds are prone to overheating. During extremely cold winters, noses, ears and paws can suffer from frostbite, and if your pet is left out for too long, they can die from hypothermia.

Swimming Pools

Many dogs (and rarely some cats) love to swim. For some pets, backyard pools are absolutely irresistible. To avoid any drowning accidents, make sure to supervise your animal while they are around the pool, especially if they are old or sick. Dogs instinctively know how to swim, but if they are not strong enough they could struggle in the water.

Consider covering your pool when you aren’t around. Sun covers might seem like they will do the trick, but they actually will cause more danger in the end. Sun covers are not strong enough to hold the weight of a medium size dog and so there’s a chance they’ll fall in and get tangled up. Use safety pool covers instead They can hold up to 4,000 pounds.

How to Keep Your Pets Safe When You’re Away from Home

As much as we love them, we always can’t take our pets to work or school or wherever we have to be on an average day. This means we have to think about what to do when we leave them alone at home.

Some pets behave very well when you leave them by themselves. Some cats don’t even give a hoot if you’re in the house or not and fish only seem to care about you when you’re putting food in their tank. But many dogs tend to get anxious when you leave them for too long. They may start tearing up your furniture and chew up your favorite slippers.

To avoid all of the worst case scenarios, here’s some tips to make sure you meet your pet’s needs when you step out for the day:

  • Prepare necessary food and water. It’s important that your pet is able to eat and drink so they don’t try to find scraps in the garbage or drink from your treated toilet bowl. Hungry and thirsty animals tend to get anxious as well, which could lead to other unwanted behaviors like tearing up your furniture.
  • Tire out your dog before you leave. Take them for a walk. Play with them. Do something so they don’t get bored while you’re gone. If you don’t they might find something to play with that may or may not be safe.
  • Consider buying food-dispensing toys. These will keep your pet occupied and give them something to eat. Two for one!
  • Arrange a dog-walker. Some dogs need more activity than others. To avoid a bored, frustrated puppy or any “brown surprises” hire a dog-walker to take them outside.
  • Set your thermostat to a comfortable temperature. You don’t want to dehydrate your animal while you’re gone. Nor do you want to leave them shivering at home all day.
  • Buy a pet cam. This is a great way to keep track of your pets. Today’s pet cams allow you to watch your fuzzy friend from your mobile device so long as you have Wifi or data. Plus you get to keep cute recordings of your animals doing silly things.
  • Install pet sensors on pet doors. If you have pet doors consider getting smart pet sensors. That way you’ll know exactly when your pet is exiting and entering the house.
  • Get a GPS collar. Even if you leave your pets at home, they still can run away if there’s a door or a window open. In the case of a burglary, they might be frightened and try to escape. With a GPS collar, you’ll be able to track down your pet if they are ever lost.

If you’re leaving the house for a long time for vacation make sure to:

  • Get a pet sitter. Knowing that someone reliable will take good care of your pet when you are away will give you piece of mind.
  • Drop your dog off at a puppy kennel. If you prefer that your dog hangs out with other pups while you are away, a kennel is a great option.
  • Have your neighbors check in on your pet everyday. Some pets don’t require as much maintenance, like cats, fish and birds. In that case, have a trusted neighbor drop by to check on them and feed them when needed.

With all of these measures set in place, you’re more likely to have a happy pet when you come home.

How to Keep Your Animals Safe While Traveling

Fortunately, there are also times we can take our pets with us when we’re traveling.

Whether you’re shipping off on business trip, a vacation, or simply just driving to the park here are some tips to keep your animal safe and comfortable:

When traveling by plane:

  • Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date. Book an appointment with your vet and make sure that your pet is fit to fly. If you are traveling to another country, your pet might be quarantined if it hasn’t received the proper vaccinations.
  • Book a direct flight when you can. This will decrease the chance of baggage personnel mishandling your pet during layovers.
  • Get a USDA-approved crate. The crate you use should be tall and wide enough for your pet to stand, sit and turn around in comfortably. Line the bottom of the crate with shredded paper towels in case your pet has an accident.
  • Prepare food and water for your pet. Take a bag of dried food and tape it on the outside of the crate so baggage personnel can feed your pet if they get hungry during a layover. Freeze water in your pet’s water dish so it doesn’t spill while the crate’s being loaded onto the plane. Don’t worry: The water will melt when your animal gets thirsty.
  • Have proper pet identification. Make sure to write, “Live Animal” somewhere on the side of the crate so baggage personnel know what they are dealing with. Also write your name, cell phone, destination and paste a photo of your pet. If your pet ever escapes from the crate this will help people to return them to you. You should also carry a photo of your pet so people know you are the owner.
  • Tell every airplane employee that you are putting a pet on board. This way you can be confident that the airplane staff can respond appropriately in the case of a plane delay or any emergencies.

When traveling by car:

  • Break them in. Not every pet is used to traveling in a car. It’s best you take them on a few short car rides first before you start taking them on longer trips.
  • Secure your pet in their seat. Many people like to let their dogs sit on the car seat and let them put their heads out the window, but this can be extremely dangerous. If you break abruptly or wind up in a car accident, your pet can fall out the window and get severely injured. For safety, you can place your pet in a crate or carrier that will not slip and slide. Or if you don’t want to put your dog in a crate, you can put them in the backseat and secure them with a harness.
  • Pack a pet travel kit. When you are going on road trips, make sure to bring: food, water, their feeding bowls, a leash, waste scoop, plastic bags, grooming supplies, medication, first aid or anything that is required to take care of your pet.
  • Bring your pet’s rabies vaccination record. This isn’t usually a problem, but if you a traveling across state lines, some state authorities require that you show proof of vaccination.
  • Never leave your pet alone in a parked car especially when there are extreme weather conditions. If it’s sweltering outside, your animal could die of heat exhaustion. In frigid temperatures, your car will act like a refrigerator and potentially freeze your pet to death.

The key to traveling with your pets is to be prepared before you jet off. Consider packing everything you need the night before so you don’t forget anything while you’re scrambling out the door.

Keep Your Kids Safe Around Your Pets (And Vice Versa)

Having kids and pets can be a very rewarding experience. It can be adorable watching your children grow up with their animal best friends.

As cute as that sounds, it’s important that you educate your kids on how to behave around your animals. Sometimes curious children don’t understand when they are upsetting their pet. Frustrated or angry pets are more likely to scratch, bite and harm your child.

To avoid this, warn your kids about these potentially aggravating behaviors:

  • Don’t tease. Many dogs and cats hate it when you pull on their tails or ears.
  • Never bother a pet while they are eating or drinking. Have you ever had someone swipe food away from you while you were enjoying it? Maddening, right?
  • Don’t annoy a pet while it’s sleeping. They can get cranky if you wake them up from a nap.
  • Don’t take a toy or bone away from a cat or dog. Depending on the temperament of your pet, this could really annoy them. If they are easily aggravated by this, try not to tease them with the toy either.
  • If a pet is sick or injured, stay away. Pets can be more irritable when they aren’t feeling well.
  • Keep distance from a mother and her babies. Mamas are very protective of their kittens/pups and will bite if they see you as a threat.
  • For smaller animals: Don’t be rough with them. If you have a rabbit, hamster, guinea pig, gerbil or reptile take them out of their cage/tank slowly and carefully so they don’t scratch or bite you. When it comes to reptiles, make sure to wash your hands immediately after you handle them. Their skin can carry bateria like bacteria like Salmonella.
  • Never hold a rabbits by the ears. Just ouch.
  • Never put your hand into a fish tank. Unless you own piranhas, most fish won’t harm you too seriously. But some breeds do have the potential to bite or sting when they are scared. Plus fish water can have germs that can lead to skin infections.

Remember: Every pets temperament is different and sometimes you and your child need to make more precautions with some animals than you would with others. If you are going to a friend’s house and they happen to have pets, always ask them if it’s okay to pet or hold their animal. Not every creature is as friendly as they look.

Pet Safety Around the Holidays

Believe it or not, the holidays present some scary safety hazards that all pet owners need to be aware of. For example, studies from 2015 show that people lose their pets on the 4th of July more than any other day of the year. Fireworks are loud and frightening to pets and parties can cause animals to become anxious.

Of course, there are other celebrations besides the 4th that we need to consider. Here are some tips to follow during every festivities:

Fourth of July

  • Keep your pet indoors. Again, fireworks can scare the fur off your animal. It’s best to keep them in your house and ideally with a person who can watch over them.
  • Comfort them. Pet them. Brush their fur. Play with them. Make sure they have access to their “safe space”, whether that’s a cushion, crate or special armchair. You can also buy natural calming products and anxiety wraps.
  • Mask the noise. You can do this by shutting your windows and turning on the TV.
  • Be calm. Act normal. Pet’s feed off of your energy, and so if you behave like it’s an average day, they will too.
  • Tag your pet. Consider purchasing a pet-finder device or service that can help locate your pet in the case of an emergency.

Halloween

  • Store candy far away. You might’ve bought a large family pack of Kit Kats or Starbursts at the grocery store for all those trick-or-treaters and sugar-free Reese’s for the adults. Remember that chocolate is poisonous to pets. So are candies that are sweetened with xylitol.
  • Throw loose wrappers in the trash. When you’re sitting around eating a bunch of Halloween candy it can be easy to make a mess of all the wrappers. Make sure you don’t leave any behind for your pet to potentially swallow.

Thanksgiving and Dinner Parties

  • Tell your friends and family not to feed the pets at the table. Dogs and cats love to eat grub that’s fallen from the table. Some of them will beg your guests for scraps. Just be careful that your animal doesn’t eat something that can mess up their intestines. Fatty, rich or spicy foods can damage the pancreas and cause vomiting and diarrhea. Soft bones can break and tear up the esophagus and the intestines.
  • Pen your pet in a safe place. Some pets get really anxious and bothered by having a large group of strangers in their home. If this is the case for your pet, put them in a space away from all of the commotion.
  • Tell your guests about your pet’s temperament. Some pets don’t like to be pet or held and will bite or scratch to get out of people’s hands. Tell your guests about that to avoid any conflicts.

Winter Holidays

Christmas

  • Consider using pet-safe ornaments. Cats like to play with anything that’s dangly and your dog might be a little rambunctious around the tree. In order to avoid any broken glass, consider buying shatterproof ornaments or ones that are made out of silk, wood or paper.
  • Place expensive ornaments towards the top of the tree. That way if they are breakable, your pet will be less likely to reach them.
  • Be careful when using flock. Some people like when their Christmas tree has a snow-y look. Be aware however: Many homemade flock materials (like soap flakes) are toxic to animals when ingested. If you are going to use flock, try using cotton balls, fleece, or desiccated coconut instead.
  • Get an artificial tree. Pine needles can be very sharp and can scratch or puncture your pet’s skin. Plus the needles are mildly poisonous. If you choose to get an artificial tree, don’t get one that is super glitter or sparkly. A playful cat will find it hard to resist.
  • Avoid using tinsel. Some animals will want to play with the tinsel, and if they end up putting it in their mouths, they are in for a world of trouble. Tinsel can cause intestinal issues and can potentially when eaten.
  • Keep your pet away from treated water. If you do choose to buy a natural tree, you might treat the tree’s water with preservatives or fertilizers. Even if you don’t, the stagnant water can be the host of some nasty bacteria. If your pet drinks contaminated water, it will surely make them sick.
  • Don’t get a table top tree. Your dog might snatch it and play with it like a toy. They will hurt their mouths. It’s best to get a tree that’s around five feet tall. They are less likely to be chewed up by your dog or toppled over by your climbing kitty.
  • Don’t leave lit candles unattended. If your animal knocks a candle over, they could start a house fire. Trade the wick candles for flameless or artificially lit candles.
  • Don’t use food as decorations. Whether it’s popcorn, candy canes, gumdrops or any other food, your pet will have a feast with these if you are not careful.
  • Avoid decorating with poisonous plants. Mistletoe, holly berries, ivy, poinsettias, jerusalem cherries, lilies and daffodils are all toxic for pets. Try using red roses, white orchids, and Christmas cacti instead.

Hanukkah

  • Place the Menorah in a room that your pet cannot access. This will prevent your pet from getting burned or causing any fire hazards.
  • Put holiday game pieces away when you’re not using them. Securely store items like dreidels so that your animal can’t choke on them.
  • Keep chocolate coins out of paws reach. Chocolate and tinsel are a dangerous combo in an animal’s stomach.
  • Keep latkes and sufganiyot away from pets. These Hanukkah treats will lead to indigestion.
  • Consider getting a pet-sitter during those nightly celebrations. You might not be available to take your dog out for a walk during its potty-time. Hire someone to help you out.

Kwanzaa

  • Setup Kwanzaa table far away from curious animals. With all of the candles, fruits, vegetables, nuts, corn and gifts your pet is sure to land their paws on something they shouldn’t be touching. If your table cloth or mat has tassels, your cat might be more tempted to play with it and mess everything up.
  • Be careful of where you place Bandera and other decorations.  Again, your don’t want your animal to tug on anything or destroy any valuables.
  • Don’t allow your pet to feast during Karamu ceremonies. If your pet eats anything that’s too rich or spicy, they might become ill.

Birthdays

  • Be careful with ribbons and streamers. Your cat will have a ball with these decorations, but you don’t want your animal to potentially swallow them.
  • Dispose of wrapping paper ASAP. You don’t want to leave any party debris behind that your pet could make a mess of or have for dinner.

How to Take Care of Your Smaller Animals

While smaller critters like hamsters and lizards have their own needs for a happy home, set of precautions, there are general safety precautions small animals owner should be wary of:

  • Wash your hands before picking them up. This way you’ll avoid spreading harmful diseases.
  • Do not place their cages near sunlight. Gerbils and hamsters can suffer heat stroke if they get too hot. You also don’t want your fish tank to reach intolerable temperatures. Your cold-blooded snake might like the sun, though.
  • Don’t expose cages to drafts. If your cage is too close to an A/C vent or open window, your animals can get freeze to death or enter a hibernative state.
  • Leave nocturnal animals alone during the day. Certain tree frogs and mice really don’t like being bothered while the sun is up. You don’t want to interrupt their shut-eye.
  • Buy playwheels with solid surfaces. If your animal has really small feet, you don’t want them to get caught up in metal rungs.
  • Don’t put two animals together that don’t get along. Pets like hamsters are solitary animals so don’t try to get your hamster a friend because you think they are lonely. They are just fine.
  • Buy pet-safe chewing wood. Some wood has harmful chemicals on it. Better just buy animal-approved ones from the pet store.
  • Don’t put cages in garages, kitchens or any areas where there can be toxic fumes. Birds are especially sensitive to aerosol products, tobacco products, certain glues, paints, air fresheners, smoke, cooking fumes and certain odors.

Controlling Your Cat Around Smaller Pets

Another danger you need to watch out for is your frisky cat. They might want to play with your smaller animals or worse: eat them. To keep your feline from turning your hamster into their new toy:

  • Introduce your pets to each other. Your cat might just need to satisfy their curiosity. Let your cat sniff the cage or the tank and if it tries to paw the animal inside, give them a stiff “no!” Don’t hit them. If you have a bird, don’t allow the cat to lick it. Cat’s tongues carry bacteria that could kill their new feathery friend.
  • Purchase safe cages. Iron, stainless steel and powder-coated cages are best. Make sure there is no more than 0.5 inches of space between bars.
  • Supervise your cat around your smaller animals. This is the best way to keep anything disastrous from happening.
  • Play with your cat. If you give your cat attention, it won’t think it’s been replaced. Plus that way you’ll satisfy the cat’s hunting instincts and it will lose interest in eating your mice.
  • Get a squirt bottle. If your cat gets anywhere near your cages, you can send it running with a spray of water.
  • Make sure your tanks’ lids are secure. A smart cat will be able to open lids that don’t close properly. You don’t want your cat to fall in your tanks and you definitely don’t want them feasting on whatever is in them.
  • Be patient. Thankfully, cats get bored pretty quickly. Eventually they lose interest in your little animal.

What to Do If Your Pet’s Been Injured or Poisoned

As much as we try to take care of our pets, things happen and we need to be prepared for the worst. When pets are hurting or ill, they may be confused, scared and anxious. They can then bite and act dangerously. This makes it difficult to know how to respond in the moment.

As you’re arranging to get your pet to a vet, here’s what you can do when you notice your pet in pain:

If your pet has no visible wounds….

Observe their behavior to assess the problem. They might be limping or maybe they are avoiding putting weight on a limb. They might try to dodge anyone trying to touch a particular part on their body. If they have any abdominal pain, they might get into a praying stance position with their front limbs on the floor and their haunches in the air. Their heart rate might pick up. Their breathing might be fast or heavy. Some animals go into hiding (especially cats). Observing these details will be very useful for your vet to get at the root of the issue.

If your pet is restless and begins biting, you can put a muzzle on them until you are able to get them treatment.

If your pet was hit by a car….

Your goal is to try to slow any bleeding. Use a towel to apply pressure over the bleeding site or use a tourniquet if you have one. Having a pet-specific safety kit is useful in the case of car trauma or other physical accidents.

If your pet was poisoned….

Call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center as soon as possible (888-426-4435). Time is of the essence when you are dealing with toxic chemicals in the body. The faster you get your animal to treatment, the better your chances at keeping them alive.

What to Do If You Lost Your Pet

Losing your pet is one of the most heartbreaking experiences a pet-owner could ever endure. Thankfully, there are many steps you can take in the event you can’t find your animal:

  • Call animal shelters and animal control agencies. File a report with shelters and agencies within a 60-mile radius of your home. Visit the animal shelter as often as possible. If there are no shelters near you, contact the local police department. Make sure give these agencies an accurate description of your pet. A photo will be useful in this situation.
  • Comb your neighborhood. Drive or walk through your neighborhood several times a day. Also tell your neighbors and mail carriers that you are missing your pet so they can be on the lookout, too.
  • Advertise. Post bills, flyers signs on street poles, at grocery stores, in community centers, veterinary offices and pet stores. Indicate your pet’s sex, age, weight, breed, color and any special markings. Leave out one detail so that if any
  • Use Craigslist and other sites. You can advertise on Craigslist or you might hop on their to see that someone found your pet. Sites like Fido Finder, Lost Dogs of America, Lost Pet USA, and Missing Pet Partnership are also very useful
  • Beware of pet recovery scams. Some criminals will claim they found your pet to reap any monetary rewards. When you post flyers about your missing animal, leave out one important identifying detail. Then ask the person to describe the animal they found to test if they are telling the truth.

Since these escapes can happen, it’s best that we prepare ourselves to avoid as much stress as possible:

  • Have a photo of your pet. When you are asking people if they saw your pet, it can be hard to describe your pet in great detail. A picture will make things much easier.
  • Use external ID tags, microchips or digital tags. This way anyone who finds your pet knows exactly who they belong to.
  • Update contact info on digital ID tags. You want whoever found your pet to be able to contact you.
  • Regularly check your leashes and collars. If they are too loose or damaged, your pet could easily wriggle out of them and run away.

If you ever lose your pet, be vigilant on the search! Pets who have been lost for months have been returned to their owners. They are more likely to be found if you make sure they have proper identification.

Safe and Happy Pets Create a Safe and Happy House

At the end of the day, if your pets feel secure, fed and loved they become less of a worry and more fun to be around. Making sure they are satisfied may be a big responsibility, but once your home is set up with your animal’s needs in mind, you can spend more time enjoying time with each other and making cute memories. Don’t be shy with the cuteness either. Your pet cam is waiting for you.

Adele Jackson-Gibson

Adele Jackson-Gibson

Adele Jackson-Gibson is a writer and multimedia content creator living in NYC. She got her graduate degree in journalism from NYU and her undergrad degree in French literature from Yale University. Her specialty is fitness and sports, but she nerds out about anime, video games and technology. She is passionate about helping people find peace of mind and lends that passion to her work at Security Baron.

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