Planning to re-home a new puppy? Getting ready to provide a forever home to a rescue cat? Pets are absolutely fantastic, and we wouldn’t be without ours, but there’s no doubt that a new pet can bring a seemingly disproportionate amount of carnage and chaos along with it. Chewed shoes, requisitioned socks, clawed table legs and your favourite chair becoming a glorified scratch post are pretty much par for the course, meaning it’s a good job those furry menaces are also incredibly cute! Of course, it’s not only damage caused by your pet that you need to aware of, it’s the dangers that everyday household items can pose to your new best friend.
To help keep you, your pet and your home in tip top condition (and your friendship intact!), we’ve put together a guide to pet-proofing your home. Here’s to a very happy life together with the newest member of your household.
Protecting your home from pet damage
If the pet you’ve decided to adopt is a young kitten or puppy, you’re bound to have some serious curiosity to deal with. It’s very cute, it’s all part of learning and development, and it won’t last forever, but you will need to take some steps to ensure your pet, and your belongings, are safe.
Kitchens and bathrooms
- Pets can be a lot like toddlers – determined to get into everything they really shouldn’t be touching. For this reason, toddler latches for cabinets work equally well for pups and kittens, making sure they can’t get the door open and their curious selves inside.
- Any cleaning products or chemicals should be stored as high as possible, well out of reach of your pets (remember that comparison to small children?)
- Try to keep bins in an enclosed space wherever possible to prevent rummaging. If they can’t be stored anywhere with a door, make sure you use a good quality bin that can’t easily be tipped over or opened.
- Check thoroughly for any gaps or spaces where curious pets could become trapped and cause injury to themselves. Don’t forget to check around and behind appliances.
- Always look inside your washing machine and tumble dryer before turning them on – there may be a sleepy kitten inside. Even if you keep the doors closed when not in use, it’s far better to be safe than sorry.
- Make sure all food is well out of reach of your pet. Some foods which are completely harmless to humans can be toxic for pets. Even if the food itself is perfectly safe, there’s a risk of choking on the packaging. Have a look here at our article on what’s poisonous to your pet.
- Always keep the lid of your toilet closed to prevent your pet from drinking water from the bowl. Aside from the obvious unpleasantness, the bleach and chemicals you use to clean it will leave traces that can be swallowed.
- If possible, use a stairgate to keep your puppy out of the kitchen and bathroom. We would recommend it for kittens too, but it’s very unlikely to have much of an effect!
- You now have an excellent reason for insisting the kids tidy away any toys and games they’ve been playing with in communal family areas – they may pose a risk to your dog or cat. Lego is fantastic for young imaginations; less so for young pets who want to chew everything in sight.
- Similarly, make sure you tidy away after any knitting, crocheting or other hobbies
- Wires should be secured to the wall using ties or staples, or enclosed in a purpose-built casing
- If you have a curious kitten, you may need to tidy away any ornaments, knick-knacks and photo frames you have displayed on shelves. Once the cat’s coordination improves, you’ll be able to enjoy them once more.
- Fond of house plants? Check that they’re not poisonous to your pet
- Cover all air vents, if covers are not already in place
- You won’t need to worry about this one for a while yet, but remember to consider your cat or dog when it comes to decorating for Christmas. Tinsel has been known to cause life-threatening injuries to curious pets who decide it looks good enough to eat, and a curious kitten may try to climb your tree and knock baubles off. Not to mention chocolate tree treats…
- If you live in an apartment, or have a balcony from an upstairs bedroom, make sure your pet cannot get out of a window
- Never leave a puppy or kitten unattended in a room with an open fire, or an electric heater with hot surfaces. Block access with a fireguard wherever possible.
- Stairgates should be used to prevent access to staircases or any potentially dangerous areas
- If your cat decides that your sofa is just a giant scratching post, cover the affected area with double sided sticky tape. It might not look pretty, but cats don’t like their paws sticking to it and it can be removed once the habit has been broken.
- Ensure clothes and shoes are stored in cupboards, or in secure boxes, as buttons, laces and similar can cause choking in pets. Another great excuse to get the kids to tidy up!
- For the same reason, laundry should be in a sturdy box, basket or bag, and not on the floor
- Any medication, toiletries or cosmetics should be stored carefully, well out of reach of your pet
- Check your wardrobes and drawers after use to avoid trapping a cosy kitten inside!
- Wires for televisions, computers, phones and chargers should be secured, just as for living room wires
Garages, sheds and outbuildings
- Store chemicals on high shelves, particularly anti-freeze, which can be lethal even in tiny doses
- Clean any chemical spills from floors and surfaces immediately
- Keep all tools securely stored when not in use
- Before you start a car that has been parked, bang on the bonnet to wake up any kitten or cat that may be sleeping underneath, enjoying the warmth
- If you have a barbecue or fire pit, ensure your pet cannot get close to it while it is hot, or get tangled in any of the framing while in storage
- Ponds and pools (even small kiddie paddling pools) should be covered at all times. If at all possible, empty the pool and put it away safely between uses
- If space allows, consider building a fenced-off area for your puppy to play in. Keeping this area free from hazards will be much easier for you, and will allow your pup a space of his own.
As we mentioned earlier, your new pet is very similar to having a newly crawling or toddling baby in the house. You, and your family, will need to regularly get on your hands and knees, seeking out and removing any small objects that could cause choking, and looking to see what may possibly seem tempting from that particular point of view.
It’s not just the shed and garage floors that need to be kept clear of spills either – many things which are harmless to us are toxic to animals, meaning spills and splashes should be cleaned immediately. Batteries, coins and plastic bags are just some of the everyday items that could be very harmful. Similarly, paper shredders are essential for protecting against identity fraud but, if left on, dangerous for exploring paws.
Again, just as you would do for a toddler, make sure anything that has a high sentimental or financial value is kept well out of harm’s way.
Don’t forget that your puppy will need to be taught what is acceptable and what is not. It may take a little time before they realise your shoes and slippers aren’t chew toys, but a little patience and perseverance will see you there before you know it.
Pets and your home insurance
When you decide to welcome a pet into your family, there are some less obvious factors you need to take into consideration. We’re sure you’ve thought about the chewing, scratching and training issues, but how about the effect a pet may have on your home insurance? Will you be covered for any significant damage your pet may cause?
With some recent studies showing that pets caused an average of £700 worth of damage last year, you may wish to opt for a policy that specifically covers accidental damage at the hands (paws?) of pets. Depending on the policy you hold, you may also wish to extend your existing accidental damage cover instead. We would recommend speaking to your insurer before making a decision.
Some of the terms and exclusions you may need to look out for include:
- Low limits on accidental damage claims
- Exclusion on damage caused by vomiting or toilet accidents
- Exclusion on damage caused by pets left home alone
- Damage to cars is generally not included
- Damage caused by a very young animal is generally not covered
- Certain breeds will not be covered by insurance
Bear in mind that, no matter which policy you opt for, you will be expected to take reasonable steps to ensure your pet cannot cause any damage.