Make Your Home Safe for Your New Pet
When you bring home a new baby, you have a grace period of many months before he or she starts crawling. That’s plenty of time to baby-proof the house. Bring home a new pet, and you need to be on your guard from the very beginning. Like the old adage says, curiosity killed the cat, but it can also kill the puppy, cockatiel, hamster and just about any other furry, feathered, finned or scaly friend you introduce into an unprepared home environment. Here are some common sense tips to avoid costly vet bills and keep your new buddy safe and healthy.
Ideally, you’ve given a lot of thought to pet ownership and already have the appropriate crate, cage or other enclosure for your new friend. Giving a new pet free range in your home and yard is an invitation to disaster. Ease into it, slowly allowing Fido, Fluffy or Tweety to acclimate to the new environment. A secluded space of its own also gives your pet a secure retreat from noise, activity and small children.
The American Humane Society offers a practical list for pet-proofing that includes the following:
- Putting childproof latches on cabinets
- Blocking small spaces, nooks and holes like those behind appliances or inside cupboards
- Buying covered trash cans or keeping trash inside a latched cabinet
- Closing the toilet lid to prevent a pet from drowning or drinking/eating toilet cleaning chemicals
- Installing covers on all heating and air vents
- Elevating electrical wires and cords above floor level
- Storing medicines and caustic chemicals in closed cabinets or drawers
- Moving all chemicals to high shelves or secure them in behind latched doors
Generally, that which can be chewed and swallowed will be, so the American Humane Society cautions you to put away small toys, sewing supplies and anything that smells enticing (including lotions and cosmetics). Antifreeze, they warn, is especially attractive and very lethal to pets.
In addition to those precautionary steps, the ASPCA offers helpful tips for long-term pet-friendly decorating.
- Avoid anything that could be a strangulation hazard, such as vertical blinds, tassels, pooling draperies and long blind cords.
- Fence your yard with buried, inward-facing wire or some other dig-proof material.
Many pets die each year in backyard pools. Veterinarian Patty Khuly recommends that if you have a pool, you take these precautions to prevent a tragedy.
- Know your dog’s swimming proficiency. Some dogs and cats can’t swim at all; others will experience diminished ability as they age.
- Invest in a pool alarm that sounds when a body enters the water.
- Place an alarm collar or electrified fencing around the pool.
- Install pool ramps that can help your pet get out of the water if it falls in.
Things that are perfectly harmless when ingested by humans can cause gastric distress, seizures or death to pets. In their “Toxic Food Guide for Pets,” PetInsurance.com warns against feeding or exposing pets to common food items, such as the following:
- Fatty foods, like potato chips, French fries and greasy fast foods
- Bones that can splinter
- Fruit toxins found in the pits or seeds of peaches, plums and persimmons
- Grapes and raisins
- Nuts, which are especially dangerous if they’re moldy
- Onions, garlic, chives and leeks
- Raw fish (salmon, trout, shad and sturgeon), which can contain a fatal parasite
- Xylitol artificial sweetener found in gum, toothpaste and products for diabetics
- Unbaked yeast dough
Many common house and yard plants, or their various parts, can be dangerous to pets if chewed or ingested. Symptoms may range from oral irritation and excessive drooling to diarrhea, vomiting, tremors and death. And plants that are toxic to some animals may be perfectly harmless to others. Care2.com lists the plants to watch out for.
- Aloe vera
- Baby’s breath
- Castor bean
- Milk weed
- Morning glory
- Sago palm
- Tomato plant
Your state agriculture department, a good nursery or your vet are good resources for information about plants toxic to your type of pet.
Think Like a Pet
One of the best ways to pet-proof your home is to get down on your hands and knees and see a room or yard from a pet’s eye view. You may be surprised at how many hazardous items and situations you find!
 “Pet-Proofing Your Home,” http://www.americanhumane.org/animals/adoption-pet-care/safety/pet-proofing-your-home.html
 “Pet-Proofing Your Home,” AmericanHumane.org, http://www.americanhumane.org/animals/adoption-pet-care/safety/pet-proofing-your-home.html
 “Preparing Your Home for Your New Pet,” ASPCA.org, http://www.aspca.org/adopt/adoption-tips/preparing-your-home-your-new-pet
 Patty Khuly, VMD, MBA, ”Poolside Safety: Prevent Pet Drowning Deaths,” PetMD.com, http://www.petmd.com/blogs/fullyvetted/2006/july/poolside-safety-prevent-pet-drowning-deaths-6591#.Us3e5JWx6Uk
 “Toxic Food Guide for Pets,” PetInsurance.com, http://www.petinsurance.com/healthzone/pet-articles/pet-health-toxins/Toxic-Food-Guide-for-Pets.aspx
 Melissa Breyer, “24 Common Plants Poisonous to Plants,” http://www.care2.com/greenliving/24-common-plants-poisonous-to-pets.html.