by Tracy Line
The decision to add a four-legged friend to your family is an easy one. Preparing your home for his arrival takes a bit more thought. Even a well-kept home is filled with potential hazards for a young puppy or kitten. Electrical cords, knickknacks, houseplants, and other items can be harmful to your new furry friend. Pet-proof your home before your pet moves in and you’ll be a step ahead. Here are our top recommendations for making your home a safe and welcoming environment for your new bundle of joy.
“Make a safe room for your kitten,” says Sharon Fievez, the medical supervisor of cats at Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah. You can use any small room (even a bathroom, just keep the toilet lid down) and keep kitty’s litter box, toys, and scratching post there. Ann Allums, a CDPT (certified dog and pet trainer) at Best Friends, recommends puppy guardians utilize a crate. “A crate is an indispensable tool…[it] helps in the potty-training process, can be useful when traveling, and can prevent destructive behavior.” Keep your pet out of harm’s way by having a safe place for him to stay when you cannot watch him. Most dogs really like their crate. It becomes their home and is a safe and comfortable place to go.
Keep all electrical cords away from your pet by securing them together. Nancy Peterson, an issues specialist for the Companion Animals section of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in Washington, D.C., recommends tubing (available at home-supply stores) or strong tape to bundle cords. Window blinds can also be hazardous; kitties like to bat the cords around for fun but they could cause strangulation. Anchor the cords or keep them out of reach to avoid any unneccesary accidents.
Use child-proof cabinet latches to keep your puppy/kitten out of anything potentially dangerous. Cleaners, medications, sponges—these items may look intriguing to pets, but when ingested can be harmful or fatal. As an extra precaution, post the number for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center [(888) 426-4435; www.ASPCA.org/apcc]. A fee applies if a toxicologist needs to be consulted.
The experts all agree the best way to pet-proof your home is to get down on all fours and think like an animal. “Assume that if it can be chewed on or played with, it will be,” Allums says. Look around and put houseplants, knickknacks, and other small objects out of reach. Be thorough in your search; rubber bands, buttons, and needles are choking hazards. “Also look for lamps, or anything else a young pet could knock over,” Peterson warns.
According to the HSUS, foods such as candy, raisins, onions, macadamia nuts, coffee, and much more, are dangerous for pets. To avoid risk, keep food hidden in cabinets or in the pantry. Allums also notes that sudden changes in diet may cause diarrhea. And don’t forget about the trash; keep it covered with a lid or inside a latched cabinet.
Little animals are good at getting into little spaces. Fievez, who once found her kitty hiding in her fridge, suggests blocking your pet’s entrance to any tight spots by filling the space with balled-up newspaper. If your little friend outwits you, lure her out by batting a ribbon in front of her. In addition, make it a habit to check rooms and open drawers, cabinets, and even the dryer before you shut them to make sure you’re not leaving your pet in a tight spot.
“The best thing you can do for your new pet is to provide him with an identification tag and collar,” Peterson says. Even if yours is an indoor pet (and if you have cats, they should be), there is always the chance that he’ll flee, given the opportunity. When your pet first arrives home, supervise him whenever he is outside. Check all fencing, screens, etc. to ensure there is no available escape route. The garage is another place filled with hazards; for a puppy, even one lick of antifreeze can be lethal. Be safe, not sorry, and store all hazardous products up and out of reach.
Part of your pet-proofing plan should include finding a trustworthy veterinarian. Ask family or friends, check the yellow pages to find a nearby vet. Allums recommends visiting a few vets until you find one you are comfortable with using. According to her, many offices offer new client packages that include vaccinations and a socialization class.