Welcoming a four-legged friend into your family is an exciting time for everyone, but puppies, kittens, dogs and cats can easily find themselves in serious trouble while exploring their new surroundings. It is important to remember that pets are naturally curious and explore their worlds with their mouths, so they will want to interact with or consume anything left out at their level. Because of this, your home is filled with potential risks, some obvious and others you might not expect. The good news is there are simple steps you can take to help keep your new pet safe.
Purina behavior scientist Dr. Ragen T.S. McGowan offers these timely tips to help pet-proof your home and give you peace of mind that it is a safe place for your dog or cat to live and thrive.
How to Keep Your New Pet Safe
1. Put away the toxins
Many common household items are toxic for pets. Cleaning supplies, detergent, bleach, fertilizer, pest or rodent bait traps and paint can all cause serious harm if ingested. McGowan says, “Make sure to always store toxic items in a place where your pet cannot access them, either in a locked cabinet or on high shelves out of their reach. Even if you are vigilant about keeping these items out of reach, sometimes accidents happen. It is good to have the number for the Animal Poison Control Center handy or even saved in your phone, just in case: (888) 426-4435.”
2. Secure small hardware
Pets are attracted to small items that they can mouth, chew or bat around in play. In the home, small hardware items — from buttons, pins, batteries and magnets, to nails, staples, tacks and paper clips — may look appealing to pets, but could cause serious cuts or even damage internal organs if swallowed. “Before your new friend comes home, do a sweep to ensure small hardware items, batteries and magnets are securely stored or kept out of reach,” shares McGowan. “This means getting down to their level and retrieving any items that may have fallen under or behind the furniture. Tacks, pins and magnets should also be moved up from low hanging bulletin boards or the front of the refrigerator, where they could attract the attention of cats, especially.”
3. Beware of food bags … and practice proper food storage
Almost every one of us is guilty of leaving a bag of chips or box of cereal open on the couch or kitchen table. This may seem harmless, but many food bags, including for pet food, are made from a strong material that helps keep food fresh. A curious pet can get stuck if it goes looking in the bag for leftover crumbs or an early dinner.
“Food packaging can be quite attractive to pets. Not only does it smell like food, but it makes a crinkling noise that pets associate with food, treats or play,” shares McGowan. “Make sure to store food or treat bags up high out of your pet’s reach, or inside cabinets or closets. We also recommend rolling the pet food bag closed and storing the entire item in a resealable hard container, so you can keep the label information handy,” advises McGowan. “A pet of any age, size or strength can quickly find themselves in a troubling, and potentially heartbreaking, situation when left unattended with a food bag. By using resealable containers, you limit the risk — and, as a bonus, your food will remain fresh.” Similarly, remember to cut empty bags along the entire top, bottom and down at least one side before disposal, in case your curious pet rummages through the trash.
4. Conceal electronics
Electronics are ubiquitous in most homes, but the many wires and cords they come with can look like a fun toy to your pet. To keep your pet from chewing them or getting tangled, bundle loose cords behind furniture and store extra chargers and cables in a place that cannot be reached or opened with a paw or nose. For cords that must remain visible, McGowan suggests camouflaging them with cable-coverings or tape, so they are less attractive to your pet. “It is also a good practice to store remote controls and video game controllers in a bin or a drawer where your pet does not have access to them,” she adds. “These items often smell like food or lotions from our fingers which can attract pets to chew on them, but their electrical components and batteries are harmful if consumed.”
5. Keep dangerous ingredients out of reach
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are making more meals at home, including experimenting with new recipes. It’s important to remember that some common ingredients can be harmful to your pets. “Before you make your grocery list, review recipes against a list of ingredients that could be toxic for dogs and cats,” counsels McGowan. “Chocolate is well known, but you’ll also want to avoid grapes, raisins and certain spices. Xylitol, a sugar alternative found in everything from cake mixes to yogurt, peanut butter and chewing gum, is another toxic ingredient.” Best practice is to keep all food and ingredients stored in cupboards, pantries, drawers or on high shelves out of reach of your pet.
We all want to make the most of life with our new furry companions, and by following the above tips, we can do so safely. We also encourage you to have your veterinarian’s contact information easily accessible, so you are ready in case of trouble.
As you prepare to start life with your new pet on the right paw, you can read more tips from McGowan and other Purina experts at www.purina.com/articles.