Our pets are part of our families. But like some of our younger family members, they have a knack for making messes and getting into things that are dangerous for them! You turn your back for one minute and they’re eating out of the garbage can or hanging from your brand-new drapes with their sharp little claws.
It can feel like quite a challenge to give your cat or dog a safe, enriching environment that looks nice too, but with a few simple swaps and additions, you can relax knowing that your pets and your belongings are safe. Here are ways you can upgrade your home to a more pet-friendly space.
1. Invest in some childproof latches
For not having opposable thumbs, the little rascals sure are good at opening doors to places they shouldn’t be going! Unfortunately, it’s not hard for them to use their little paws and noses to nudge open closets and cabinets and get into toxic substances like cleaners or dangerous food scraps.
If you store chemicals or waste low enough for your dog to reach—or any place that your cat can easily jump up on—add some childproof latches to your closet and cabinet doors. These are relatively inexpensive and easy to find online, or at stores like Target, Walmart, or Home Depot. They come in a variety of styles so you can find one that’s easy for you to open but not your adventurous little pal (any childproof latch currently available on the market will definitely require opposable thumbs to get it open). Whenever possible, choose a trashcan with a lid.
2. Cover up for furniture
Adorable as they are, the claws at the end of those toe beans can do a number on your upholstered furniture. And even though his fluff is what makes Fido so snuggly, his shedding is not exactly the design choice your couch needed. You could spend the money on more durable furniture, or you could just protect what you already have by covering it up.
And we’re not talking about those plastic furniture covers that were all the rage when Jell-O molds and bell bottoms were in. Many companies make stylish, comfy, pet-proof cloth covers you can throw over your furniture and wash as needed. Lacking that, you can always just get out a few old blankets and use those to keep your sofa scratch- and hair-free. This also makes it much easier to clean up any accidents your pets (or clumsy family members) might have without risking lasting stains on your furniture.
3. Swap out poisonous plants
House plants make a lovely addition to your home, but some of them can be fatally toxic to dogs and cats. If you’re a plant person as well as pet person, you’ll definitely want to do research on which kinds of plants your pets can coexist with safely.
If you have a yard or garden for your dog to play in, double check that there are no poisonous plants hanging out there either. Ivy is a very common plant in yards and gardens, but even the non-poisonous (to humans) variety can cause rashes, breathing problems, paralysis, or even comas in dogs. If you have a cat, keep lilies out of your home. Aloe vera is another common houseplant that can make your pets very sick if ingested. If you have any questions about what might be safe for your pets, the ASPCA has a complete list of plants that are toxic to dogs, cats, and horses available on their site. They can also provide you with the number for animal poison control.
4. Make sure windows within jumping distance have secure screens
You’ve probably heard that cats always land on their feet, but it’s best not to test that theory at a significant height. Any window your pet, cat or dog, can easily reach should be outfitted with a screen. Your dog might not be a climber, but can he reach the windows behind the couch? If he gets excited, would he be willing to make the jump to chase after that squirrel? If you’re going to open a window that your pet can feasibly look out of, it needs a screen, and one that’s not easy to accidentally knock out of place. This way you can let cooling breezes in without accidentally letting your pets out. This is especially important if you live in a multi-level house or an apartment anywhere above the ground floor and have a cat who likes to sit on the windowsill. Cats might be known for their balance, but accidents can still happen.
5. Give your pets a leg up
Does your pup love to cuddle up in bed with you or sit on the window seat and watch the world go by (from behind a securely fastened window, of course)?
Unfortunately, especially for our small breed fur babies, human furniture is not designed for their little legs. A lifetime of jumping up and down from what is a fairly significant height for them can start to wear on their joints and cause pain or even arthritis. Just like humans, dogs lose bone density as they age, and your elderly dog may be more likely to break a bone from jumping on and off furniture.
This is something Dr. Pratt warned against in our live call. She recommends getting small steps or ramps for pets with short legs such as dachshunds so they don't break or tear anything (to watch the full video, click here). These are easy to find at your local pet stores, and some options are made from foam to be even gentler on your dog’s joints.
6. Keep medications on a high shelf
Many medications that you might take on a daily basis, like ibuprofen, can cause organ failure or other adverse side effects in your pets in very small doses. Make sure all medication is properly stored someplace your pets cannot reach when you are done taking it. Don’t leave your pill case out on a countertop where larger dogs and adventurous cats can get to it. If your cat has been known to jump on the bathroom counters and can get into your medicine cabinet, place all medications on the highest shelf possible. If you are not sure there is any place in your bathroom that your cat won’t be able to reach, keep the bathroom door closed at all times, or at least consider a lock on the medicine cabinet. Mittens might not be happy that she can’t be next to you at all times but listening to her whine on the other side of the door for a few minutes is a much better option than having to call poison control.