Essential Tips for Pet-Proofing Your Home

BY Elizabeth Kowalski, CVT, FFCP

Dog chewing on shoe

With pet ownership comes the responsibility to keep your furry pal safe from harm—including everyday household dangers. You can accomplish this goal, and protect your valuables from mischievous teeth and claws at the same time, by preparing your home before you welcome your new dog or cat. Use our essential tips to pet-proof your space and ensure your pet has a healthy environment to thrive and grow.

Tip #1: Look at your home from your pet’s point of view

Your home looks—and smells—different to your pet compared with your human family members. When pet-proofing a home, get down on your pet’s level and try to think like a dog or cat. What items would you notice or find interesting? Which of those could be harmful? Which valuable items could a pet damage? Use this as a starting point for your pet-proofing efforts.

Tip #2: Establish off-limits areas

If you realize that a room contains valuable rugs, brand-new carpet, expensive furniture, or other items you’d rather your pet not damage, make these rooms off-limits initially. You should still pet-proof them to some degree in case they sneak in, but consider installing walk-through pet gates as a temporary fix. As your pet learns the house rules, you can gradually increase their access to off-limits areas.

Tip #3: Remove hazards and valuables

Once you decide where you will allow your pet, get to work removing hazards and securing valuables in the designated space. Pay close attention to the following items:

  • Electrical cords — These favorite chew items can cause a shock or fire. Keep them organized and hidden in commercial cord protectors and behind or under furniture when possible.
  • Furniture — Pets can quickly ruin furniture with their teeth or claws. Choose durable, snag-proof fabrics or invest in high-quality covers.
  • Decor — Pets, especially young pets, are clumsy and inquisitive. They can knock down and break items that you don’t carefully place out of their reach.
  • Toxic plants — Check the ASPCA list of toxic and non-toxic plants to ensure none of the plants in your home are dangerous.
  • Food, medications, and household chemicals — Many human foods and medications are toxic to pets and should never be left out where pets can swipe them from countertops. Similarly, household cleaners and chemicals should always be stored securely out of your pet’s reach.
  • Trash — Trash cans are best hidden inside cabinets, but if that’s not an option, invest in cans with locking lids. Never underestimate your pet’s ability to break into the trash!
  • Drawers and cabinets — Some pets can learn to open doors, drawers, and cabinets, and you’ll need to prevent them with baby-proofing latches.
  • Toilets — Keep toilet lids closed to prevent pets from drinking the water and to keep small or young pets from falling in.
  • Shoes and socks — Shoes, socks, and other small clothing items make tempting chew toys for many dogs. If your dog swallows these items, they could end up with an intestinal obstruction.
  • Toys, personal items, and clutter — Anything left on the floor or low shelves is fair game for pets. Keep your home free of clutter and securely store all personal items to keep pets from swallowing potentially harmful items and destroying your belongings.
  • Slippery surfaces — If you’re welcoming an older or a large-breed pet, consider outfitting your slippery floors with rugs and runners to increase traction and prevent falls.

Tip #4: Crate-train your pet

Establishing a safe place for your pet to sleep ensures they stay out of trouble during the night and while you’re away, and can also help with potty training. Crate-training your dog provides a sense of security and a quiet retreat. Help your pet understand their crate is a great place by gradually increasing the time they spend inside and providing treats and positive reinforcement when they voluntarily enter.

Tip #5: Provide scratching areas for cats

Cats are less likely to damage your furniture and carpets when they have adequate scratching surfaces. Offer sturdy scratching posts with multiple textures, shapes, and sizes, and place them near high-traffic areas in your home, so your cat feels their scratching message is acknowledged. Pheromone diffusers (e.g., Feliway) can also provide comfort to your cat and prevent problem scratching.

Tip #6: Train and supervise your pet

No matter how well you think you’ve pet-proofed your home, your pet will find something you missed. Expect to hit some speed bumps when your pet first comes home, but never punish them for stealing or damaging household items. Instead, focus on prevention by supervising them and redirecting unwanted behaviors. Teaching a “leave it” command is also highly beneficial and can keep your pet safe from harm. For example, if your pet steals a wayward sock, ask them to “leave it,” and redirect their play or chewing to an appropriate toy.

Creating a pet-friendly home involves thoughtful consideration and proactive measures. Following our pet-proofing tips will help you create a safe and healthy space where you and your pet can live together harmoniously. Contact your AAHA-accredited veterinarian if you have questions or concerns about keeping your pet safe at home.