Pet proofing. Yes, it’s a thing

pet proofing guide

Photograph by Michael Browning

Like baby proofing, pet proofing is important. If you and the family have decided it’s time to get a pet, there are a few things you’ll need to consider about your home to keep your pets safe and happy.

So if you’re about the take the leap into pet parenthood, let’s take a quick squiz at the checklist you need to follow for pet proofing.

Plants and pets

Pet proofing sounds like blocking things off and securing doors, but it involves a lot more than that.

One of the most common things we come across as an animal hospital is families that don’t realise their garden may contain plants, trees and even grasses that will make a pet unwell.

Whether you’ve moved house or you’re introducing a pet to your garden for the first time, there are a few things you need to check for.

Burke’s Backyard website has a fairly extensive list of what is commonly found in gardens that can accidentally poison your pet. We’d also like to add that veggie patches have many types of plants with fury, spiky and itchy vines that can cause contact allergies that are bad for skin. And be wary of the nuts from macadamia trees as they are poisonous to dogs and can cause obstructions of the intestinal tract.  A problem vet nurse Jess knows only too well to after her black lab, Holly, ate macadamia nuts last year.

We find we often see dogs that have come in to contact with Wandering Jew, which causes a nasty itchy rash to develop. We’ve also seen more than our fair share of unfortunate cats that have ingested toxins from a flower arrangement containing lilies at the animal hospital. Unfortunately some plants or their produce can be fatal, even if ingested in small amounts. So it’s important to stay vigilant and seek treatment quickly.

Now, your pets can’t be counted on to approach the situation logically and not eat, roll in or otherwise engage with these kinds of plants. We’ve had to treat all kinds of contact skin allergies as well as poisonings from family pets eating flowers and plants they shouldn’t.

So before you move your new fur-kid in, we recommend checking your garden for any problematic plants and either removing them, or placing them in an area where you pet can’t get to them.


Pet proofing against time alone at home

Bored pets are destructive pets, especially kittens and puppies. While they go through their process of getting used to life with your family and learning some manners, they can and will destroy things if you give them the opportunity. That’s why you have to think like a bored, curious and playful pet to make the most out of your pet proofing experience.

Kittens using curtains as cargo nets or knocking things off the counters and shelves are common. Scratching furniture, using your bookshelves as a climbing frame or taking revenge on household plants are also feline favourites.

Puppies love digging, chewing, and biting, leaping, jumping and otherwise trashing the place. They can also sink their teeth into your clothes on the line and use it as a dog merry-go-round, nick all the toilet rolls and shred them to pieces, molest shoes and cry or bark a blue fit.

Make no mistake- new environments to young animals are a wonderful playground. However, their playtime decisions could leave you feeling pretty damn annoyed when you get home from work or school.

Enrichment and stimulation are the best way to channel this curiosity, energy, boredom and downright rebellion positively.

You can encourage the right kind of channelling through:

  • Cat climbing frames
  • Chew toys for cats or dogs
  • Crating or segregation to minimise destruction
  • Kongs, puzzles and other distractions based on food treats
  • Positively affirming well behaved alone time with rewards like treats, walks and cuddles when you do get home
  • Reinforcing lessons on positive behaviour and ignoring the bad

Patience is required to making the lessons stick. As is a little more flexibility with your timetable until your new arrival gets used to the length of the work day stretch.

Inside or outside pets

Pet proofing isn’t restricted to indoor pets. It applies to your outdoor pets as well.

Some families are unsure if a cat or dog should be an inside or outside pet.

With cats, you have to consider the impact on native wildlife. As Wahroonga, Turramurra and Thornleigh have lots of native birds and animals living locally, we do not support allowing your cat or kitten to hunt these creatures. The problem is you can’t depend on your feline not to take these opportunities up. They are animals with natural instincts. So please, bell your cat’s collar and don’t let them out at night.

Dogs are a little different. But you need to consider that dogs are pack animals. They enjoy chilling out with you and the family just like a cat does. They like feeling like they are included. Dogs that spend a lot of time in backyards by themselves are prone to depression and anxiety. They can also be terribly destructive. So if you want to have an outside dog, you need to spend time each day exercising them, hanging out with them, and including them in the day-to-day running of the house.

In any case, when it is too hot or too cold, you need to keep an eye on your family pet so they don’t end up with heatstroke or hypothermia.


Climbing, jumping and activity

An active pet doesn’t care about your favourite vase. Skidding up the hall to bunch up and claw through your favourite runner is a great way to spend a Sunday. And unless you train them otherwise, you can bet any piece of furniture, shelf or bench you care to name will be a great place to nap if they can access it.

Like you would with a small child, it’s a good idea to move valuable and problematic items out of harm’s way.

For a family pet, these sorts of pet proofing things include:

  • Anything they can knock or tumble into and break
  • Items they can chew to pieces or swallow whole
  • Sharp or pointy objects that could pierce the skin or poke out the eye
  • Objects you don’t want moved that they can move by running or picking up
  • Investing in some protective covers for any electric cables that are exposed and at risk of being chewed

Think about their height and the world your furniture and decoration creates. Then include their ability to climb, jump and the speed at which they can move. Secure what you can until the youngster stage passes.


Squeeze spots and curious pets

You know those memes that circulate where a dog has wedged his head in between rails on a staircase? Or the memes of cats with their heads stuck in jars? Your family pet is one curious moment away from being another giggled at sensation on the super-information highway.

Dogs and cats love squeezing themselves into tight spots for a nap. Sometimes, what goes in finds it pretty hard to come back out again.

If you do more preventative work to ensure there aren’t deliciously enticing tight spots to explore, you can (hopefully) avoid the moments where butter, olive oil and other forms of lubricant don’t become part of your pet parent routine.

You may never have to take a hacksaw to the stairs to free your pet’s head to retrieve your Retriever or live the humiliating cliché that is calling the fire brigade to get your cat off the roof. But you might. You may also face some less happy consequences through accidental injury or even death if they break bones or cut off oxygen supply.

So please, do what you can to avoid it by ensuring tight spots are properly locked down so they are not enticing to curious pets.

Pet proofing is a part of responsible ownership

Pet proofing is important. It’s also kind of fun because it helps you see the world in your new family pet’s eyes. Plus, it can seriously save your pet from serious injury, illness, surgery and even death.

So please, take the time to consider what you need to do to pet proof your home and backyard so that when the new family pet arrives, it’s a time to enjoy!

If you need any advice at all about getting a new family pet give Fox Valley Animal Hospital a call on (02) 9489 4805. We’re more than happy to help.

About the Author
Owner and Vet Alex Brittan, Vet Katie Syms and the team of Fox Valley Animal Hospital pride themselves on quality service. Fox Valley Animal Hospital is the one you choose for your family pet when the care your animal receives really matters.