than 62 percent of American households now own pets, up from 56
percent a decade ago, according to the American Pet Products
Association annual survey. For many of us, our pets are just like
another family member. We want to make sure that they are safe and
well cared for. Consider the following ideas to make sure your home is
a pet-friendly environment.
1 Eliminate toxic foods. Itís best to
feed your dogs and cats their own food. But if you must feed them
people food on occasion, stay away from onions, raisins, grapes and
chocolate, according to Judy Mikkelson, owner of Critter Supply
Central in Cedarburg. Other poisonous foods include the artificial
sweetener xylitol, as well as avocados, coffee, garlic, citrus fruits
2 Avoid deadly plants. Keep your pets
away from indoor plants that can be poisonous to them, such as the
azalea, lily, philodendron and dieffenbachia, says Angela Speed,
director of development and community relations, Wisconsin and Ozaukee
humane societies. "Some other common toxic plants include
mistletoe, rhubarb leaves, daffodil bulbs, iris, morning glory, tulip
bulbs, calla lily, crocus, holly, hydrangea, trillium and sweat
pea." For a full list, including photos, visit www.aspca.org.
And, when you have a bouquet of fresh flowers, discard the silica
packets, which pets should not eat.
3 Prevent garden dangers. Any toxic
fertilizers and insecticides (check the labels) should be allowed to
sit for 24 hours before your pet is allowed near them. "Cocoa
shell mulch should be avoided because it has the same active
ingredient that is toxic to pets in chocolate," Speed says.
4 Put away kidsí toys. "If you
have kids, keep their toys away from your pets. Many childrenís
stuffed animals contain a fire retardant that is poisonous to dogs and
cats if it is eaten," Mikkelson says.
5 Tie up drapery cords. "Just like
babies, animals like to play with string, rubber bands and the cords
to blinds and drapes. Along with the danger of strangulation, they
also can block the intestines if swallowed," Speed says.
6 Puppy- and kitten-proof your house.
"Itís almost like baby-proofing your house," Mikkelson
says. "Anything that babies can choke on or ingest should also be
kept away from puppies and kittens or other small animals. That
includes putting child-proof locks on cupboards and keeping poisons
well out of reach."
7 Teach boundaries. Establishing
boundaries outdoors is important for your dogís safety as well as
your neighborsí safety, says Jeff Remy, owner of Invisible Fence of
Greater Milwaukee in Germantown. "Before we install the invisible
fence for our customers, we work with the dogs to get them to respond
to certain signals," says Remy. "It works best if the dog is
respectful of the boundaries before the fence is installed."
8 Accommodate senior pets. As pets age,
owners should expect to make some changes to meet their needs.
"Older dogs cannot regulate body temperature as well as younger
dogs, and should be kept warm and dry in the winter. In summer, watch
for heat stroke. A dog with arthritis will benefit from a soft bed,
ramps and extra blankets," Speed says. If your dog is going deaf
or blind, keep the house free of clutter. Be wary that a dog losing
his sight may be more apt to snap at sudden movements.
9 Safely introduce a new puppy or
kitten. "Before you bring home a new animal, it can be helpful to
get down on the floor and see your home at your animalís level. Look
out for items that may be fascinating to your new kitten like
telephone or electric cords," Speed says. A wealth of information
about making a safe introduction between resident animals and a new
pet is offered on the Wisconsin Humane Society website at
10 Establish hierarchy. "Dogs are
pack creatures and they need to know their place in the home. If you
have a new puppy, create a place in the hierarchy of your family for
him with training," Remy says. "Especially if there are
small children in the house, you want to put the dog in its proper
place for safety reasons."