The winter holidays are upon us and lots of people light fires and candles, and turn on those space heaters to set the mood and stay warm. It’s a great time to go over some fire safety tips that can prevent fires in the home and keep your cat safe should a fire break out. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says pets are responsible for over 1,000 house fires every year in the United States, and an estimated 40,000 pets die in fires, mostly from smoke inhalation. Being prepared and following safety tips could save your cat’s life, as well as your own.
Fires started by pets are almost always due to owners mistakenly leaving their animals in dangerous situations. You may have heard similar stories to the one in the video above where a cat was able to knock over a candle with an open flame and start an apartment on fire. Luckily, no one was hurt and firefighters were able to put out the blaze. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and it’s just one example of the kinds of danger cat owners can unwittingly put their pets and themselves in.
Take the following steps to protect your home and your cat from accidental fires:
- Use flameless candles that have a light bulb instead of a wick. If you prefer the real thing, never leave pets unattended in the presence of an open flame, whether it’s a candle, fireplace, stove, or any other fire they can reach or accidentally knock over. Cats are known to be curious and knock things over, so be extremely careful.
- If your cat is able to jump to counter height, remove stove knobs when you leave the kitchen, or you can find knob covers that will keep them from turning on the stove accidentally. The NFPA says a stove or cooktop is the number-one cause of fires started by pets.
- Electrical cords can sometimes be seen by cats as toys to chew or bat around with their claws. When they are damaged, they can spark and cause electrocution or a fire. Secure any cords and hide them behind furniture or other obstructions. You may wish to unplug them if you leave cords unattended or spray them with something bitter as a deterrent. Further aversion training may be needed if your cat still tries to chew or claw cords.
- Do not leave your cat on an electric blanket unattended. Cats can chew on these or knead them with their claws, exposing the wires, which can cause electrocution or heat up and catch the blanket on fire. Replace any old electric blankets that show wear and tear.
- Use stainless steel or ceramic pet water dishes on your wooden deck. Filtered and heated through glass and water, the sun’s rays can ignite the wood beneath the bowl.
- Check your home for potential hazards such as loose wires, stove knobs, and piles of paper or other trash.
Ways to keep cats safe in the event of a fire:
- Keep your cat’s carrier near the door so first responders can use them if necessary to carry your cat to safety. Cats are often waiting at doors and run out when firefighters come in.
- Make sure your cat is microchipped or wearing an identification collar if they should escape and bolt. This will help you be reunited with your kitty as quickly as possible if they get lost.
- You may want to confine cats in rooms or areas near an entry door when you are out of the house so firefighters can find them easily. Pets are more likely to be injured or to die in a fire when they are locked in a carrier or room away from an exit.
- If you live in a fire-prone area or are concerned about a fire potentially starting, consider installing monitored smoke detectors so firefighters will be notified of and can respond to a fire even if you’re not home.
- Note where your pets like to nap or hide in case you must evacuate your home quickly.
- Have an emergency plan and practice routes of escape with your cat. Include all members of the family in this plan and make sure they know what to do and where to go.
- Make an emergency kit that you can easily grab on the way out. Make sure it has important items like medication and any immediate needs your cat might have for the next few days.
- Keep the phone number and address of a local animal hospital handy. If your pet is injured, you’ll need to know where to take them for treatment quickly.
- Alert firefighters to the presence of pets with window stickers that display the number and types of pets inside, and make sure the stickers are up to date. The presence of one reminds firefighters to spend a little more time searching the house for pets.
What other ways do you keep your cat safe from fires? What is included in your emergency plan to get your cat to safety quickly? Let us know in the comments below!