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The responsibilities that come with owning a pet start even before you bring one home. From what you’ll need to make them comfortable, to things you’ll need to keep them safe, prepping for a new addition to your family entails a lot of thought. Sound familiar? Most steps to pet proof also coincide with baby proofing, which all parents know the importance of.
“The good news is many child proofing techniques can double as pet proofing,” Katie Hastings, licensed veterinary technician and current Regional Nursing Director for Veterinary Emergency Group, tells Motherly. “Baby gates work wonders while training and puppy pads can be used under arts and crafts projects too.”
While it may sound stressful, you can make it a fun family day to get ready for your new furry friend by delegating tasks to all those in the household—and using it as a way to get your child to pick up those pesky legos or other tiny toys.
Here are seven pet proofing tips for welcoming your new animal home with little kids
1. Make sure there are no loose cords around the house
Remember when your baby stuck everything in their mouth? Pets are no different, especially if you’re welcoming a baby animal that is teething, just like an infant and toddler. Cords that are laying around are destined to be chewed on, which can have bad results. Nowadays, even toddlers have devices that require a charger, so you’ll want to make sure those items are charging in a high place where a pet can’t reach.
According to PetMD.com, “Possible complications of electric cord bite injuries are fluid accumulation in the lungs (pulmonary edema) and high blood pressure in the arteries near the lungs (pulmonary hypertension),” and “there have been reports of animals developing cataracts—an eye abnormality—after such injuries.”
2. Put away tiny toys—and anything else the animal may try to eat or chew
“Make sure all small toys that can be ingested are picked up,” Hastings says, noting that this rule is not just for the first day you welcome your pet. Day after day, you want to ensure that you’re eliminating choking hazards by consistently picking up things that look desirable to your furry friend—which includes small baby items such as pacifiers and socks.
According to PetMD.com, common choking hazards in small pets include “chew toys, balls, rawhides, bones, sticks, etc.—basically anything that is smaller than the windpipe or back of the throat can get stuck.”
3. Check your houseplants
“Make sure any house plants you may have are non-toxic,” Hastings shares, as animals often attempt to snack on greenery. Thanks to the ASPCA, you can find a list of toxic plants here, so make sure those poisonous varieties are out of the home before you bring your new pet home.
4. Pull out the cabinet latches
Little paws and curious minds may attempt to get into your cabinets, so make sure you invest in quality locks to keep them out of areas that may have cleaning supplies, food or medications.
5. Put away items that can fall and break
Lamps, candles, glass items and other household decorations can be easily knocked off places by paws or even a wagging dog tail. In homes with young kids, you might be a step ahead by having put them up high already.
6. Check small spaces
Do a thorough investigation of all small places in your home where your pet may crawl into to make sure there is nothing dangerous waiting for them—this includes underneath the beds and cribs. If you plan to let your animal roam around your yard freely, check that gates can’t be pushed open and that there are no holes under the fence where a small animal could sneak out of.
7. Designate an area for kid’s snacks and snack time
The days of grabbing a granola bar and leaving the wrapper on the couch are over. Make sure your children know that any food they don’t finish, or any container a snack item comes in, must be put away. Prior to bringing a pet home, get your children in the habit of eating at the table if they’re used to plopping down on the ground for a quick snack.
Looking for some pet proof products to keep the peace? (Well, as much peace as possible, anyway!) We've got some highly-rated suggestions below!
Pet proof trash cans
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A version of this story was published August 9, 2022. It has been updated.