Pet-Proof Your Foster Home

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You’ve opened your heart and home to a dog or cat in need. Congratulations! You’re a foster parent.

Chances are, you know a bit about your temporary visitor. You may know kitty’s name or puppy’s age, for example. You may have met the pet in the shelter and read background paperwork.

But often, animals act in very different ways in homes when compared to the shelter. And sometimes, animals act differently in one home vs. another.

To keep your foster friend safe, you’ll need to walk through your home, look for hazards, and remove them.

If you can, choose one designated room for your foster pet, and focus your efforts in that confined area. But if you’re planning to give your fosters free rein of your home, you’ll need to look at every space available.

Here are a few common hazards, moving room by room.

Bedrooms

Preparing to cede a guest bedroom to a foster animal? Watch out for:

  • Laundry and shoes. Ribbon, shoelaces, and elastic can quickly become choking hazards or strangulation devices. Move these items out of reach.
  • Electrical cords. Tiny teeth can chew through the plastic casing, and the shocks are nasty. Unplug anything you don’t need, and tuck vital cables in cord keepers (available at hardware stores).
  • Closet contents. Do you use this space to store crafting supplies? Giftwrap? Cosmetics? Pop anything you don’t need in a storage container for now.

Bathrooms, Kitchens, and Utility Rooms

Rooms like this come with easy-to-clean floors, and they’re often built with privacy in mind. For many foster families, these two traits combine into perfect temporary quarters for animals.

Common hazards include:

  • Standing water. Always leave the toilet seat down, and never leave animals unattended while running a bath. Uncoordinated animals can slip and fall into the water.
  • Prescriptions. A bathroom medicine cabinet isn’t ideal for medication storage. The humidity alone can zap the potency of your pills and lotions. Those medications can also be incredibly dangerous for dogs and cats. Store them safely in high kitchen cabinets or locked drawers.
  • Machines. An open washer or dryer door is an open invitation to a small, curious animal. And dishwashers filled with tasty snacks can also be dangerous. Keep those latches firmly locked, and check the machines before each use.
  • Chemicals and cleansers. Move these items out of reach of curious critters. Or, install child-proof latches on drawers and cupboards to keep animals out.
  • Elastics. Hair ties, rubber bands, and other stretchy bits can get swallowed in the blink of an eye. Pop them in secure containers or keep them in secured cupboards.
  • Shopping bags. Both plastic and paper bags with handles can get wrapped around necks and flap when the pet runs. It’s scary, and it’s dangerous. Mesh bags come with the same risks.
  • Sharp objects. Never leave razors or other sharp objects in the bathroom or tub. Kitties love to play with these things and can cut their paws, tongue, or gums.
  • Heat. Never leave stove burners on without a pot on them; serious burns can result if your foster pet gets curious. Pipes behind water heaters can cause burns, if pets hide there.
  • Heavy tools. Watch that hot iron, curling iron, or any other hot or heavy items a rambunctious animal may knock down or pull down upon itself.
  • Inadvertent snacks. Make sure to put all dog/cat food, treats, and medicine, etc. somewhere where your foster animals won’t get into it. If you are fostering dogs or puppies, depending on size, they may be able to access items on tables, counters, etc. Take this into account and put things away accordingly.

Living Rooms and Rec Rooms

These are the rooms in which we spend the most time. It makes sense to let our foster pets hang out here, too! Leashes and kennels can keep dogs and cats under control in large spaces, but remember: Some pets are escape artists. Be sure to remove hazards before you introduce your pet to the area.

Common issues in these rooms include:

  • Doors. Pets can fly through doors in the blink of an eye. Tiny cats can also use doors for games of hide-and-seek and get pinched. Baby gates can keep pets away from these hazards.
  • Recliners. Pets can sneak underneath the furniture and get trapped or hurt by moving parts. Remove these items, or tape down the handles, so you’re not tempted to lean back.
  • Plants. Plenty of common plants are dangerous for dogs and cats, even though they’re awfully fun to chew on. Relocate them to rooms where animals don’t spend time.
  • Breakable objects. Glass can shatter into a thousand tiny (very sharp!) pieces with the swish of a tail or the swipe of a paw. Use Sticky-Tack (a non-toxic product available in office supply stores that is used to mount posters on the wall without nails) to tack down small knickknacks and prevent breakage.
  • Heat. Wood-burning stoves and open fireplaces are hazardous. The best way to prevent accidents is to house foster animals away from these things. 
  • Electrical cords. Tiny teeth can chew through the plastic casing, and the shocks are nasty. Unplug anything you don’t need, and tuck vital cables in cord keepers (available at hardware stores).
  • Fitness equipment. Moving parts, electrical cords, and gears make these items particularly dangerous for foster pets. Move your animals out before each use, or confine them to crates or kennels until your workout ends.

Keep Learning and Growing

This isn’t an exhaustive list of all of the hazards in an everyday home. But it can get you started as you work on keeping your little friend safe.

Thank you for all you do to help animals in need!

Can you open your heart and your home to an animal in need? We’re looking for foster families. If you can help, send a note to foster@whs4pets.org.

Thank you!