It is no secret that Brits love having pets - according to the latest statistics, nearly half of all households in the UK have a furry friend at home.
But whilst having a pet can bring a lot of pleasure to your life, they are inquisitive beings and like to investigate their surroundings, which can sometimes lead them into trouble. If you are thinking of getting an animal companion, it’ is vital you ensure your home and garden will provide a safe environment for them.
Pet-proofing your home effectively can be tricky as it depends on the type of critter you are getting. We have teamed up with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) to provide this advice.
Dogs use their mouths to do a lot of their exploring and they are also scavengers by nature, so it is important to keep anything that’s unsafe for them to eat or chew well out of reach. Chocolate is particularly poisonous to dogs, so be careful that you don’t accidentally leave any in reach.
Every dog needs to have a safe haven where they can rest safely and undisturbed in your home. This could be a comfortable bed or a cosy crate - but make sure the door is always left open. Just place their bed in a nice quiet part of the house and fill it with comfortable bedding, toys and safe items for them to chew on.
When cats feel worried or scared they like to hide or climb up high as it helps them feel more secure. Make sure your cat has access to a cosy warm hiding place they can go to whenever they feel worried. Remember, they should never be disturbed when they are in this ‘safe zone’.
Your garden will likely be part of your cat's territory and they should be free to enjoy it safely. Make sure you regularly check your garden for hazards. For example, cover ponds and water butts, ensure pesticides, fertilisers and other chemicals are stored out of reach, check fences have no sharp edges and always check your cat isn’t in your shed before you lock it up.
These furry creatures like to move around a lot at dawn, dusk and throughout the night. So they should always have access to both their shelter and exercise area at these times. Permanently attaching the exercise run to the shelter gives rabbits the space and choice they need.
Rabbits need to live in a safe, secure environment that is free from hazards. If they are housed indoors, all areas must be fully rabbit-proofed – for example, electric cables and wires should be covered and/or put out of reach.
Hamsters need a lot of room, especially at night, so buy as large a cage as you can to provide them with suitable enrichment. This can include small boxes and tubes, such as the inner cores from toilet rolls, and wooden chew blocks. They also need to be provided with appropriate nesting material, which includes good quality hay, wood wool, shredded paper and cardboard. Do not give them nesting materials that can separate into thin strands, such as cotton wool or similar ‘fluffy’ bedding products, as they can pose a serious health risk.
Hamsters need to be housed away from items in the home that can generate ultrasound, such as television sets, computer screens, vacuum cleaners or sources of running water. Hamsters are very sensitive to high frequency sounds that humans cannot hear, and they can find this very stressful.
These pets need to be safe and secure when they are in their accommodation. You need to put their ‘house’ in an area that is calm and quiet and away from anything which might frighten them. Their housing should be sheltered from direct sun and wind, and if your guinea pig lives outside, you need to bring them in when the temperature drops below 15 degrees Celsius.
With any pet, you need to bear in mind that many regular household items are poisonous to them and need to be kept securely out of reach. If you suspect your pet may have been poisoned, stay calm, remove your pet from the source of poison, then contact your vet immediately, giving them as much information as possible about the incident.
The RSPCA offers advice on how to care for a variety of pets. Visit the website to find out more about which pets may be the most suitable for your family: http://www.rspca.org.uk/home.